Reflections From Self Representation – Part 1

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By Matt Paul

November 9, 2018

I had to go to court in L’Orignal, Ontario over the course of the last two years about 8 times. I was charged with two offences stemming from an incident that occurred in Rockland Ontario. A Purolator Driver had decided that despite numerous warnings from the owner of the business, who had limited parking spaces available for her own clients, he would take up 2 of the three spaces while delivering packages to nearby businesses. I happened to be helping the owner on that particular day and knowing the background story of the attempts the owner had made stop the driver from parking on her property, thought I would intervene. It was that intervention that led to the court dates.

When people are facing criminal charges it is a very serious and stressful experience. I thought I would hire a lawyer to assist me with my case. This would take the stress off. A couple of things I found out at my first appearance:

The legal aid system does not work.

Legal aid will not cover employed people making above $22,270 a year. Essentially Legal aid is of no help to getting people who are not categorically poor but are obviously not in a position to afford a lawyer to work for them.  A criminal record would surely decrease the income of an individual below the $22,270 as a consequence of the resulting job loss and inability to gain another. I do not know many people who make under 100,000 a year that are in a position to pay the $7500 I was quoted to handle a simple defense, I really see no benefit or justice in the financial aid portion of the legal system. A person would be forced to borrow $7500 to 20,000 depending on the seriousness of the offense in order to have legal assistance to resolve an issue against a system that employs judges at $200,000 plus and crown attorneys at $100,000 plus to rule and try to convict you holding up evidence gathered by police officers who often make over $100,000 when we factor overtime. So if I didn’t take the deal which was an admission of guilt I would be stuck with a personal loan payment on $7500 with no guarantee of an outcome to be represented by a lawyer.

Duty council is useless.

Duty Council for those of you who thankfully have not had to go to court are lawyers that work in the court office that help people with issues who are representing themselves that do not have legal aid or a lawyer subject to the restriction of income. They function as an in court administrator to help move the cattle along through the barn to the various pens (addiction counselling, mental health, anger management or a detention centre) or back out to pasture for those that are let out of the court unscathed. Sitting in court watching the system process moving people through en masse and seeing that the average person just took whatever the crown gave them in terms of a deal and did not fight the charges, I was appalled. The duty council mainly functioned as an assistant to the crown to council the accused as the appearance of an trusted advisor to the accused however mainly they are helping the poor person in the middle of a nightmare come to terms with the deal offered and the awful outcome that is assured. The duty council explains indirectly to a person facing a court process by not being helpful or accommodating that to fight the charges would be an undertaking that would be difficult and solitary.

Basically a person is presented with one of three choices:

  1. Accept the crown’s deal
  2. Hire a lawyer
  3. Represent yourself.

I chose to for financial reasons and due to the lack of quality representation available to represent myself. It took about a combined effort of two months of my time over 2 years to learn the workings of the court, psych myself up for the events and dates and respond to emails from the crown’s office. I had the support of my partner and a few trusted friends who attended court hearings and kept me positive throughout the challenging ordeal. The result of my hard work was a dismissal of all charges.

Unless you have money to pay a good lawyer what they want, I suggest you look into the law and defending yourself. In the next segment I will talk about lawyers.

The author is not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. It is a literal representation of the facts as they appeared to the writer from personal experience. 

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One comment

  1. Soooo much YES here! So fed up with the Family Law system & Legal Aid! Both systems are significantly broken!
    Where/how do I find your next segment?


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