Court reduced portion of the sentence to three months
The Court of Appeal for British Columbia has reduced a six-month sentence to three months, finding the sentence “demonstrably unfit,” ruling in favour of a woman engaged in the unauthorized practice of medicine by administering Botox injections.
In College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia v. Ezzati, 2021 BCCA 422, the appellant, Maria Ezzati, had been engaged in an unauthorized practice of medicine by injecting clients with botulinum toxin and dermal fillers. Between July and October 2017, the respondent, College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, sought two successive interim injunctions to enjoin the appellant from her unlawful conduct. In August 2018, the appellant was found to be in contempt of court for breaching the interim injunctions.
But the appellant had continued holding herself out as a licensed doctor and administering Botox injections. In February 2020, the respondent obtained a third interim injunction and consequently, filed a second contempt application against the appellant. In March 2020, the appellant was sentenced for the first contempt and was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000.
Between April and May 2020, the appellant administered Botox injections despite knowledge that she was facing a second contempt application. During the second contempt hearing, the appellant admitted to the contemptuous conduct but adduced no evidence. Following a second finding of contempt, the judge imposed a six-month sentence on the appellant. On appeal, the appellant argued that the sentence was “demonstrably unfit.”
In granting the appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal held that the six month’s imprisonment was “demonstrably unfit” and instead, reduced the portion of the appellant’s sentence to three months.
According to the court, while the judge was certainly not wrong to impose a term of imprisonment, the six-month sentence is a disproportionate response to the appellant’s conduct and does not reflect restraint in the use of incarceration for civil contempt.
“While there is nothing to be said for the appellant’s conduct and few mitigating factors, the sentence for the second contempt is a very significant jump from the $5,000 fine imposed for the first breach.” The court added that the appellant’s sanction represents a marked and substantial departure from sanctions imposed in similar contexts.
The court agreed with the judge’s finding that the appellant’s conduct was deserving of a more punitive sanction than that which was imposed by the B.C. Supreme Court on Rajdeep Kaur Khakh in the case of College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia v. Khakh, 2019 BCSC 1604.
But even so, whether the sanction imposed on Khakh for the second contempt is properly viewed as a 30- or 60-day sentence or as a 30-day sentence that reflects a reduction in penalty having regard to the totality principle, the sentence imposed on the appellant in this case is at least three times longer, the court said.