Duty counsel are lawyers responsible for providing free advice to clients – usually offering on-the-spot advice during a person’s first court appearance.
In 2020, LAA duty counsel gained quick access to records and evidence in the Crown prosecutors’ possession. Prosecutors have a constitutional and ethical duty to disclose to accused persons all relevant, non-privileged information in the prosecutor’s possession or control, whether favourable or unfavourable to the accused, related to the offences charged in a timely and fair manner. (There are limited exceptions to the general disclosure rule.)
Access to records and evidence helps duty counsel assess the Crown’s case against a person and allows them to create a short-term plan of action tailored specifically to the client’s circumstances. Prior to 2020, this information wasn’t available to duty counsel on a person’s first appearance in court.
The impact of this service is a higher quality of legal representation for clients, from better-informed duty counsel, and courts that operate more efficiently.