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Lawyer suspended, fined over Air-India billings Add to ...

Four years ago, it outraged the families of those who died in the Air-India bombing disaster.

The children of Inderjit Singh Reyat were put on the payroll of his publicly funded legal defence team. The head of the legal team, Vancouver lawyer David Martin, submitted bills to the government to pay the children more than $10,000 a month for minimal work.

Yesterday, the Law Society of British Columbia suspended Mr. Martin for six months and required him to pay $35,000 for the cost of his disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Martin, who has practised law since 1979, is widely respected in B.C. legal circles for his professionalism, intellectual capacity and dedication to the practice of law. But the law society previously found the children's billings were fraudulent and Mr. Martin was guilty of professional misconduct for the "blatant and cavalier disregard" of his professional duties.

In considering the gravity of Mr. Martin's conduct, the three-member law society panel noted yesterday that Mr. Martin, after being briefed about the major problem with the children's accounts, said he didn't understand what the big fuss was about, as the amount of the Reyat accounts were 2 or 3 per cent of the overall monthly billings to defend Mr. Reyat.

"There was silence and then [lawyer Letitia]Sears said: because it's public funds, David," according to the agreed statement of facts.

The panel noted the comments of another member of the defence team, Todd Ducharme, when Mr. Martin floated the idea of also putting Mr. Reyat's wife on the government-funded, defence-team payroll.

"You don't pay your client for the privilege of representing them," Mr. Ducharme was reported to have said.

Mr. Martin's lawyer Josiah Wood argued that Mr. Martin was handling several cases at the same time and did not pay close attention to the billings submitted by the children and passed on to the government. If Mr. Martin did not have time to do a good job, he should not have taken the case, the panel concluded.

Mr. Reyat pleaded guilty in 2003 to collecting items used in a bomb that exploded aboard an Air-India flight from Toronto to London, killing 329 people.

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