Two defence lawyers are asking a judge for help on behalf of four accused who have been turned down for legal aid funding in Edmonton.
The lawyers say the decision wasn't because their clients make too much money, but because legal aid can only afford to take on cases for people who live well below the poverty line.
“The system is fundamentally broken and it’s for the court to intervene here to ensure there is a playing field that’s fair for people charged with criminal offences,” said defence lawyer Kent Teskey.
“There is a skilled, trained ethical prosecutor for the Crown and there should be, when somebody is facing the risk of incarceration, a skilled, trained defence lawyer on the other side.”
Some clients who collect Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) have been reportedly turned down for legal aid funding.
Suzanne Polkosnik, president and CEO of Legal Aid Alberta, said the organization is forced to turn clients away due to financial constraints. She says the situation does not appear to be improving anytime soon.
“Next fiscal year, save any changes to our funding stream, we’ll be facing a cash shortfall of $6.1-million,” said Polkosnik. “That’s projected to balloon to $19-million the year after that.”
The program receives some funding from the federal government but the province is the main contributor.