Criminal defence lawyers are in disbelief after the dramatic arrest of a fellow member of the bar.

Uniformed officers entered a Brampton court and arrested a 32-year-old Toronto criminal lawyer on Thursday, leading her out of the courthouse in handcuffs.

Police allege the lawyer smuggled drugs into the courthouse on that morning.

Peel police have charged Laura Liscio with possession of a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking, obstructing justice and breach of trust.

There is some confusion over the way Liscio was arrested. Some accounts have the police leading her out of the courtroom in her legal garb. The Peel police insist she was never handcuffed until she was in civilian clothes.

Support from lawyers

The Criminal Lawyers' Association says it fully supports Liscio. Spokesman Anthony Moustacalis calls the alleged arrest in full legal apparel an "affront to the administration of justice and to the independence of the bar."

Moustacalis said the only reason to arrest a suspect that way is to establish identity, protect public safety and to preserve evidence. He said all those reasons were "irrelevant" in this situation, or could have been established in other ways.

He called Liscio a "fine, reputable" lawyer, and called the arrest deplorable.

"Historically the gown represents equality before the law, and fair access to justice for all," he said. "It is not worn outside of court for that reason." He said she should have been afforded the opportunity to change clothes, at the least. Peel police, however, say she was given a chance to change.

'A very good reputation'

Paul Cooper, a criminal defence lawyer who most recently represented Jennifer Pan, said lawyers are talking about the arrest and are very concerned.

"She's got a very good reputation," Cooper said. Cooper hosts seminars three times a year for lawyers to bring defence and crowns lawyers together to talk about legal issues affecting the profession.

"It's tough enough practising," he said. "It's so tough to ensure that the young lawyers — who are putting incredible efforts in, who are not being paid well at all — remain in the profession."

Cooper explains that defence lawyers bring client's clothes, often supplied by the family of the accused. Court security searches the clothes. Cooper believes, from media reports, there may have been drugs within the clothing or shoes supplied to Liscio.

Liscio is to appear in court on March 12 to face the allegations.