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A Vernon lawyer who became “a tool” of the murderous Greeks gang was sentenced to a year in jail Thursday by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan.

McEwan said William Mastop needed to go to prison in order to deter others in his position from aiding a criminal organization.

“I conclude that the nature of Mr. Mastop’s crime in lending himself as a lawyer to a criminal organization requires a strong denunciatory sentence and a strong deterrent sentence,” McEwan said. “Mr. Mastop’s slow drift to abuse of his position as a lawyer on behalf of a criminal organization is inherently reprehensible.”

But he also rejected submissions from Crown David Jardine that Mastop’s conduct in helping the Greeks should result in up to three years behind bars.

McEwan said while Mastop broke the law in providing documents to the Greeks and taking them target shooting, there was no evidence his actions significantly aided the drug trafficking organization in committing criminal offences.

 “In this respect, his actual utility to the criminal organization appears to have been not much more than a convenience,” McEwan said.

Mastop, 46, entered a surprise guilty plea in December to enhancing the abilities of a criminal organization to commit offences. It was the first conviction of its kind in Canadian history and followed a jury trial that convicted five Greeks gangsters of three brutal drug-related Vernon slayings in 2004 and 2005.

Mastop tilted his head back Thursday as McEwan read his reasons for sentence for almost an hour. When the judge asked the lawyer to stand and handed down the year-long term, Mastop thanked McEwan. He was then led away by sheriffs as several supporters sat in the front row.

Mastop could get day parole in just two months. McEwan said there was no need for a term of probation and said Mastop, a competitive marksman, could get back the firearms seized from him during the investigation.

At a sentencing hearing last month, the Crown said Mastop provided search warrant documents to Greeks boss Peter Manolakos about an anonymous police informant. Within two weeks, gang members murdered two people wrongfully suspected of ratting to police.

Jardine said that while Mastop had no knowledge of the slayings, his actions were “the beginning of the chain of events which led to two deaths.”

But McEwan said Thursday that the Greeks clearly had other avenues of obtaining information on informants and didn’t need to rely on anything provided by Mastop.

Jardine also argued that when Mastop took members of the criminal organization target shooting and loaned them his guns, he enhanced their ability to commit more crimes by improving their “shooting accuracy” and gun handling skills.  

But McEwan also said Thursday there was no evidence the Greeks committed more crimes or became better criminals because of the gun range trips, though he acknowledged they were inappropriate.

McEwan rejected defence lawyer David Crossin’s argument that a conditional sentence was appropriate, though he agreed that the mitigating factors in the case were Mastop’s acknowledgment of responsibility and the good he has done over the years and the effect of the loss of his current livelihood will extend long after this is over.”

He quoted several letters of praise from other lawyers who had worked with Mastop, but McEwan also noted that “the court must be scrupulous in sentencing a lawyer not to create an apprehension of bias.”

Outside court, Jardine said the Crown would carefully review the reasons for sentence to see if there are any grounds of appeal.

 “It was a very long and thorough and detailed judgment. I thought he did an admirable job of analyzing the issues,” Jardine said. “They are difficult issues. It is not a situation that a court has been confronted with in Canada before.”

He said the B.C. Law Society has requested transcripts of the case and would likely hold a disciplinary hearing. Mastop is currently suspended from practicing law, but has not been disbarred.

Said Jardine: “It is an embarassment to the profession to have a lawyer go so far off the road to become a tool of a criminal organization.”

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