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TLA intervenes to preserve accused's right to counsel of choice

(April 11, 2017 — Toronto) — The right of an accused to have counsel of choice is fundamental to Canada's criminal justice system, says the Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA).

The TLA is intervening to oppose a Crown application to remove counsel of record from a murder trial, says the association's president Melanie Manchee.

"The Crown will argue that the counsel in question is not available for trial within the thirty-month time frame set out in the Jordan case and in order to accommodate the co-accused’s right to a trial within a reasonable time, the right of the accused to counsel of choice must be sacrificed," she says.

If the Crown application were to succeed, it would have a profound effect on the practice of criminal law in Toronto, Manchee says.

"Defendants facing the most serious charges in the Criminal Code could be compelled to face trial with unfamiliar counsel who were not present at crucial stages of the proceedings including the preliminary inquiry," she says. "Counsel who have committed large blocks of their schedule to a trial could find themselves removed from the record."

Defendants must not be placed in a position where they have to choose between constitutionally protected rights, Manchee says.

"The TLA will intervene in order to ensure that the court is aware of the profound effect that a diminishment of the right to counsel of choice would have on criminal defendants and the orderly practice of criminal law in Toronto," she says.

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