Thinking of Snooping on Spouse’s Email? Read This First!

Although it may be tempting to read your ex-partner’s emails, that is exactly what got a husband in trouble with the Court in a case called Golchoobian v. Vaghei.

The former couple, who were now involved in divorce proceedings, still owned a clinic together and both continued to work there pending full resolution of their legal issues.  The husband was caught on the clinic’s security cameras using the reception-area computer to access his wife’s personal email.  He was also heard in an audio-recording telling someone else information about the wife that he could only have known by looking through her emails.  At least one of those emails had been written by the wife to her lawyer, which gave rise to a legal issue about whether by accessing them, the husband had deliberately violated her solicitor-client privilege.

In other words, the wife had justifiable concerns that the husband had gained access to private and sensitive information contained in the hundreds of emails to and from her lawyer, which would reveal her litigation strategy in the divorce case against him.

As a threshold determination, the Court held that the email in question involved the wife asking and receiving legal advice that was intended to be confidential.  It was therefore subject to solicitor-client privilege, which is a fundamental aspect of the Canadian legal system designed to preserve the confidentiality of information passing between a client and his or her lawyer.

The Court did not hesitate to find that the husband deliberately accessed his wife’s personal emails which was a deliberate breach of the wife’s solicitor-client privilege, coupled with lies to try to cover up his conduct.  Although the Court stopped short of imposing a hefty fine or striking out the husband’s court pleadings entirely, it did order him to pay the wife’s full cost of the motion she was forced to bring because of his misconduct.  The Court also ordered the husband to provide an affidavit confirming which documents he obtained, what he had done with them and required him to give an undertaking to the court that he will not repeat the offensive behaviour.

Lastly, the Court warned the husband that he must be vigilant to observe the wife’s right to solicitor-client privilege, he must comply with the Family Law Rules and Rules of Civil Procedure and any orders of judgements, he will be exposed to serious consequences should he be found to violate those Rules, judgements or orders, future transgressions would attract more serious consequences, including striking his pleadings, and the consequence of his conduct would remain a stigma throughout the remainder of the proceedings.