Statement from Senior Research Fellow Ab Currie on Duty Counsel Day
It’s really pleasing that legal aid and duty counsel, in particular, are being celebrated with a national day. And I feel very honoured to have been asked to participate in a small way.
Now, it’s seems, it has always seemed to me that duty counsel is, plays a really, is acknowledged as playing a really important role in providing or ensuring a fair hearing in criminal courts because at least in the pre-COVID area, judges would almost always routinely ask unrepresented accused, “have you talked to counsel? Have you talked to duty counsel?”
And if you haven’t, if they hadn’t done that, a judge would say, “I strongly advise you to do so” and give people the opportunity to talk to duty counsel.
And I think that’s an important testament to the importance of duty counsel for assuring fairness in the justice process.
But duty counsel does a lot more than simply grease the wheels of the court. For the past maybe, probably, five years in the access to justice literature there’s been an emphasis on providing people-centred justice and I think that duty counsel does that admirably.
Duty counsel is often the first person that someone sees when they come into the court, in a situation where they’re having difficulty navigating, uh, they may be nervous, they may be frightened and the duty counsel lawyer is essentially the face of help. I’m here to help you.
Tell me what happened. Tell me your story. And that is an important part of what duty counsel represents in terms of the quality of justice in Canada and generally.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to say a few words and all the best on national Duty Counsel Day.