Justice depends on legal aid

TheStar.com – comment/letter – Justice depends on legal aid
June 06, 2008

Re:Province moves to cut criminal court delays – June 4

The Association of Legal Aid Lawyers is pleased to see the initiatives that Attorney General Chris Bentley is taking to reduce criminal court delays. Our association is dedicated to providing the highest possible level of legal representation to lower-income Ontarians. Our members are salaried employees funded by Legal Aid Ontario and include duty counsel who daily advise and represent the criminally accused.

The strategy calling for 17 more legal aid offices to be established inside courthouses is a reasonable step in increasing access to justice, but it is only a beginning.

Recognition and support of the professional capacity of duty counsel to effectively engage in their role is essential if the province hopes to realistically address backlogs and delays. In addition to a “dedicated prosecution” system, the justice system requires a “dedicated defence” system.

Our association hopes that Bentley will soon remunerate legal aid lawyers on a par with Crown attorneys. Only if this is done can lower-income Ontarians obtain the same service as the ministry provides in its prosecution against them.

Walter Van de Kleut, Chair, Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, Chatham, Ont.

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