Duty counsel an integral part of justice system

As a core element of our service, we provide lawyers in courtrooms across Alberta. Duty Counsel lawyers provide information, guidance, and legal advice prior to an individual’s first court appearance in adult, family and youth matters. In many cases, Duty Counsel lawyers can advocate on behalf of the individual.

A total of 12,082 certificates were issued to lawyers in more than 70 communities across the province, assisting Albertans with their legal issues, regardless of their income. The certificates issued in 2018-2019 are a slight increase from the previous fiscal year when 11,490 certificates were issued.

A total of 8,341 Adult Criminal Law Duty Counsel certificates were issued, an increase of 16% from 2017-2018. Certificates issued for Family Law saw a decrease of 25% to 2,941 from 3,914; Child Welfare certificates also declined by 52% to 83 from 173 from the previous year.

Duty Counsel lawyers help ensure Albertans are served in a manner that provides the best
outcome — while making the most efficient use of the court’s time. Duty Counsel is a free service available to all Albertans, regardless of income.

Justice of the Peace Bail Program

The Justice of the Peace Bail Program launched across the province in three phases in 2018. After a pilot program in 2016 to determine the benefits of the program, the provincial government made funding available in April 2018 for LAA to begin hiring up to 23 Duty Counsel lawyers for the program.

Through long hours of hard work and collaboration between multiple stakeholders, the Calgary Police Services area launched in early May. This was followed by Alberta North and South in August, and the Edmonton Police Services area in mid-September.
The service is offered 16 hours a day, 7 days a week by a team of Duty Counsel lawyers based out of offices in Calgary and Edmonton. Using high-tech video and audio technology, lawyers to receive disclosure via a secure electronic system, and video conference into the courtroom with their clients.

Since the program fully launched in the midst of the fiscal year, current data collection doesn’t provide a full snapshot conducive to the LAA Annual Report, and will be reported on in more detail in 2019-2020.

Brydges Duty Counsel

Brydges Duty Counsel is a telephone service offered to all Albertans free of charge. Any person who is detained or arrested in Alberta has the right to speak to a lawyer and receive advice. This telephone service is available 24-7 to provide advice on the client’s Charter rights and criminal law matters, and translation services are available in over 100 languages.

We continue to see steady demand for the Brydges Duty Counsel. In 2018-2019, there were 23,122 calls received from Albertans. This represents a 4% percent increase in calls received. The total number of calls received represents a mix of adult and youth criminal, with the majority being adults calling in for legal advice. LAA staff youth lawyers also take calls from youth 24-7.

For more information about how we assist Albertans during difficult times in their lives, check out this interactive website that was developed to showcase the 2018-2019 fiscal year and our successes.

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