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 with years of experience defending serious, complex cases behind us, we have evolved into a focused group of seasoned professionals. Each one of our partners brings razor-sharp intellect, finely-honed judgment, and the courtroom skills that can make the difference between success and failure.

Our clients.

Over the years, 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. 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 are situated in Ottawa, 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, 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.


Canada’s Bail System Creating A Number Of Problems, Justice Documents

OTTAWA — Canada lacks a full picture of the issues related to bail, says a recent note drafted to brief Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on the state of the criminal justice system. The document, obtained by The Canadian Press, suggested half of those in provincial jails are on remand and have not been convicted of anything. The bail question troubles many people. […] Michael Spratt, an Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer, said the bail issue is clearly a national problem. “You can’t just look and see that Saskatchewan is dropping the ball or Ontario is dropping the ball,” Spratt said. “It is a problem across the country which shows that there needs to be some sort, I think, of federal leadership to try to address the problem and answer the question why we have so many people in custody, especially when a lot of those people are in custody for property offences, minor shoplifting offences, administrative offences.” Tackling the issue, however, is complex, said Anthony Doob, a University of Toronto criminology professor. In fact, he said, Canada does not know how to deal with it. Read the full Canadian Press article: Huffington... read more

Expect Duffy to beat some — but not all — 31 charges

OTTAWA – Did he do it? And if he did do it, will he go to jail? Sen. Mike Duffy — and the rest of the country — gets the answer to that first question in an Ottawa courtroom Thursday morning. And many of those who sat through all or most of the 62 days of testimony that started last spring think there’s a better-than-good chance the ol’ Duff is going to be found guilty on at least a few of the 31 charges he faces for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. […] “I think he’s in the most trouble on the Donohue set of charges,” said Michael Spratt, an Ottawa-based criminal lawyer who, like much of the legal community in the nation’s capital, has kept a close eye on the trial. The Crown alleges Duffy went to Gerald Donohue, an old friend from Duffy’s days as a political journalist for CTV, gave him $65,000 of Senate funds as a “contractor” and then had Donohue dish out money to various people on Duffy’s orders. The payouts, the Crown contends, were for things like a personal trainer that Duffy knew wouldn’t pass muster by the Senate’s accountants. “He ran everything else through the normal course of business. Why did he have to run some through Donohue?,” Spratt said. Read David Atkin‘s full Story: Toronto... read more

Duffy Trial: Crown needed to prove intent to get a conviction, says expert

Embattled Senator Mike Duffy is expected to learn his legal fate later this week, and according to one legal expert, it could be a mixed bag. Duffy is facing 31 charges related to housing and travel expense claims, consulting contracts, and a $90,000 cheque he received from then Prime Minister Harper’s right hand man, Nigel Wright. Defence attorney Michael Spratt, who has watched the Duffy trial closely from the start, says the verdicts on the various charges may be very different. Where Duffy may be in the most trouble, Spratt said, is the $65,000 “slush fund” of taxpayers’ money that he allegedly set up with his friend Gerald Donohue to pay for services the Senate would not cover, such as makeup and personal training. Read Monique Muise‘s full story: Global News... read more

Weapons of mass intimidation

It was a police emergency like few others. A man, possibly armed with a sword, had broken into a house and was fleeing the scene in a canoe on the Northwest Arm. Two police cars arrive at the Armdale Yacht Club, the officers inside looking to hitch a ride on a boat so they can bring the canoe caper to an end. Before boarding the cops open the trunks of their patrol cars and take out their C8A2 semi-automatic carbines—a soldier’s weapon—and sling the rifles around their chests. Mark MacNeil was heading for his sailboat that October morning in 2014, when he saw the boat carrying the heavily armed officers. […] Spratt, who graduated from Dalhousie University in 2005, is one of the people actively opposing the militarization of Canadian police as those departments purchase more and more heavy weapons. This “arming-up” is a national trend—semi-automatic carbines, armored cars, balaclavas, riot gear—all of which is changing the public face of the police. “When police display this type of hard equipment it puts a wall between them and the people,” says Spratt. “People are afraid of it and they become afraid of the police.” Read Rob Gordon‘s full story: The... read more

Ghomeshi trial judge praised by lawyers for ‘right decision’

While former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal has sparked protests, many within the legal community are praising the decision, agreeing with the judge that the complainants’ credibility issues raised reasonable doubt in the case. […] The case, said Ottawa-based criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt, was determined on the credibility and reliability of the witnesses. “There were no smoking guns, as the judge said, there were no corroborating witness, no DNA evidence, and as the judge rightly noted, that’s not required. But what is required is to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard, that the witnesses were telling the truth. “Given the deficiencies in their evidence, the judge pointed out that very high standard obviously wasn’t met.” Spratt said the judge was clear that an inconsistency, or lack of memory, or something that may seem unusual to an outside observer like contact with the accused, isn’t necessarily enough to raise doubt, and that there can still be convictions when those pieces of evidence exist. What was rightly called out by the judge, he said, was the lack of disclosure, the reluctance to disclose and explain the inconsistencies and illogical pieces of the evidence. “That was problematic, not the inconsistencies themselves” Read the full article:... read more


The Criminal Code is a weighty book — literally

The 2016 Martin’s Annual Criminal Code weighs in at a hefty 1.8 kilograms of rules, regulations, presumptions, and penalties. Hidden in plain sight, right at the beginning of the code, is one of our law’s most laughable presumptions: Ignorance of the law by a person who commits an offence is not an excuse for committing that offence. In other words, we assume that every person in Canada knows not just the letter of the law but also the centuries’ worth of judicial interpretation that informs our criminal justice system. I will let you in on a secret: Even the best criminal lawyer has no idea about half of the flotsam and jetsam that litter the big book. Some examples of the antiquated sections of the code are, at least on first blush, quite funny. It is illegal to steal cattle or oysters from an oyster bed — because one section covering all theft is not quite enough. It is an offence to leave an ice hole open and water ski at night — common scourges on our otherwise idyllic communities. It is illegal to fraudulently practice witchcraft or sorcery — a historic and highly contentious concession made to the powerful legitimate dark arts lobbying groups. Yes, all funny. Just silly, old laws; no harm. But it is also an offence to sell, distribute, or produce any comic book or work of art that depicts real or fictitious violence — an odious limit on free speech that has no place in modern society. Even worse, the code contains sections that are actually not the law at all. According to the... read more

Are Threats Considered a Criminal Offence?

The Criminal Code of Canada defines the criminal offence of “Uttering Threats” in Section 264. This criminal offence is committed whenever a person conveys, utters, or causes a threat to be made against another person in any manner. It is important to note the threat must be made knowingly by the person, who uttered it, and with intent. In addition, the threat was made with the intention to inflict bodily harm or death of another, or to harm, poison, injure or kill another person’s bird or animal (pets) in their care, or with the intention to burn, destroy or damage another’s real personal property. The penalties for being convicted and found guilty of “Uttering Threats” depends upon the nature of the threat, as well as whether the person is prosecuted as an indictable offence or as a summary conviction. The consequences for being found guilty or taking a plea agreement for an “Uttering Threats” offence, could include, but may not be limited to: travel restrictions, fines, fees, varying periods of imprisonment, and communication and contact restrictions with the victim. When people are charged with this criminal offence, they often do not understand why they were charged. What they fail to understand is there are different ways in which threats could be made against another, their pets, or their property. While the most obvious way to threaten another is verbally and directly in their presence, there are several other ways to make threats, like: During a Telephone Conversation Through a Text Message Posting the Threat to a Social Media Page Making the Threat through Twitter Through an Email Through a... read more

More than sunny ways needed to address mandatory minimums

Sunny ways. This is the promise of Justin Trudeau and his newly elected Liberal government. If there is one dark vestige of the Conservative government that could benefit from the light it is criminal justice policy. Over the last 10 years, our Criminal Code has been radically altered. The changes did not happen all at once but slowly as evidence-based police gave way to partisan ideology. The death was one of a thousand cuts. The Conservatives were wicked smart in implementing their crime agenda. Major legislative changes were buried in massive omnibus bills. Small but problematic amendments were hurried through Parliament and shielded from constitutional scrutiny in private members bills, and the parliamentary review process was gamed to suppress evidence that contradicted the government’s agenda. We are living with the sad results: overcrowded jails, massive costs, reduced public safety, and law after law ruled to be unconstitutional. And there is no better example of the Conservatives’ disdain for evidence-based criminal justice policy than mandatory minimum sentences. The Harper government promoted mandatory minimum sentences as a tough-on-crime elixir. However, the reality is that mandatory minimum sentences are simply poor policy. They are not supported by the evidence. They do not make communities safer. They do not deter the commission of offences. They impede rehabilitation. They are costly. They are simply unjust. Proponents of mandatory sentences say minimum sentences deter crime and make communities safer. Let’s look at what the evidence does tell us: Minimum sentences and harsh incarceration aren’t effective at reducing crime, and they do little to assist with rehabilitation. Read Michael Spratt’s full article: Canadian... 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

There exists an overwhelming imbalance of power between the state and the individual.

There exists an overwhelming imbalance of power between the state and the individual. This is an absurdly obvious fact, but, sometimes, the most obvious facts are the hardest ones to prove. The imbalance of power in our criminal justice system can be manifested through the vastness of the resources available to our prosecution services — dedicated police investigators, access to the best forensic crime labs, and availability of an unlimited parade of expert witness. Yep, the state also has virtually unlimited money. In one of my cases, it flew a witness across the country to prove a shoplifting case. Seriously, my client stole a $5 pack of cold cuts; the witness’ plane ticket cost hundreds of dollars. This is the danger faced often by the poor accused. David rarely beats Goliath in real life. But defence lawyers love war stories, and these stories can often provide the most compelling evidence of how the criminal justice system is anything but a level playing field. So, here is mine. In the early hours of June 14, 2006, a number of street youths had gathered and were either sleeping or sitting in a pedestrian underpass near the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive in downtown Ottawa.  To call this group of youth “squeegee kids” would be charitable. In reality, they were a band of racist and violent thugs. My client — Mr. H — made the mistaking of walking into their makeshift lair. It was late at night and Mr. H needed to go to the bathroom. He unzipped and urinated in the corner of the underpass. The band of street... read more
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