Criminal Early Resolution Contract (CERC) evaluation results

Legal Aid BC introduced the Criminal Early Resolution Contract (CERC) in 2019 to expand criminal legal aid services to clients who are not otherwise eligible for full representation under LABC eligibility guidelines.
Lawyer speaks with a client

The CERC provides clients an opportunity to have their case reviewed by a legal aid lawyer early in the remand process to determine if a resolution with the Crown might be reached and avoid using limited public resources on unnecessary criminal trials.

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

The evaluation found that the 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

  • Compared to standard adult criminal contracts, 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.

CERC service period extension reduces requests for extensions

  • In response to an evaluation completed in the first year of the CERC, LABC extended the service period to 180 days from 90 days. This has resulted in fewer requests for an extension of the service period and most counsel report that when they request an extension, it is approved.

Lawyers support LABC continuing to offer CERCs

  • Most lawyers are willing to accept CERCs; almost two-thirds of lawyers surveyed have never declined a CERC and almost nine-tenths of respondents want LABC to continue to offer CERCs.

PRA also offered recommendations intended to support our processes, increase the CERCs profile and visibility among other justice stakeholders and increase communication with our clients so they better understand the scope of CERC services. For more information, read the full evaluation here.