Calgary

Calgary lawyer facing sexual assault, indecent act, harassment charges

A Calgary lawyer who represented women who were sexually harassed and abused by RCMP officers has been charged with sexual assault, public indecency and harassment, CBC News has learned.

Patrick Higgerty, 66, is not currently practising law in Alberta

A man in a suit and tie looks away from the camera.
Calgary lawyer Patrick Higgerty faces charges of sexual assault, committing an indecent act in public and harassment. Higgerty was once a justice of the peace and more recently, as part of a $100-million class action lawsuit, represented women who were harassed and assaulted during their time as RCMP employees. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A Calgary lawyer who represented women who were sexually harassed and abused by RCMP officers has been charged with sexual assault, public indecency and harassment, CBC News has learned.

Patrick Higgerty, 66, who also served in Alberta as a justice of the peace, has two upcoming trials scheduled for 2024.

"It's a complicated matter given his antecedents and will require a lot of prep and research," said Higgerty's lawyer Alain Hepner in a short statement. 

A timeline

The alleged sexual assaults took place in 2018 and 2019.

The criminal charges were laid in 2023, just months after his law firm fell into receivership amid allegations an employee misappropriated more than $400,000 from clients' trust funds. 

Back in 2019, RCMP reached a $100-million settlement in a class action lawsuit involving women who, as civilian RCMP employees, experienced sexual harassment and assault.

During the time he was working on the case, Higgerty is accused of sexually assaulting a woman who was known to him.

Offence dates listed on court documents show the alleged assaults took place in 2018 and 2019.

Harassment charges

Higgerty also faces two charges of committing an indecent act in public on those same dates. 

A trial on those charges is set to take place in September.

But first, Higgerty will go on trial in July on charges of harassment. 

Those charges are connected to allegations Higgerty stalked or harassed the same woman in 2022. A man is also listed in court documents as one of Higgerty's alleged victims. It's unclear what his connection is to Higgerty or the woman. 

Currently, Higgerty is not allowed to practise law in the province, according to a Law Society of Alberta custodianship order. 

Missing trust fund money

The order is not connected to Higgerty's criminal charges but rather to the downfall of his law firm.

Higgerty Law is currently in receivership, its assets controlled by a court-appointed custodian amid allegations a firm employee improperly transferred funds from trust accounts.

Last July, Higgerty told a judge that two targeted attacks are to blame for the firm's ruin.

In September 2021, Higgerty was attacked outside his home and beaten unconscious.

Three months later, three men broke into Higgerty's home with the intention of attacking him, according to an agreed statement of facts presented as part of Dimetri Marr's guilty plea.

$1K offered to attack Higgerty

Marr admitted he was one of the intruders. 

Details of the crime come from an agreed statement of facts (ASF) presented as part of Marr's plea.

In an interview with police after his arrest, Marr told investigators that he was offered $1,000 to break into the home and assault Higgerty. 

Higgerty wasn't home at the time but a family friend was there and was punched by Marr as the assailants searched the home for the lawyer. 

Marr told police he was shown a photo of Higgerty who, he was told, was a lawyer. 

Victim impact statement

According to the ASF, Marr told police he understood that the targeted assault "was to send a message to Mr. Higgerty that this was the second targeted assault because Mr. Higgerty didn't get the message after the first."

The attack, Marr told police, was related to Higgerty's work. 

Marr also disclosed that he was only paid half of what he was initially offered because Higgerty wasn't home at the time of the break-in.

In a victim impact statement, Higgerty described the "devastating" impact of the two attacks on himself and his family. 

The attacks, he said, kicked off a "downward spiral" which impacted him mentally, physically and financially.

Higgerty said the fallout also caused him to put trust in a friend who offered to help manage his law firm.

That friend, said Higgerty, turned out to be a "conman" who "misappropriated" more than $400,000 in client trust funds and kicked off the Law Society of Alberta's involvement in appointing a custodian for the firm. 

"This disaster would not have happened if the home invasion had not occurred," wrote Higgerty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter.