Paralegal SCOPE Magazine reviews Handling Provincial Offence Cases in Ontario 2013, by John Pearson Allen and the Hon. Justice Rick Libman
It is difficult to think of any piece of legislation so likely to affect our lives as the Provincial Offences Act (POA). When Ontarians come in contact with a court, it is most-often a provincial offences court. From parking tickets to illegal dumping, health and safety charges to strip-club licensing, careless driving and careless boating — POA work runs the gamut of regulatory affairs.
POA work is vast and diverse. Handling Provincial Offences is a guide that gives readers the basic tools to untangle its everyday application and its nuances. Developed with both licensees and the self-represented in mind, this resource is particularly well-suited to paralegals. This latest edition features updates on paralegal licensing’s first five years, reminders of the paralegal ethical obligations, and a new chapter devoted to advocacy, competency and the proper roles of participants in POA proceedings.
Written with the gravitas that stems from the authors’ extensive judicial experience, Handling Provincial Offences has become a de rigueur resource for seasoned and new licensees alike. Richly imbued with updated case law citations and concise summaries, it provides the type of practical guidance that paralegals reference at all stages of representation.
Back of the book resources include the Act, current regulations, sample forms and documents, regulations under the Courts of Justice Act, and a list of Provincial Offences courts, along with contact details. The final chapter is a two-page “Checklist” of defence considerations, cross-referenced with related book sections.
From Commencement to Appeal
One quibble I have is with the index. Limited entries make it less useful than it could be, but there is plenty of white space to add one’s own subject headings, with page numbers and cross-references. Also, the format is awkward at first, as case law summaries are presented without any transition or introduction.
More thoughtful is the overall chapter layout, which starts with an overview of the POA and its myriad applications. Chapters follow the progress of a POA matter, from the roles of the parties, to the commencement of a matter, client interview, disclosure, interviews and strategies, through to sentencing and appeals.
Paralegals will find certain guidance particularly on-point, and appreciate the care taken to weave the profession in to each section. Chapter 2 pays special attention to paralegals, including enlightening case law examples of “what not to do.”
On-target Lists and Advice
Many chapters include mini-lists and suggestions that readers will want to mark for quick reference. These include: sample client questions; the effect of offence classification and how that will affect strategy; procedural defences; considerations for young persons and bail hearings; trial procedure under the three Parts; sentencing options; and the steps for re-openings and appeals under the Parts.
Advice is simple and direct. “If the truth is not your client’s friend, remain silent on an issue.” “If the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove an element of its case, do not mention it during trial, but point to the deficiency in summation.” “A trial is a trial, not a trial run.”
The regulatory nature of provincial offences colours Handling Provincial Offences throughout. These are laws passed for the safety, health or well-being of the community.
Though the stakes are not as high as for criminal offences, the book quotes Justice Trafford: “The fairness of trials under the POA, and the appearances of fairness of them, is of critical importance to the administration of justice in Ontario and the public confidence in it … given the fact that most ordinary, law-abiding citizens have some contact with it in the context of alleged traffic violations.”
This concept — that “regulatory” does not mean “lesser” — provides the backbone of this reference book. Used as an adjunct to other resources, education and experience, Handling Provincial Offences may help to ensure competence for paralegals who practice in this area.
Handling Provincial Offence Cases in Ontario 2013, by John Pearson Allen and Hon. Justice Rick Libman.
Soft cover, 440 pages.
– Elizabeth LeReverend, Paralegal and SCOPE Publisher