Ontario Criminal


Person who retained paralegal not now entitled to effective assistance of counsel

Appeal by accused from his conviction for two counts of assault against his wife. Accused retained licensed paralegal to represent him at trial. Accused was found not to be credible while his wife was. In his reasons for convicting accused and throughout trial, trial judge was critical of paralegal’s representation of accused. Accused sought new trial because he claimed he did not receive effective representation at trial. Accused submitted that since Law Society of Upper Canada assumed regulation of paralegals, he was entitled to same representation as if he retained lawyer, or alternatively, to new standard that was middle ground in quality of representation between counsel and former test for agents that applied before Law Society assumed regulation. Appeal dismissed. Accused’s submission was rejected. Person who retained paralegal was not now entitled to effective assistance of counsel. Despite Law Society’s regulation of paralegals there remained clear distinction between representation that accused person was entitled to when he retained lawyer versus when he retained paralegal. Accused knew he did not retain lawyer, he knew paralegal had less legal training than lawyer, and he knew that paralegal would charge less than lawyer. Paralegal’s level of representation was not increased by representations he made about his competency and his promises that accused would be acquitted. There was constitutional right to effective representation by counsel but there was no similar right when accused retained paralegal. Accused did not suffer miscarriage of justice and he was not prejudiced by paralegal’s representation, even though there were points where he provided ineffective assistance at some points during trial.

R. v. Bilinski (Jun. 14, 2013, Ont. S.C.J., Durno J., File No. 1247/11) 107 W.C.B. (2d) 432.

cover image


Subscribers get early and easy access to Law Times.

Law Times Poll

Law Times reports that there is no explicit rule that lawyers in Ontario must be competent in the use of technology. Do you think there should be explicit rules spelling out the expectations of lawyers’ in terms of tech use in their practice?