Criminal Lawyers’ Association calls on Ontario for more funding of legal aid

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association is calling on the Ontario government to boost the province’s legal aid program, saying insufficient funding is leading to more accused being unrepresented and discouraging young lawyers from staying in defence law.

The association, which wrote to the province last month seeking a funding model that keeps pace with the cost of living, said it’s set to meet with the government next week to discuss the issue.

Association president Daniel Brown said stagnant legal aid funding has led to many accused having to represent themselves in Ontario courts because they don’t qualify for the program, which in turn leads to inefficiency in the justice system and places an extra burden on the courts.

“This is just a system in crisis,” Brown said in an interview on Tuesday.

Cases involving unrepresented accused can take three or four times longer than cases with criminal defence lawyers, Brown said.

“We have judges who have to spend time teaching self-represented accused persons how to defend themselves. They have to equip them with the knowledge and they have to spend extra time with them in courts,” he said.

“[The accused] have long meandering questions and convoluted legal applications that often don’t go anywhere because they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like the equivalent to somebody trying to do their own open heart surgery. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

An Ontario provincial courtroom is pictured here at Toronto’s Old City Hall. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The low income cutoff for legal aid falls well below the poverty line, Brown noted.

“Somebody who is making a minimum wage job would not qualify for legal aid,” he said. “Quite frankly, they wouldn’t have any hope of paying for private counsel, especially in the complex cases in the Superior Court.”

Betty Vavougios, president of Ontario

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Society edges closer to nuclear option on legal aid | News

Striking criminal barristers will vote this week on whether to accept the government’s revised legal aid offer – as the Law Society edges one step closer to issuing an unprecedented warning over the future of criminal defence work.

Justice secretary Brandon Lewis is hoping he has done enough to end the criminal bar’s action, which began in April, by offering what he announced last week was a package of reforms representing a further £54m investment in the criminal bar and solicitors.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association will be balloted on the new offer tomorrow. The ballot will close on Sunday and the results will be announced the following day.

However, the Law Society is unhappy about the deal, warning that it would advise members not to undertake criminal defence work if the government does not offer the minimum 15% fee uplift recommended for solicitors by the Bellamy review. Chancery Lane repeated the warning following an urgent meeting with justice minister Gareth Johnson MP on the day the new deal was announced.

Of the £54m being offered, £19m is earmarked for solicitors and the Ministry of Justice says further uplifts for solicitors will be announced later this year. However, the Society says the further investment is mainly a one-off and not increasing rates in the long-term, so solicitors are still well below the 15% increase barristers are receiving.

Chancery Lane said it presented its arguments ‘strongly’ to the minister.

Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said it was positive that, as a former minister criminal defence practitioner, Johnson understood the problems in the criminal justice system. ‘However, rather than anything substantial, all that is currently being offered to solicitors by the government is more promises of jam tomorrow. We will continue to push for a fair deal for solicitors for

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Criminal Lawyers’ Association calling on Ontario for more funding for legal aid

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The Criminal Lawyers’ Association is calling on the Ontario government to boost the province’s legal aid program, saying insufficient funding is leading to more accused being unrepresented and discouraging young lawyers from staying in defence law. 

The association, which wrote to the province last month seeking a funding model that keeps pace with the cost of living, said it’s set to meet with the government next week to discuss the issue. 

Association president Daniel Brown said stagnant legal aid funding has led to many accused having to represent themselves in Ontario courts because they don’t qualify for the program, which in turn leads to inefficiency in the justice system and places an extra burden on the courts.  

“This is just a system in crisis,” Brown said in an interview on Tuesday. 

Cases involving unrepresented accused can take three or four times longer than cases with criminal defence lawyers, Brown said. 

“We have judges who have to spend time teaching self-represented accused persons how to defend themselves. They have to equip them with the knowledge and they have to spend extra time with them in courts,” he said. 

“(The accused) have long meandering questions and convoluted legal applications that often don’t go anywhere because they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like the equivalent to somebody trying to do their own open heart surgery. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

The low income cutoff for legal aid falls well below the poverty line, Brown noted. 

“Somebody who is making a minimum wage job would not qualify for legal aid,” he said. “Quite frankly, they wouldn’t have any hope of paying for private counsel, especially in the complex cases in the Superior Court.”

Betty Vavougios, president of Ontario Crown Attorneys’s Association said court runs less efficiently

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