Lawyers are warning that fresh changes to Ontario’s legal aid system triggered by Ford government funding cuts will clog up the courts and reduce people’s chances of getting a fair bail hearing.
Legal Aid Ontario announced new policies Wednesday on its funding for bail hearings in the wake of the government’s $133-million cut to the agency’s budget.
The changes mean most accused people facing a bail hearing or seeking a review of a bail decision will no longer get legal aid funding to hire their own lawyer. Instead, they must be represented by a legal aid staff lawyer, known as duty counsel.
Criminal lawyer Michael Spratt warns of “massive delays” at Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse.
“Old City Hall is the busiest provincial courthouse in all of Canada, with a very high number of marginalized and impoverished defendants,” said Spratt in an interview Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning,
He said the Ford government’s cuts to legal aid “don’t make sense when it comes to the proper administration of justice.”
He predicts they will result in more wrongful convictions and more people pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid the prospect of having to represent themselves in a trial.