A British Columbia lawyer, who has been practicing law for more than two decades and a half, has been stripped of his rights to practice law as his license was revoked after committing professional misconduct.
Stephen Neil Mansfield has suffered a disbarment for misappropriating CA$400,000 belonging to his clients in order to settle a personal debt which occurred as a result of a gambling addiction. The Vancouver-based man who practiced family law with the Bayshore Law Group confessed the allegations of professional misconduct to a law society panel last week and explained that he committed the unethical and criminal conduct while playing a shell game in which he gambled divorce settlement awards of CA$400,000 in 2016.
The man blamed his gambling addiction for the misappropriation.
However, despite the problem gambling behavior of the lawyer, the law society panel explained that however unfortunate his Mansfield’s personal circumstances may have been, the existing of gambling disorder should not be used as a mitigating factor in order to justify the illegal and unethical actions of the lawyer.
“(…) anything less than this disbarment [for Mansfield] would be wholly inadequate for the protection of the public,” said the Law Society of British Columbia
Mansfield Confesses Misappropriation and Agrees with Disbarment
An investigation held by the law society found that Mr. Mansfield deposited a client’s child support award amounting to CA$200,000 into a trust account owned by him. At a hearing, Mr. Mansfield confessed that he intentionally stole the amount of CA$200,000 from his client and further explained that he committed the misappropriation in order to meet a debt piled up as a result of his problem gambling.
Then, a law society ruling found that another client of the Vancouver-based family lawyer was also affected by the latter’s unlawful actions. As found by the investigation, the second client was persuaded by Mr. Mansfield to make a settlement with his ex-wife. The settlement included a CA$200,000 payment to the former spouse of the lawyer’s client.
At the hearing, Mansfield explained that he used the second client’s money to pay back the first. As revealed in the decision, the former lawyer also admitted that he encouraged his second client to propose a settlement to his ex-wife and transfer the money by depositing it to Mansfield’s trust account, so that he was able to use the amount to pay the CA$200,000 child support award to his first client.
Mansfield started his law practice in the province of British Columbia back in 1993. His registration as a lawyer was lost following his failure to pay the fees he owed at the beginning of 2017. Now, after he pleaded guilty in misappropriating client’s money to pay for his debts piled as a result of a gambling addiction, he was officially disbarred and would not be able to continue his law practice.