Legal aid cuts will affect the most vulnerable, says Windsor lawyer
'There'll be more people going to jail. There'll be more people staying in jail...'
A Windsor lawyer says cuts to legal aid will affect all areas of the criminal trial process — including bail hearings.
In April, the province announced it's slashing legal aid funding by 30 per cent, amounting to about $133 million.
"There'll be more people going to jail. There'll be more people staying in jail because one of the things where they've cut back drastically is bail hearings," said Patrick Ducharme, a trial lawyer who focuses on criminal law.
"Bail is one of the most significant aspects of defending somebody on a criminal charge because a person who is charged is so compromised if they remain in custody."
About 15 minutes ago, as a result of <a href="https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@fordnation</a> cuts, all defence lawyers in Ontario were told that Legal Aid will not pay lawyers to do bail hearings for most accused. This is significant, as bail often determines EVERYTHING in a person's case.—@AriGoldkind
He explained many lawyers don't like to take cases where the accused person is in custody, because it's "unwieldy" and costly.
On the whole, he said, the cuts mean that fewer criminal defence lawyers who are experienced and capable will take on legal aid cases because they're not sufficiently paid to justify the time and their efforts.
But he added cuts have been happening for years.
"I think it's a position taken by politicians who think that the way to save money is on the backs of people who are charged with criminal offences because they think the greater community population in the province aren't going to be so upset about not protecting people who are charged with crimes," Ducharme said.
Tap on the player below to hear more from Patrick Ducharme on the CBC's Afternoon Drive:
He thinks push back may come once people realize that their loved ones could be charged with offences, can't afford proper representation and are left with no support from the government.
"They'll push back and say, 'This government has left us with nothing.'"
With fewer lawyers taking cases, more people will have to turn to government-appointed defence lawyers, he explained, but those lawyers are already swamped with cases.