“All suspects are guilty, period. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be suspects, would they?”

That’s a line from Troops, the celebrated Cops parody created by Star Wars fans a few years ago.  But it also accurately summarizes the University of Windsor legal aid program’s attitude toward people accused of domestic violence:

The University of Windsor Law School has announced its Community Legal Aid program will no longer represent men or women accused of domestic violence following a controversy over a recent memo indicating that it would stop all intakes “unless the alleged offender is a woman.”

The faculty insists the latest clarification was its policy all along after the mid-September memo sparked controversy with the local bar and led to a debate over whether the school, renowned for its access to justice philosophy of helping the poor and disadvantaged, was taking an overtly political or feminist stand in the area of domestic abuse.

The Community Legal Aid program had represented those charged in summary matters only when there was no prospect of jail. What sparked the controversy was the original memo from dean Camille Cameron stating that after a review of clinical programs, “there will be no further intakes of domestic violence or peace bond cases unless the alleged offender is a woman.”

The memo stated the new strategy will enable CLA to monitor the “type and volume” of women offender cases and “determine an appropriate strategy in such cases, for example, working with court officers and policymakers to address systemic problems in the way these cases enter and are processed through the formal justice system.”

[...]

The directive, however, raised the ire of members of the local bar, some of whom have long worked with the two Community Legal Aid clinics, who said it flies in the face of the basic tenets of justice.

“It’s something that I disagree with,” says Brian Dube, who has represented hundreds of people in domestic violence situations.

“It’s something which in my opinion is contrary to the basic tenets of criminal law. I just can’t see how this is justified.”

Frank Miller, past president of the local chapter of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, calls the decision ironic.

“The University of Windsor prides itself on access to justice. Here they’re shutting off the tap.”

But after the policy surfaced in the media and controversy ensued, Cameron issued a clarification asserting that the clinics would no longer represent men or women.

Who cares about “presumption of innocence” when there’s a point to be made about sexism?

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About Damian P.

Lawyer with Bedford Law, Bedford, Nova Scotia.
This entry was posted in Criminal Law. Bookmark the permalink.

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