Legal Aid Alberta helps cut down on in-person court appearances
Temporary project due to expire at the end of August
With courts facing massive backlogs, Legal Aid Alberta is making it easier for those facing criminal charges to avoid appearing in person.
When a criminal charge is laid, the accused is usually ordered to appear before a provincial court judge or report to a case management office.
The new project, which was launched at the beginning of July, gives people free access to duty counsel in the legal-aid office.
"People can contact our duty counsel up to 14 days in advance before their court date and we can help them," Edmonton staff lawyer Colin Laychuk said. "Navigating the courts can be scary, but we can help them get their case started, provide legal advice and information, request disclosure on their behalf and connect them with legal aid or a lawyer referral service."
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By the end of Wednesday, Laychuk said, the program had assisted with 466 appearances province-wide.
"This is just another option in trying to flatten the curve of the huge amount of backlog," he said.
The program reduces stress for people who don't have to go to busy courthouses, he said.
The current project is due to be terminated at the end of August, but Laychuk said it's unlikely the courts will clear the backlog or return to normal by then.