Ontario Court of Appeal allows state funding for counsel on appeal of criminal case

The case involved a vehicle collision report that led to an arrest

Ontario Court of Appeal allows state funding for counsel on appeal of criminal case

In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted a request for state funding for counsel on appeal, finding that the applicant may be unable to argue his appeal effectively.

In R. v. Beauparlant, 2024 ONCA 29, the applicant, Cadence Beauparlant, requested state funding under s. 684 of the Criminal Code for counsel on his appeal. The case revolved around a two-vehicle collision report that led to the arrest of Beauparlant by Police Constable Lee.

The trial judge dismissed Beauparlant's application to exclude seized evidence under s. 24(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, citing breaches of ss. 8 and 9 but not s. 10(b). In a detailed analysis, the trial judge assessed the factors outlined in jurisprudence: the seriousness of the Charter-infringing conduct, the impact of the breach on the Charter-protected interests of the accused, and society's interest in an adjudication on the merits. The trial judge highlighted P.C. Lee's failure to verify information from the initial dispatch, leading to arbitrary detention and subsequent breach of Beauparlant's rights. The judge, however, determined that the police conduct did not meet the threshold of flagrant or serious, considering that the officer conducted himself in good faith.

Beauparlant wished to appeal the trial judge's decision and sought funding under s. 684 of the Criminal Code for his appeal. The Ontario Court of Appeal, following the criteria laid out in s. 684(1), considered his means to hire private counsel, arguable grounds of appeal, and the ability to advance the appeal without counsel.

The Crown conceded Beauparlant's lack of means to hire private counsel and acknowledged an arguable ground of appeal. The remaining contention focused on the ability to effectively advance the appeal without counsel.

The duty counsel argued three points, emphasizing errors in the trial judge's analysis, the nuanced assessment of the factors provided in jurisprudence and Beauparlant's limited capacity to argue his appeal effectively, asserting that Beauparlant is a grade 11 graduate who is only 23 years old and cannot be expected to argue his appeal effectively.

The Crown, in response, asserted the simplicity of the case and contended that Beauparlant does not require counsel for an effective appeal.

The court ultimately decided to grant Beauparlant's application to appoint a counsel under s. 684 of the Criminal Code, finding that Beauparlant would not be able to offer any assistance if the panel hearing his appeal wishes to drill down on newly available implications of recent case law.

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