Access to Justice and Affordability

Access to justice is a live issue for many people, particularly in light of the recent economic recession. How can people who need criminal defence legal services access a lawyer if they can’t afford private legal fees?

One option is to hire a private lawyer on a limited scope basis. This means the lawyer will provide select legal services, such as reviewing Disclosure and providing advice only or just speaking to bail, rather than conducting a file from start to finish. This can help to reduce legal fees and required retainer deposits, though it places responsibility for the legal matter primarily on an Accused, and it may not be a good choice where there are complicated legal issues or an individual is at risk of going to jail.

Another option is to apply to Legal Aid Alberta or Legal Aid Saskatchewan for appointed counsel. Legal Aid Alberta appoints private defence counsel to represent individuals who meet the financial eligibility guidelines, and Legal Aid Saskatchewan has staff lawyers who assist. Legal Aid pays lawyers at rates which are significantly lower than private legal fees, and a person’s financial burden is much less where repayment to Legal Aid is required.

Finally, Legal Aid also provides Duty Counsel on Criminal Court Docket days. Duty Counsel is available to provide legal advice to people who have matters before the Court on that specific day, and this lawyer assists people in requesting adjournments, setting trial dates, and entering guilty pleas. Duty Counsel is there to help for free, but he or she does not run trials.

Share your stories with us by email.  We want to hear from you! On our website, click on “blog” to read all of our past articles.