Updated: Dec 20, 2020
R v Vuong, 2020 ONCA 516 is about two applicants, Vuong and Hao Quach, who are seeking an order from the court to appoint a lawyer to represent them in their appeal. The court in this case considered whether the applicants met the criteria to qualify for court appointed counsel under section 684 of the Criminal Code. The court concluded that they did not meet the criteria.
The applicants were convicted of defrauding more than $5 million from investors through an elaborate Ponzi scheme. The applicants are appealing the decision on many grounds and are seeking the appointment of counsel under s 684 or, in the alternative, partial funding to assist in paying for a lawyer to represent them in their appeal. They claim they are indigent and have exhausted all means to hire representation.
Under s 684, the applicants must satisfy the following criteria:
i. It appears desirable in the interest of justice that they should have legal assistance; and
ii. It appears that they have insufficient means to obtain the necessary legal assistance.
R v Adams, 2016 ONCA 413 sets out that “the interest of justice” should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Two factors should be considered under s 684:
(1) counsel should be appointed where an accused cannot effectively present their case on an appeal without the help of a lawyer;
(2) counsel should be appointed where the court cannot properly decide the case on appeal without assistance from counsel.
Therefore, the test is not whether it may be easier or better if the applicants had counsel.
The court found that the applicants did not meet either requirement to have the court appoint a lawyer to represent them in their appeal. They concluded that the issues on appeal are straightforward and were already canvassed at trial, so the court does not need assistance in that regard. Additionally, it was also found that the applicants were intelligent, articulated, well educated, and showed facility with the relevant and legal issues; therefore, they did not require assistance to present their case.
Lastly, the court found that the applicants failed to provide evidence that they require financial aid, in that they did not show that they have exhausted all means of paying for counsel, nor were they clear and transparent in disclosing their financial status.
The application was dismissed.
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