Numerous amendments to the Criminal Code contained in Bill C-75 (SC 2019, c 25) come into force today – September 19, 2019, including a provision that will increase the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences from six months imprisonment to two years less a day.
This change would effectively bar paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates and law students from providing legal representation to people charged with summary conviction offences, since the Criminal Code only permits agents to act on summary conviction matters that carry penalties of six months in jail or less.
The Ontario government has responded to concerns from the legal community by issuing an order-in-council providing the Law Society of Ontario with the authority to determine who may act as an agent in summary conviction offences.
At its September 11 Convocation, the Law Society adopted a motion to preserve as closely as possible the scope of criminal practice for paralegals and other agents that existed prior to Bill C-75. Consequential amendments, also effective today, were made to By-law 4 and the Law Society’s Rights of Appearance documents.
In addition to immediate measures to ensure paralegals, lawyer licensing candidates and law students can continue to act for those facing summary conviction offences after September 19, the Law Society committed to further review the scope of paralegal practice in criminal law matters.