Complaint against Yellowknife lawyer dismissed

A prominent Yellowknife lawyer did not act in an unprofessional manner when handling a youth witness, according to a decision from the Law Society of the Northwest Territories.

Peter Harte faced disciplinary hearing after youth witness left school to testify without mother's knowledge

The Law Society of the Northwest Territories has dismissed a complaint against Yellowknife lawyer Peter Harte. 

Harte appeared before a disciplinary hearing in late September.

He'd been accused of acting in a way that "did not reflect favourably on the legal profession" after failing to inform the mother of a 15-year-old boy that her son was being taken out of school to testify in a trial.

"It was incumbent on Mr. Harte to take steps to ensure [the boy's] custodial parent [his mother] was aware he would testify," argued the Law Society's lawyer at the hearing. 

Witness 'not compelled to testify'

"While I can keenly appreciate [the mother], indeed any parent, would wish to have prior notice of her son's intention to testify, I do not think that the absence of such notice in these circumstances deserves a sanction against Mr. Harte," wrote the sole adjudicator Andrew Fox, in a decision delivered last week.   

The youth "was not compelled to testify — not dragged onto the witness stand, metaphorically or otherwise," wrote Fox.

And he wrote the witness was "a young man, not a child of tender years."

Had the adjudicator determined Harte had breached professional standards, he could have faced a fine of up to $2,000 and other disciplinary measures.

Law society hearings can be sparked by a complaint from the public, other lawyers or an investigation started by the society.

It was not clear from the hearing who initiated this investigation.