London sex offender James Melnick granted licence to practise law
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A former teacher and convicted sex offender will be allowed to practise law after a lengthy court battle to prove he is of “good character.” A Law Society of Upper Canada appeal panel granted him a licence to practise law at the end of July.
In 2006, James Maurice Melnick, then a teacher in London, Ont., pleaded guilty to two criminal charges related to sexual conduct with a former student, who was 14 at the time.
Melnick taught the girl in Grade 7 and 8 and continued an email relationship with her into Grade 9, in 2004. He then took her on trips to Stratford, fly-fishing in Goderich and to Canada’s Wonderland with his wife, according to court documents.
The emails became sexual in nature and culminated in various sexual acts and spending one night with her in a motel. Both told the court they did not have sex. Police became involved after the girl’s parents reported her missing.
In early 2005, he was fired by the school board. Melnick then looked into law school and sought advice from the law society as to whether a convicted criminal could become a lawyer. He was under the impression it was a possibility, but would have to prove he had “good character.”
He sought counselling, pleaded guilty to charges of sexual exploitation and luring, and reflected on his actions over six months in prison, court documents said.
In the meantime, Melnick applied, and was accepted, to Western University’s law school, but had to defer his enrolment to serve his sentence.
During his first term, Melnick told the law school’s dean, Ian Holloway, about his conviction. Over the course of his schooling, Holloway “came to have a high regard for (Melnick), both for his leadership skills and extracurricular involvement,” according to court documents.
No one at Western was available to discuss the matter Tuesday.
After three years at university, Melnick successfully completed his year of articling at a legal clinic before applying for a licence.
A section of the Law Society Act “requires that every applicant for a licence be of good character.” So a “good character hearing” took place.
The law society found that Melnick was not of good character. He appealed and, on July 29, a law society appeal panel ruled that Melnick, indeed, had “good character” and granted him a licence.
Repeated attempts to reach Melnick and his lawyer, Tiffany Soucy, were not successful. It’s unclear if he has found work as a lawyer yet.
“The Law Society does not comment on or interpret the decisions of hearing or appeal panels. In each case, the decision must speak for itself,” said law society spokesperson Susan Tonkin.
The decision cited Melnick’s remorse and rehabilitative efforts as well as testimony from Melnick’s wife and other character witnesses, which included the law school’s dean.