Legal aid funds pay ‘duty counsel’ lawyers to represent people in criminal and some family law cases. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

The B.C. government has funded a settlement with legal aid lawyers that will see $28 million added over three years to pay for representing people facing criminal charges or seeking protection in family cases.

Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday the funding will restore “duty counsel” service in communities around the province that have not had lawyers willing to provide the service. It’s the first increase in their pay rate since 2006, and it is expected to reduce the number of people who are unrepresented in court, Eby said.

Jean Whittow, chair of the Legal Services Society that administers legal aid in B.C., gave examples of the work of legal aid lawyers at the announcement, held outside the provincial courthouse in Vancouver.

Whittow read from a thank-you card sent to a lawyer from a woman who got assistance for a protection order in family court. Another client wrote after being represented in a criminal case, describing how the lawyer helped him “make amends” for his crime while on probation.

A third client was thankful for assistance while “facing gender-based violence in her home country,” and was now able to focus on her children and starting a new life, Whittow said.

RELATED: New recruits alleviate B.C. court sheriff shortage

RELATED: Man arrested for break-ins at B.C. courthouse

Eby said the funds extend an interim agreement with the society reached last spring, providing $6.1 million for the rest of the current year and $20 million for each of the next two years to pay legal aid lawyer fees.

Chris Johnson, a director of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said the agreement provides stability for 645 lawyers who do legal aid work, and provides a basis for a longer-term agreement covering those who represent vulnerable clients.

Legal aid lawyers represent the most vulnerable people involved with the court system, including those with addictions, mental health issues and Indigenous people, and have long been the worst-paid lawyers in the system, Eby said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Katzie FN delivers food and goods to members in need during COVID crisis

Band emergency operations centre group and Friends in Need food bank team up

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

CITIZEN’S INK: Striving to be a hero during COVID-19 pandemic

Easier to be a hero in short spirts, but we might have to prep for more of a long-term gig

IN IT TOGETHER: Trying something new can help

In this time of stress, change helps overrides negative feelings by tricking nervous systems

Donations pour in to ensure Maple Ridge hospital staff are fed

Restaurants owners, and others, helping to ensure frontline crew at Ridge Meadows Hospital eat

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Exercises move online with YMCA’s new nationwide virtual workout program

YThrive Home offers dozens of free workout videos for people during COVID-19 self-isolation period

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution; two other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, says correctional officer

B.C. community service provider hosts friendly art competition for youth

Theme for Pacific Community Resources contest is ‘finding the silver lining in difficult times’

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

TransLink to reduce service on some bus routes, SeaBus, West Coast Express

Changes start April 6 ‘due to low ridership and financial pressures’ amid COVID-19

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read