The phased-in implementation of a new Justice of the Peace Bail Program by Legal Aid Alberta has helped expand the work the organization does to support residents who are in need of legal advice during particularly difficult times in their lives.
Legal Aid Alberta is a not-for-profit organization that provides legal representation and support for Albertans facing legal issues. Legal Aid Alberta’s services are integral to ensuring fair and balanced justice for all Albertans. In 2017-2018, Legal Aid Alberta provided duty counsel and full legal representation services in almost 100 courthouse locations across Alberta.
Using advanced closed circuit video technology, the goal of the program is to provide any Albertan regardless of their financial situation with legal representation and advice for their bail hearing. Anyone detained by police can access to Duty Counsel to help them understand the bail process, and be in a better position to present their case.
Duty Counsel is able to review all the information and provide advice and guidance before representing the person at the hearing. The program balances the right of the person in custody under the law, and public safety.
The provincial government made funding available in April 2018 for Legal Aid Alberta to hire up to 23 Duty counsel lawyers for the program, and work is underway to fill those positions and compliment the lawyers already working within the program.
The Hearing Office Steering Committee, made up of Legal Aid Alberta, the Crown Bail Office, Court Clerks, Defense lawyers, RCMP, and members of the Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge police forces, worked on a condensed time frame to get the program off the ground.