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Other services then legal aid/ Mega-Trials (chap. III)

Mega-trials

Long and complex cases)


The new Act respecting legal aid and the provision of certain other legal services created a mechanism that provides a framework for the terms of payment of the fees of lawyers representing accused persons involved in certain long and complex trials (mega-trials) in criminal and penal matters.

The application of certain provisions of the Act will help reduce the time required for an accused to choose his lawyer, given that the lawyer will quickly be able to determine the tariff of fees applicable to the accused's case.

To achieve its purpose, the Act entrusts the Commission des services juridiques (CSJ) and the community legal centres (CLC) with the task of managing the provision of certain legal services to persons who qualify for legal aid and, when a court order is rendered, to persons who do not so qualify.

The Commission will be able to decide that the new tariff of fees adapted to mega-trials applies to a lawyer who is representing an accused who is eligible for legal aid and is involved in a mega-trial. To make such a decision, the CSJ will apply the principles adopted by the courts in such circumstances. More specifically, it will verify that the proceedings involve several accused persons, that the number and severity of the charges are significant, that the trial will be held over an extended period of time and that the complexity and scope of the prosecution's evidence are such that the trial may be unfair if the accused is not represented by a lawyer.

For an accused who is not eligible for legal aid, a court will determine, based on the jurisprudential criteria referred to above, whether the Attorney General of Québec has the obligation to provide the accused with the services of a lawyer and assume all or part of the lawyer's professional fees.

If the court determines that the State must assume the fees of a lawyer for an accused and the accused is unable to enlist the services of a lawyer, the Commission des services juridiques will have to find him a lawyer.

The right of the accused, whether or not he receives legal aid, to select his lawyer is the norm at every stage of the proceedings against him.

If the accused fails to choose his lawyer, the Commission may appoint a lawyer who is a permanent legal aid staff lawyer to represent him or a lawyer in private practice who has agreed to accept the tariff of fees adapted to mega-trials and has registered on the list of the extended pool of lawyers. 

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© Commission des services juridiques Création: Diane Laurin - 2017