Former Vernon Crown prosecutor Howard Pontious has retired after a lengthy law career that began in New Westminster in 1976.

Former Vernon Crown prosecutor Howard Pontious has retired after a lengthy law career that began in New Westminster in 1976.

Local Crown lawyer retires case load

Howard Pontious’ stint as a fill-in Crown counsel lawyer in Vernon lasted longer than he anticipated

Howard Pontious’ stint as a fill-in Crown counsel lawyer in Vernon lasted longer than he anticipated.

Two of Vernon’s main Crown lawyers, Peter Favel and Dan McLaughlin, had been assigned to work on the trials of members of an organized crime gang known as The Greeks. That was in 2006.

Pontious, 64, who retired in January, came to town to help out and never left.

“It’s been a very good experience here,” said Pontious. “There were lots of interesting cases, memorable cases. I’ve done everything here from dangerous offenders to three or four murders down to bylaw enforcement. There was a big variety. Every day is different.”

Originally from Coquitlam, Pontious attended both Simon Fraser University and the University of B.C., where he obtained his law degree in 1976. He started his career with the New Westminster firm of Goodwin and Mark, officially called to the bar in May 1977.

“I did a bit of everything there,” said Pontious, a divorced father of three. “I did bail reviews out of Oakalla (prison). Then I did a lot of foreclosure work, civil litigation, some family law, which I hated.”

Pontious then moved to a firm in Vancouver to do more of the foreclosure work which, as he says, “is all about money and business issues and it’s pretty dull.”

So he did some legal aid criminal defence work at the Vancouver Criminal Court offices in 1978 and won his first case.

“My client was mentally handicapped and I could relate as I had a mentally handicapped sister,” said Pontious. “I felt quite good about helping him win his case and I enjoyed that experience.”

He did some more cases, admitting to “getting his ass kicked” by big-name lawyers like G. Jack Harris, Russ Chamberlain and Dudley Edwards, before realizing a move to the Interior from Surrey, where he was living with his wife, made sense financially. So Pontious took a job with Crown counsel in Kamloops.

He would stay there for 25 years, though Pontious left the Crown after a couple of years to open his own defence practice.

After his marriage ended, with three kids to support and tired of the hustle of private practice, Crown in Kamloops offered Pontious a secure position, which he accepted in December 2005. Six months later, Pontious and his kids were on their way to Vernon.

Two cases stand out for the veteran lawyer: the cases against Paul Lepage and Mark Simpson.

Both involved awful sexual assaults against young female victims, Lepage kidnapping a young girl off an Armstrong street, and Simpson assaulting a pair of employees at a Vernon fast food restaurant.

Both ended up with wins for Pontious with Lepage and Simpson being declared dangerous offenders, resulting in an indeterminate jail sentence for both.

“The young girl from Armstrong was the most remarkable witness,” said Pontious. “She could remember specific details you couldn’t get from a professional witness. She picked up his cigarette butts and put them in her pocket for DNA analysis because she had watched that on TV on CSI Miami.

“She remembered everything he had in his pack. The specifics of his type of hat. When he got caught, that gave us a very strong case. He was declared a dangerous offender and taken off the street likely for the rest of his life. For that, I’m grateful.”

A typical Pontious work week depends on his case work. If he’s doing a dangerous offender designation, that’s something that consumes him completely and may take several weeks to complete.

“Usually I do a multitude of things in a given week,” he said. “If I’m trial Crown, I usually have two or three trial days and do a number of trials, sentencing and bail matters. If I’m in Supreme Court, the case is generally set for a week so that’s generally what I’ll do.”

After 37 years in court rooms, Pontious now plans to do quite a bit of travelling, spending time at his residence in Vancouver and do lots of reading and hiking.

 

“I’ll be fine,” he smiled. “I’m looking forward to retirement. It’s time to do something different.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP and the BX-Swan Lake Fire Department are on scene of a reported quonset fire fully involved in the 900 block of Pottery Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon quonset structure on fire

BX-Swan Lake Fire Department battling blaze on property on Pottery Road Wednesday, Feb. 24

Medical masks and social distancing are new additions to this year’s farmer’s market in Vernon amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Petition added to efforts to bring crafters back to farmers’ markets

Local market losing money, members and customers due to provincial health regulations

Roads crews cleared the second rockslide in less than a month on Pelmewash Parkway Feb. 23. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Rockslides ‘amplified’ this time of year in Lake Country

Crews clear Pelmewash Parkway again, after, it was littered with rocks Feb. 23

COVID-19 testing at the Vernon Health Services Unit. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Two Vernon high schools exposed to COVID-19

Vernon Secondary and Seaton were sent home notices yesterday of exposure event

UBCO students are among the most food insecure in Canada, according to a new study by UBC Okanagan. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News/FILE)
UBCO students among most food insecure in Canada

42.3 per cent either can’t properly feed themselves, or are worried they will soon run out of money

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Malakwa firefighters bring a barn blaze under control in the 4,000 block of the Trans-Canada Highway on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (Sean Coubrough/CSRD photo)
Barn fire prompts fundraiser for Shuswap family of eight

Blaze leaves Malakwa family in need of feed, supplies for beloved horses

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Brad Eliason as seen here after he came out of a medically-induced coma after being severely injured during an unprovoked assault at Okanagan Lake beach by Thomas Kruger-Allen. (Photo courtesy of GoFundMe)
Beach attacker’s sentencing delayed in Penticton court

His defense lawyer has introduced a Charter of Rights breach application

(Mission Group)
Demolition of Bargain Shop downtown Kelowna clears way for big development

Bernard Block will encompass two residential towers, commercial tower, street-facing businesses

Even with COVID travel restrictions the occupancy rate at the campground shot from 17 per cent to 45 per cent in 2020.  Photo Town of Princeton
Princeton’s town-owned RV park caught ‘campfire’ in 2020

Tourism director has even bigger plans for coming year

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

Reactions to the federal government’s proposed gun legislation are mixed across the province. (File photo)
Princeton mayor has no appetite for local handgun ban

Newly tabled federal legislation will download decision to municipalities

Cannabis
Vancouver-based cannabis retailer buys Kelowna pot shop

Grasshopper Cannabis was bought before it even opened for business

Most Read