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
[email protected]

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky Nimpkish ferry sailing

The ferry docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Heiltsuk Nation calls probe into arrest of Indigenous man at bank ‘woefully inadequate’

Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter had been at a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver on Dec. 20

Indigenous athletes invited to apply for Team BC

The Games will be the largest multi-sport event ever held in Halifax

WATCH: Powerlifting Competition returns to Williams Lake for the first time in decades

Nine competitors took part in the Cariboo Classic Amateur Powerlifting Competition

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Most Read