Amid rising prices, Frank Alfano put the word out that he doesn't charge for a shoplifting file
A Richmond-hill paralegal and lawyer-in-training has provided free legal services for years to people charged with theft under $5,000. Recently, though, he decided to get creative.
So, he advertised the offering, assuming the cost-of-living crisis would intensify the need.
A theft-under-$5,000 charge typically does not meet the test for legal aid, which generally requires that the accused face jail time or a criminal record. So, according to Frank Alfano, a paralegal with We Defend You Legal Services PC, paralegals tend to take on the cases.
“We don’t charge them any money. They’re already down on their luck, right? There’s no point. Diversion cases are easy cases. They’re generally screened already for diversion.
“There’s very little for us to do, so it’s no trouble to help someone who needs it.”
Alfano’s colleague in charge of marketing recently suggested that, due to inflation and rising grocery prices, they might see more shoplifting cases and should put an ad out. CTV News, Global News, CP24, the Toronto Sun, and BlogTO picked up Alfano’s offer. It was effective.
The media play resulted in a flood of calls from people charged with shoplifting.
“We’re just trying to help people who need it the most, especially in this day and age,” says Alfano. “I started shopping at No Frills. I can only imagine what someone down on their luck is going through. So, we did this ad, basically just to help people who needed it.”
But he says rising prices do not appear to have caused more shoplifting because the system has not seen a rise in cases. He adds that that could be due to security guards using more discretion and letting more people go.
“It’s more likely someone’s going to steal when the price is up, but I don’t know if that’s happening,” says Alfano.
In criminal matters, paralegals can prepare documents, advise and represent people charged with offences such as assault, causing a disturbance, and theft-under-$5,000, according to the Law Society of Ontario.
Alfano has been a practising paralegal for 32 years. He recently went to law school, got his LLB and LLM, and plans to start articling in July. He did this to take on more complex cases and did not want to continue passing along appeals.