Appeal court reduces disbarred lawyer Shawn Beaver's jail sentence to weekends

Disbarred Edmonton lawyer Shawn Beaver will serve a reduced sentence following a decision by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

Weekend sentences are being served as house arrest because of COVID-19

Shawn Beaver's one-year jail sentence for contempt of court has been reduced to 90 days to be served on weekends and 200 hours of community service. (J. Penner Photo Co.)

Disbarred Edmonton lawyer Shawn Beaver will serve a lesser sentence following a decision by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

Like other people serving intermittent sentences — weekends only — Beaver will be on house arrest rather than spend time in jail.

Earlier this year, Beaver was ordered to turn himself in at the Edmonton Remand Centre to begin serving a one-year sentence for a contempt of court for breaching an injunction that required him to stop providing legal services.

But in a ruling filed May 6, the appeal court replaced the one-year sentence with 90 days in jail to be served on weekends, plus 200 hours of community service.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Alberta Justice spokesperson Katherine Thompson confirmed that people who would normally serve time in provincial jails on weekends are instead being placed on 24-hour house arrest. 

"These measures help to mitigate the amount of individuals entering and exiting provincial correctional and remand centres, as part of helping to avoid the spread of the virus," Thompson said.

Beaver's appeal to have his conviction overturned was rejected.

The court found that Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Associate Chief Justice John Rooke erred by rejecting Beaver's arguments about mitigating factors that should have been considered in determining his sentence, such as his promise to change his behaviour, and the effect imprisonment would have on his family. 

"Additionally, it is too great a 'jump' to impose a first-time incarceration of one year," the appeal court's decision reads.

Beaver's legal issues date back to 2014 when he stole trust funds from his law firm, including money held in trust for a person with mental disabilities, addictions and experiencing homelessness. His licence was suspended in May 2015 and he was disbarred in February 2017. He was found guilty of contempt of court on May 14, 2020.

A week later, he posted a Kijiji ad offering legal instruction to lawyers, as well as help with wills, claims and landlord-tenant disputes to non-lawyers. The Law Society of Alberta ordered him to remove the ad, which he did.

When sentencing Beaver, Rooke found the former lawyer lacked credibility as a witness, and said he didn't find Beaver's remorse was sincere.

"Mr. Beaver knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway."

- with files from Janice Johnston