Archive for July 18th, 2017

The Intersection Between Mental Health and the Law

Assistant Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta Larry Anderson recently announced the creation of a specialized mental health court to better consider the needs of the large number of people who struggle with mental health issues and the law. For long time criminal defence practitioners, this cannot come soon enough. In speaking with CBC, Judge Anderson estimated that of the 150 new files which appear before the Provincial Court every day, 10-25% of the accused have mental health needs. In our opinion, this is an understatement. The frequency with which the criminal justice system and individuals with mental health needs interact is likely far greater. In this post, we explore some of the ways in which the lawyers at Royal and Company have seen those with mental health concerns come in contact with the criminal law. The most obvious way that this happens is when an individual suffering […]

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Do Mandatory Minimums Work?

Back in 2009, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government introduced legislation amending the Criminal Code, which laid out mandatory sentencing minimums for various offences. Since then, these mandatory minimums have received some harsh criticism and the Supreme Court has even struck down a few. The sentencing judge is placed in a unique position where they know a great deal about the circumstances of the offence and the particular characteristics of the offender. The sentencing judge has often heard a trial of the matter, they have heard first hand sentencing submissions from the Crown and defence, and they have observed the offender in person while in the courtroom. This unique position can be pushed to the side when the sentencing judge is forced to abide by mandatory minimums, and sometimes the sentencing judge is forced to levy a sentence that is higher than what they would have otherwise imposed. Sentencing is often very […]

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The Zealous Advocate in Sexual Assault Cases

As part of Royal & Company’s continuing commitment to ensuring our lawyers are up to date on developments in the law and the changing nature of advocacy, members of the office frequently attend seminars and conferences on a variety of topics. Kathryn Quinlan recently attended “Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victim Cases” put on by the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers. This two-day conference focused on issues that arise particularly in cases of sexual assault and child sexual assault (or as it’s called in section 151 of the Criminal Code, sexual interference). Some of the topics reviewed included: challenging DNA evidence; cross-examining children; the effect of alcohol, blackouts, and sleep disorders on memory; and how to persuade juries of your point of view. Sexual assault trials can be some of the most difficult to defend, particularly in recent years with social and political attitudes surrounding sexual violence […]

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