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Lawyers to withdraw from harassment, sex assault cases

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – British Columbians needing a lawyer’s help next month might not get it.

Members of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC are going to be refusing to take on some cases, while pressing for more money for the legal aid system.

Starting in mid-November, people facing criminal harassment charges, who aren’t in custody but need legal aid, may have to go without a lawyer.

“And in January, it’s going to expand to a refusal to do out-of-custody sexual assault cases. What we are seeing here is an escalation of efforts to draw attention to the fact that legal aid is in shambles,” says the association’s Bentley Doyle.

He says the refusal to take on harassment cases could affect hundreds of British Columbians.

“Self-represented litigants end up clogging up the system. And this is what happens when people can’t get legal aid. That’s one of the biggest problems. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we have to do at this time to put pressure on the system.”

Earlier this year, lawyers refused to perform duty counsel, the service lawyers provide free of charge for clients making their first court appearances, as part of their protest. That job action ended in May.

Doyle says the withdrawal from representing criminal cases will last indefinitely. He maintains legal aid funding can be easily boosted, by redirecting the provincial taxes collected on legal fees.