You won’t find any real-estate lawyers here. Criminal litigation is serious business, and the stakes for the clients we defend are as high as they come. Your job. Your reputation. Your freedom.


Our clients come to us with the worst kind of problems and we solve them—with creative, focused, determined advocacy.




We defend.

Our firm was founded in Ottawa by a group of hungry young criminal lawyers who believed that every one of our clients deserved a smart, creative, fearless defence.

We still believe that. And we have now matured into the largest criminal-law boutique in Eastern Ontario, and one of the largest specialist criminal-law firms in the country. None of us works alone. Our entire firm stands shoulder-to-shoulder with each client. There is strength in our size.

Our clients.

As we have grown, our lawyers have been sought out by clients from across Ontario, and from all walks of life. We represent executives, civil servants, doctors, pharmacists, high-tech workers, and diplomats. Our clients also include institutions and organizations facing criminal or regulatory issues.

But we also believe quality representation should not only be available to those who can easily afford it. Because of our size, we have the flexibility to accommodate clients who might otherwise struggle to pay for top-flight legal representation. And, in appropriate cases, we accept Legal Aid.

Our cases.

We have what it takes to defend any criminal charge, regulatory infraction, or disciplinary offence. White-collar crime. Drugs. Crimes of violence. Driving offences, including impaired driving. We provide specialized representation at all stages of litigation. We give counsel to individuals and institutional clients about their legal responsibilities. And we represent people who have been charged: obtaining bail, at trial, and on appeal.

Our reach.

We have offices in Ottawa and Cornwall, and we regularly appear in Gatineau and Eastern Ontario, including Brockville, Kingston, L’Orignal, Pembroke, Arnprior, Perth, Smiths Falls, Alexandria, and Morrisburg.

But our reach doesn’t end there. We are often sought out by clients elsewhere, including Toronto, Guelph, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, and beyond.

Our approach.

In our business, there is such a thing as being too nice. We never lose sight of the fact that a prosecution is always personal—someone is trying to take away your reputation, your future, your freedom. We respect our adversaries, but we never forget that we are there to protect our clients, not to make friends.

A custom-crafted defence.

Beware the cookie-cutter defence. Every client is different. Every case is different. We get to know our clients and we spend the time to find out what approach will work them.

And we know the simple things count. We will return your phone calls. We will keep you up-to-date on your case. And we will get to know you and your goals as we craft our strategy and your defence.


Criminal Trials

We are trial lawyers.

In a criminal trial there is no room for mistakes. It’s under that kind of pressure that we do our best work. Judge or jury. Murder trial or impaired driving charge. Cracking open a tough witness or advancing a complicated legal argument. The courtroom is our comfort zone. We believe there are no impossible cases.

Discrete Lawyering

Keeping a lid on criminal charges.

You need to have a touch of showmanship in your blood to love jury litigation, and we’re always pleased to have a big win splashed across the newspapers. But a big part of the work we do is out-of-court lawyering—negotiating, cajoling, convincing. Turning big cases into little ones, and making little ones go away entirely. You won’t see these cases in the newspaper. Now, we like being in the news, but we find that many of our clients prefer to get a great result and skip the media attention. We’re happy to oblige.


It ain’t over till it’s over.

The worst words a criminal defendant can hear from a judge or jury: guilty as charged. We have brought countless clients back from that abyss. Clients convicted of all kinds of offences have put their faith in us to deliver the just result they were denied at trial. Few firms have the experience, and or have had the success, that we have had in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.


Federal victim surcharge bound for Supreme Court, defence lawyers say

OTTAWA – Defence lawyers say mandatory victim surcharges being imposed on destitute offenders are destined for the Supreme Court of Canada as fierce legal battles play out in lower courts in British Columbia and Ontario. The latest skirmish is taking place in B.C.’s provincial court, where the Crown is expected to argue next month that the surcharge is a reasonable limitation of a homeless offender’s Charter rights. Trial judge Donna Senniw has already determined the man’s rights, outlined under sections 7 and 12, were violated. […] Many judges across the country felt the mandatory surcharge removed their sentencing discretion and some tried to find ways to circumvent the surcharge, such as setting lengthy payment schedules. “The response we have seen from the judiciary has been exceptional,” said Ottawa criminal lawyer Michael Spratt. “The reason why the judges, I think, are finding creative ways to try and bring fairness back into the system is because these are the people who hear and see the homeless individual who has no money, who is faced with what can be, for them, a back-breaking fine for minor offences.” Read Kirsty Kirkup‘s full article: Canadian... read more

CSIS needs ‘warning system’ on risk of torture, lawyer says

Restoring the inspector-general’s position at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service could help monitor instances when the agency relies on assurances from foreign governments that a person of interest to Canada won’t be tortured, according to Ottawa human rights lawyer Paul Champ. He made the comments following revelations that Canada’s spy agency was given the green light to send information to an allied foreign agency about a terrorist target of mutual interest and interview a Canadian detained abroad, provided assurances were obtained that both individuals would face “no substantial risk of mistreatment” abroad. […] Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Leo Russomanno, co-counsel for Algerian-born Mohamed Harkat, who last year lost his Supreme Court of Canada challenge to have the security certificate used to detain him for nearly four years declared unconstitutional, said the federal government relied on assurances from its Algerian counterpart that Harkat wouldn’t be mistreated despite reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that the risk of that happening were high. “Torture isn’t just occurring in the far corners of the globe — it’s happened with the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, at CIA black sites in Europe and when Canadian soldiers transferred prisoners to Afghan authorities, who then tortured them,” said Russomanno, whose practice at Abergel Goldstein & Partners is focused in part on national security law. “At what point do we start acting like adults, and follow our Constitution and international human rights obligations and stop getting carried away in this cycle of fear over this existential threat of terrorism?” Read Christopher Guly’s full article: The Lawyers’... read more

Placing Del Mastro in handcuffs, leg irons standard procedure: OPP

Transporting convicted MP Dean Del Mastro to jail in handcuffs and leg irons was standard operating procedure used for everyone from fraudsters to serial killers, the Ontario Provincial Police said Friday. The image of Del Mastro, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former parliamentary secretary, shuffling out of the courthouse in Peterborough, Ont., appeared to rattle political observers who seldom witness the gritty day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system. Michael Spratt, a criminal lawyer with Abergel Goldstein and Partners LLB in Ottawa, said Del Mastro’s treatment is “standard practice.” “It’s another example of sort of a one-size-fits-all solution to perceived problems in the justice system,” said Spratt, a frequent and trenchant critic on social media of Conservative “tough-on-crime” policies. Read Bruce Cheadle‘s full article: CTV... read more

Conservatives spend almost $7M defending unconstitutional legislation

OTTAWA —The Harper Conservatives have spent no less than $6.5 million defending high profile and contentious pieces of legislation ultimately deemed unconstitutional, recently disclosed documents show. But that sum only tells the beginning of the story, said one criminal defence lawyer. The $6.5 million price tag was arrived at after Liberal MP Scott Simms asked six ministers to release how much they’d spent fighting 16 specific constitutional court challenges. The government lost each of the challenges at various levels of court, said Michael Spratt, partner at Abergel Goldstein & Partner in Ottawa. “But they do not represent all the losses,” he said. “That is the tip of the iceberg for this government defending   Read Amy Minsky’s full article: Global... read more

Ottawa street checks are the ‘wild west,’ lawyer says

A local criminal defence lawyer believes the police practice of doing street checks in Ottawa is worse than in it is in Toronto. “In Toronto you had the mayor weigh in on it, you had the Toronto police services board actually try to implement some sort of policy and rule about it,” Michael Spratt said Tuesday. “In Ottawa, it’s the wild west, there are no rules, and it’s a practice that’s rampant here as well.” Ottawa police have been building a street check policy and they plan to present it to the board when the proposed guidelines are ready. The province announced Tuesday it wants to standardize a street check policy across Ontario police forces. Spratt said a street check policy should require police to inform people what their rights are.   Read Jon Willing’s full article: Ottawa... read more

Ottawa drug-trafficking case collapses in entrapment ruling

Until the other week, Ramy Yasso was a convicted Vanier crack dealer. He now has a new lease on life after an Ontario Superior Court justice tossed out his drug-trafficking conviction. Justice Gary Tranmer ruled that a police undercover buy of $60 in crack amounted to entrapment in law because officers gave Yasso an opportunity to commit the crime without any reasonable suspicion that he was already engaged in drug trafficking. Read Gary Dimmock’s full story: Ottawa... read more


Tips to Avoid Being Charged with a DUI Offence

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it often means plenty of holiday and New Year’s parties to attend. This time of year is by far one of the busiest for police agencies, not only in Ottawa, but throughout Ontario, to ensure impaired and drunk drivers are kept off the roads. To avoid potentially be charged with a DUI offence this holiday season, take the time to review the following tips and suggestions. Use a designated driver. Before arriving at any holiday party, come to a consensus within your group as to who will be the designated driver and not drink. Give the keys to the vehicle to the designated driver. Do not drink. If you do not have a designated driver and are attending a holiday party by yourself, do not drink. It is not worth taking the risk of getting stopped and the expenses associated with a drinking and driving offence, just to have a few drinks at a holiday party. Use public transportation. If public transportation is going to be running late into the evening on the night of the party, take the bus or train to and from the event. Use a taxi or personal limo service. If everyone in your group is planning on drinking, split the costs of hiring a taxi or personal limo service to be your designated driver. Make arrangements with the party hosts to stay the evening. Another alternative is to make arrangements with the party hosts to spend the night at their home and drive home the next day, after you have sobered up and it is safe for... read more

Human and financial costs of drug war just too high

By Michael Spratt Michael Swan was watching Canada play the United States for Olympic hockey gold while the three young men who would kill him were driving to Ottawa down a dark highway. The “Toronto three”, as they would come to be known, had a plan to make some easy money: They were going to steal Swan’s marijuana. Swan was murdered later that night on Feb. 21 2010 — killed by a single bullet that pierced his lung and tore apart his heart. Swan’s life was taken for a small amount of marijuana; as were the lives of Travis Votour and Amanda Trottier — killed in January 2014, allegedly in a marijuana drug rip, as was the life of Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi, who apparently died over a bag of weed in 2010. This is the result of the failed war on drugs. A year ago, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report entitled Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work. The report provided a substantive analysis of current global drug policy. The Commission was comprised of international experts, former presidents and prime ministers, and former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour. At its core, the commission’s report emphasized that a fundamental shift in policy — health, social and criminal — was required, to alleviate the harms associated with drug use. The report was unequivocal: The world’s war on drugs has been an abject failure. As a criminal defence lawyer, this comes as no surprise. Every day I see the ravages of illegal drugs in our communities. Canada has a drug problem, but it is a... read more

Its Time to Get Smart About Crime

The streets of Old Ottawa South have never been more dangerous. Convicted murders roam free, pedophiles lurk behind every bush, and our children are in constant danger. This is not our parent’s neighbourhood; we live in dark and dangerous times.

Of course none of that is true. The despotic image of dangerous, crime-ridden neighbourhoods only exists in the imagination of the tough-on-crime Conservatives. Given the Harper government’s track record on real issues – say the environment or the economy – the crime narrative is a necessary fiction, an exercise in distraction, which has little to do with increasing public safety.

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The Use of Phallometric Evidence in Canadian Criminal Law

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry the Law Michael S. Purcell, JD, Jennifer A. Chandler, LLB, LLM and J. Paul Fedoroff, MD Abstract The use of phallometric evidence by Canadian criminal courts has steadily increased since the early 1980s. Phallometry was initially considered by courts to be a potentially useful tool in the determination of accused persons’ culpability; however, its contemporary use is limited to the postconviction contexts of sentencing and dangerous and long-term offender applications, as one of several means of diagnosing offenders, determining recidivism risk, and assessing treatment prospects. We provide an overview and assessment of the use of phallometric evidence by Canadian criminal courts and conclude that its contemporary application appears to be consistent with the expert psychiatric consensus on its proper role and function in the forensic context. We further identify potential difficulties associated with the adequacy of offenders’ consent and the occasional divergence of expert opinion about the reliability and validity of phallometry for diagnosis and risk assessment. Phallometry (also known as penile plethysmography) is a technique used in the assessment and treatment of paraphilias in men. In essence, it detects an increase in penile circumference in response to specific visual or auditory stimuli and, on this basis, suggests the nature of the subject’s sexual interests. Analogous techniques have been developed to assess women. We note also the recent exploration of functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess sexual interests. Phallometric evidence has been accepted by courts in the United States as a condition of parole, probation, and supervised release; however, there has been much greater resistance to admitting it at trial. Although phallometry has now attracted a significant level... read more

Carding, not just a Toronto problem

Carding happens everywhere, not just in Toronto. Police officers routinely ask individuals for identification when they are not suspected of criminal activity. It happens on the street, and it happens to passengers in vehicles. It happens across the country. While it is laudable that the Mayor of Toronto has vowed to end the policy of carding there, it would be naive to think that this signals an end to carding at large. The practice and injustice of carding has long predated the Toronto Police’s policy. Like all other Charter violations, when carding doesn’t lead to criminal charges, it never comes to light. Thanks to the Toronto Police’s official policy of carding, we know that it has been used to disproportionately target racial minorities. The practice of carding is offensive enough, it is even worse when it disproportionately affects minority groups and the poor. Here’s a shocker: some people, including police officers, are racist. Lower income neighbourhoods are also subject to greater police oversight. So it really should come as no surprise that racial minorities and the poor are bearing the brunt of the police’s disrespect for the law. It is also apparent that but for criminal charges being laid, the public or the administration of justice would never become aware of this practice. So until the Toronto Police decided to make it an official policy, carding had largely fallen under the radar. It is emblematic of all individual rights that those who are charged with criminal offences serve as proxies for those of us who are never charged. I suppose we have the brazenly illegal policy of the Toronto... read more

Bail: the presumption of guilt

The presumption of innocence shouldn’t be banal cliché.  But that is what it is becoming.  In Canada the presumption of innocence is under attack and the right to reasonable bail is the current battleground.  Of the tens of thousands of inmates in Canadian jails almost 60% have yet to be convicted. These are real people – people with homes and families, people with serious medical or mental health issues, people who often could otherwise still form a part of our society. Many of these people should not be in custody. All of these people are presumed innocent. The presumption of innocence is so important that not only is it found at the beginning of the Criminal Code of Canada, but it is also part of the supreme law of Canada: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  As part of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the Charter guarantees reasonable bail. Shockingly, the current bail system is anything but reasonable At trial, if the government wants to take away your freedom, it needs to prove that you did something wrong beyond anyone’s ability to reasonably doubt it. This is a high burden – but the Crown should have a heavy burden when liberty is at stake. But bail court isn’t trial court.  You may think that before an accused is found guilty it would be harder to lock them up – you would be wrong.  At a bail hearing there are few rules to protect an accused –  everything about a person’s character, prior calls to the police, rumours, and even unfounded allegations can be considered. All to often an unrepresented accused... read more
Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP
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