Facts: On November 2, 2018, Andrew Campbell (the appellant) was convicted of kidnapping, pointing a firearm, and assault causing bodily harm. This conviction led to him being sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment. The appellant then brought forward an application through which he sought an order for counsel to be appointed to him under s. 684 of the Criminal Code.
Issue(s): Should the court grant the appellant’s application to have counsel assigned to him?
Reasoning: According to s. 684(1) of the Criminal Code, the court may assign counsel to an appellant to act on their behalf in advancing the grounds of their appeal, if it is both:
desirable in the interests of justice that the appellant should have legal assistance; and
the appellant does not have sufficient means to obtain that assistance
It is important to note that the burden of proof on a s. 684 application rests on the appellant and that the granting of an order for counsel to be provided and funded by the government is a form of exceptional relief.
Analysis of the Interests of Justice
While determining whether the appellant receiving legal assistance is in the interests of justice, the Court must consider whether or not the appeal has merit, since an appeal without merit will not benefit from having appointed counsel. In order to fulfil this requirement, the applicant must only prove that their appeal contains grounds that can be argued. Once this has been established, the next consideration in the interests of justice analysis is whether the appellant requires counsel to effectively advance the appeal, or whether the court requires the assistance of counsel to decide the appeal.
The appellant, in this case, raised various grounds of appeal, which were found to be weak. However, they were arguable grounds. The Court then considered whether the appellant would be able to advance these grounds without counsel. Given that the appellant has not completed high school and does not have any prior experience with the court system, it was found that he would be unable to argue the grounds of his appeal and would benefit by having counsel make submissions for him on the issues.
Analysis of the Financial Eligibility
In determining whether government-funded counsel assistance should be provided, the court must reflect on two values: (1) government funding for legal representation is limited, and (2) denying such an application adversely affects the appeal rights of an appellant that is unable to afford legal representation.
In this case, the appellant provided evidence that his annual income since 2013 has not exceeded $11,000, and that he has exhausted all other avenues of obtaining financial assistance from his family. The Crown has questioned the credibility of the appellant and submitted that he has a cousin that can assist him financially. However, they have failed to prove their submission, rendering it mere speculation. The appellant has thus demonstrated that he does not have the financial means to retain private counsel.
Holding: The appellant’s application was granted as it was found that he had met the requirements for the test in s. 684.