03/07/2013 05:21 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

William Mastop, Vernon Gang Lawyer, Sentence Debated

VANCOUVER - A lawyer who pleaded guilty last December to getting too close to the criminals he was defending and inadvertently passing on police information should be sentenced to 10 to 18 months of house arrest, a defence lawyer urged a judge Thursday.

David Crossin said while his client, William Mastop, crossed the line into criminal conduct, there were worse cases of lawyers breaking the law.

The defence lawyer pointed out in court that one lawyer was caught trafficking heroin, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and another lawyer offered a complainant $2,000 to drop an assault charge.

The latter lawyer received an absolute discharge, Crossin told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan at a week-long sentencing hearing, which continues Friday.

The judge is expected to reserve imposing sentence until a date in the near future.

The sentence is expected to be precedent setting because Mastop is the first lawyer in Canada to be convicted of aiding a criminal gang for the benefit of a criminal organization.

Mastop, 46, pleaded guilty last December and has not practised law since he was arrested in 2010.

The Crown contends that Mastop gave the gang search warrant information involving an unnamed informant, information the gang later used to kill two people they wrongly thought were informants. There was no evidence Mastop knew the information would be used by the gang to carry out the murders.

Mastop, who practised criminal law in Vernon, grew up with Peter Manolakos, the ringleader of a gang known as the Greeks.

Four members of the gang were recently convicted of three drug-related murders, although police believe as many as seven people were killed by the gang,