Legal aid service helps people find early resolutions to their criminal legal problems

Legal Aid BC’s expanded service focused on earlier resolutions for criminal cases has been evaluated and the results are in – it’s making a significant impact.

The criminal early resolution service was launched province-wide in 2019 to help low-income people who wouldn’t normally qualify for legal aid.

There is no requirement for someone to be facing jail like we require for standard service, and the financial eligibility cut-off is up to $1,000 per month higher, which helps people who might otherwise represent themselves in court.

The service gives clients the opportunity to have their case reviewed by a legal aid lawyer early in the process to find an appropriate resolution before trial dates are set. Legal aid lawyers get a “criminal early resolution contract” from us for the work, which encourages the use of alternative methods for resolving cases whenever possible.

LABC hired Prairie Research Associates (PRA) to assess the implementation and early outcomes of the service for the three-year period since its launch (May 15, 2019 – May 31, 2022).

The evaluation found that the criminal early resolution contract (CERC) is working as intended and has demonstrated early success. Key results include:

More applicants have received legal aid assistance since the introduction of the CERC

  • In the first two years, CERCs were issued in approximately 10% of adult criminal applications and the proportion of refused applications has declined.

Fewer CERC contracts end with a guilty plea compared to standard adult criminal contracts

  • Lawyers were more likely to use alternative methods of resolving matters, such as stays and peace bonds.

CERCs contribute to earlier resolutions

  • Completed CERCs were resolved on average in 88 days compared to 104 for standard adult criminal contracts.
  • 92% of CERCs were closed with a resolution.

For more information, read the full evaluation here.

  More news →