Calgary inmates complain of delays in obtaining legal aid services

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Calgary inmates complain of delays in obtaining legal aid services

The Remand Center in Calgary, Alberta.

Inmates at the Calgary Remand Center say they are unable to access legal aid lawyers due to pressure tactics.

CBC s& #x27;is interviewed with three inmates charged with minor offenses including possession of stolen property under $5,000, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, drug possession and misdemeanors .

Kirk Mugford says he has been in the remand center since September 28 and is trying to set a trial date, but wants to speak with a lawyer first.

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I keep phoning legal aid and they keep telling me that they have contacted several firms and the certificates are refused, launches Kirk Mugford.

He says that there are between 40 and 50 people on his unit in the same situation. It just fills up here, he said. People don't go out.

For his part, Lawrence Culajara says he's been trying to get a lawyer through Legal Aid since Oct. 4. He says the last time he spoke to a lawyer, he told him he wouldn't be taking on any new clients until their dispute with the province was resolved.

Members of four defense lawyer organizations across the province, as well as some family lawyers who normally handle legal aid cases and certificates, have been refusing them since September 26.

Lawyers want their fees increased, arguing that Alberta has lagged behind other jurisdictions.

I am hopeless, says Lawrence Culajara, who does not feel comfortable representing himself. I have a bad record. That doesn't mean I have to spend my life in prison without having someone to represent me.

The province said Sunday it had heard of no delays.

What we are hearing from the #x27;legal aid is that they have been able to handle all cases, writes Joseph Dow, press secretary for Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

Inmates may still have access to duty counsel.

In September, Tyler Shandro assured that anyone needing access to a lawyer through legal aid could get one.

The lawyer Kelsey Sitar, who is also vice-president of the Calgary Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, says this can mean inmates can still access duty counsel, who offer limited basic services , such as postponing a case to a later date.

If the only help they get is duty counsel and all duty counsel can really do is postpone the hearing in hopes of finding a lawyer willing to accept the case, it's a big deal, says Kelsey Sitar.

She adds that since the strike began, duty counsel have been appearing remotely because they are busier. This makes it difficult for them to see what documents an inmate might have that would potentially help resolve their case and reduce the backlog of cases.

She says the strike leaves some people in a legally unprecedented position, but they should still have the right to a lawyer.

I think there are possibly charter [human rights] violations going on if they can't find a lawyer to take the case, because it's about a guaranteed right, says Kelsey Sitar.

That wouldn't be a typical case, since the issue isn't that the person can't get a government-paid lawyer. . The government is ready to pay. The problem is that there is no lawyer willing to accept the proposed compensation.

Last month, Tyler Shandro reported that a review of the operation of legal aid was to be completed in October and that the fee paid to lawyers would be taken into account.

The Office of Legal Aid says, in a written statement , that all Albertans facing criminal charges who are eligible for legal aid will be assigned a lawyer.

The time it takes to get legal representation legal assistance may vary depending on the complexity of the case and other factors beyond our control.

With information from Sarah Moore< /p>

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