YOUTH CRIMINAL DEFENCE OFFICE Brian Holtby—Senior Counsel
Young persons who are 12 to 18 years of age and who are charged with criminal offences are entitled to legal counsel. If the young person or a parent can afford to do so, they can retain a lawyer privately. However, if the young person or his parents do not retain a lawyer privately and the young person wishes to have a lawyer, a Youth Court Judge will refer the young person to the Legal Aid Society of Alberta. The Legal Aid Society of Alberta will appoint a lawyer if the income of the young person and the parents do not exceed the maximum set out in its guidelines.
If the young person wants to have a lawyer but does not qualify for legal aid coverage because of the income of his parents and the parents are not willing to retain a lawyer privately, a Youth Court Judge will direct that the Attorney General of Alberta provide counsel for the young person. Pursuant to an agreement between the Legal Aid Society of Alberta and the Attorney General, the Society also appoints counsel for these young people.
Even for young persons, legal aid is not free. When the case is concluded the young person receives an account for the services provided by lawyers appointed by the Legal Aid Society of Alberta. Generally, however, the accounts are for much lesser amounts than those of lawyers retained privately. The Society also attempts to be sensitive to the financial situation of the young person when attempting to collect payment.
In most of Alberta, legal services for young persons are provided by private lawyers who are prepared to accept cases for the Legal Aid Society and to render accounts to the Society in accordance with its tariff of fees. Since 1993, however, the Legal Aid Society has used a different method to deliver legal services to young persons who are charged with criminal offences in Edmonton and Calgary. Except where there is a conflict of interest, the Legal Aid Society of Alberta refers its clients in those cities to the Youth Criminal Defence Office (YCDO).
GOVERNANCE AND STRUCTURE
The Youth Criminal Defence Office is the product of an agreement between the Law Society of Alberta, the Attorney General of Alberta and the Legal Aid Society. The Legal Aid Society agreed to establish offices in Calgary and Edmonton staffed by lawyers employed by the Legal Aid Society. These lawyers are charged with the responsibility of providing “Brydges” service and duty counsel service to young persons. They also act as assigned counsel for young persons referred to the Office by the Legal Aid Society.
The YCDO operates under the supervision of a Senior Counsel who is hired by and reports to the Board of
Directors of the Edmonton. Two Edmonton office Association.
Legal Aid Society. social workers, four also has access to a
The Office also employs eight other lawyers in Calgary and seven in youth workers and four administrative employees support the lawyers. The psychologist through a pilot project with the Child and Adolescent Services
A formal Governance Agreement is in place in order to ensure the independence of the Youth Criminal Defence Office. It provides Senior Counsel with resort to a Resolution Committee if he or she feels the integrity of the Office is in jeopardy.