TORONTO – Legal Aid Ontario says increased government funding announced in this year’s budget will mean expanded services for about 400,000 low-income residents.
People charged with crimes who don’t face potential jail time but may be hit with “secondary consequences” such as loss of a job or public housing could be eligible for legal aid.
Others could qualify for legal aid if a conviction would have a significant impact on access to family and child custody, if they face a risk of deportation or a risk of being added to the sexual offenders registry.
It will also be easier for adults with no prior criminal record to qualify for legal aid, especially if they are First Nation, Metis or Inuit, have a mental illness or are a victim of domestic violence charged with an offence related to the victim’s partner.
Some people will be able to get legal aid to help with bail hearings to reduce the number of people in custody as they wait for a trial and to help ensure that fewer people plead guilty simply to get out of jail.
Officials say the decision on bail often inappropriately affects an accused’s decision to plead guilty, because the longer a person spends in custody, the more likely that person is to plead.