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Letter from prison: Why there should be a law against bad lawyers

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Editor’s note. We received this editorial from behind prison walls somewhere in Atlantic Canada. Its author wishes to remain anonymous.

Have you, or someone you know, ever had the experience of going to buy a car, only to be sold a lemon, a junk car that only caused you nothing but headache after headache, lots of stress and countless amounts of extra money? Eventually you end up in a worse situation than when you started.

AFP PHOTO CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

To say the very least, these are the same results that many innocent people are forced to deal with when receiving professional help from duty counsel or defence counsel within the courts of law.

Instead of a lemon, many are left with bad plea deals and wrongful convictions due to being left with the only option of having to plead guilty to a charge for which they are not guilty, in order to avoid much further distress than what they have already endured.

Just as sure as there is a law put in place to stop crooked salesperson from cashing in at the expense of someone’s uneducated decision to trust them for a good deal on a car, there should be a law in place to stop ineffective, unwilling, understaffed, and underpaid defence counsel from taking advantage of vulnerable clients by railroading them through the system as crookedly as they do.

Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states everyone has the right to effective assistance of counsel. Yet, when you have defence counsel that fail to do independent investigations, that avoid clients by screening calls, or that pressure clients into deals, these are direct displays of incompetent performance, a miscarriage of justice resulting in procedural unfairness, compromised trials, and wrongful convictions.

After much stress and uncertainty dealing with ineffective counsel, you’re basically pressured into taking a deal to plead guilty to a charge just to get through the excruciating situation and hopefully see some closure. You will forever bear that charge on your name, on top of walking away with the scars of psychological and emotional abuse that plague the victims of these silent crimes from court-appointed defence counsel.

I believe a public inquiry should be called to address this very important, life-altering situation before it further spirals out of control. We need to get to the bottom of what it is that continuously hurts many innocent people, and put the right changes into effect, to rekindle the aspirations and restore the confidence of defence counsel to adequately handle the full case load.

Currently, lawyers are overworked and bogged down with so many cases they can’t seem to get a grasp of the cost of leaving inefficiencies to trickle down and of having the accused to suffer.This causes not only short term grief, but sometimes also longer lasting issues that outlast the initial problem itself.

Note: For further reading check out the Innocence Canada website.

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