In a Speaker’s Corner item for the Law Times, an assistant Crown attorney describes episodes of paralegals and unlicensed “agents” doing poor jobs of advocacy.
Impermissible witness questioning, acting outside the scope of practice, lack of Charter understanding and familiarity with criminal court procedures — these are among his complaints with paralegals and non-licensees, which Scott Arnold groups together in the article.
While acknowledging that good paralegals operate in the legal system independently and “assisting lawyers” on complex matters, Arnold says paralegals should not be involved in cases that could attract jail time. He says he has dealt with paralegals and unlicensed agents in such matters as dangerous driving, assault causing bodily harm and possession of a dangerous weapon.
Our duties as Crown attorneys include not only being strong and effective prosecutors but, in our roles as ministers of justice, ensuring that the system operates fairly for those accused of crimes. So it’s troubling when I see substandard representation in criminal courts where liberty is at stake.”
Arnold urges paralegals to use caution and discretion before taking on criminal cases, to upgrade their education and use mentoring to ensure competency where a sentence could include jail time.