Case was heard in Surrey provincial court. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

More people to be eligible for legal aid in B.C., society says

Financial eligibility cutoff for new service is $1,000 higher than for regular legal aid services

The Legal Services Society is introducing a new program to provide legal aid to accused people in British Columbia who wouldn’t normally qualify for assistance.

The society says in a news release that by relaxing eligibility rules, legal aid lawyers will be able to help more people navigate the criminal justice system.

It says the new service will be available throughout the province to help eligible clients get legal advice on cases that are suitable for early resolution.

The financial eligibility cutoff for the new service is $1,000 higher than for regular legal aid services, and clients do not have to face jail time to qualify.

The society says it previously had to deny help to 1,200 applicants each year because their incomes were over the financial eligibility limit or they were not facing jail time.

The B.C. government has committed $2 million for eight pilot clinics to provide legal advice and included $26 million over three years in its 2018 budget to help provide more criminal, family and civil legal aid services.

Society CEO Mark Benton says the new service can now help those who otherwise would have had to represent themselves and it will also benefit the courts with the early resolution of cases.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says this will work towards ensuring more residents have equal access to justice, especially those who are underserved or marginalized.

The society says the new service will help resolve appropriate cases within 90 days, before trial dates are set.

The Canadian Press

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