Legal Aid Research Series Court Side Study of Adult Unrepresented Accused in the Provincial Criminal Courts Part 1: Overview Report

Figure 5.4 Most Frequently Cited Errors Made by Unrepresented Accused at Trial
Stage Error or Omission
  • Not demanding a trial or a dismissal on trial days when the Crown witnesses have failed to show up.
  • Not reading the disclosure or learning the Crown’s case against them.
  • Going to trial where there are no real triable issues.
  • Deciding to testify when they should not, or thinking that they “are supposed to” testify.
  • Making accidental and damaging admissions, e.g., “Yes, I hit her but she hit me too.”
  • Not calling the witnesses they need.
  • Not availing themselves of processes which can help them, such as a hearing on the confession.
  • Not asking for a directed verdict when the Crown has not proved its case.
  • Not understanding the available defences.
  • Not seeing the relevance of evidence.
  • Not being able to effectively scrutinize witness testimony without a lawyer.
  • Poor cross-examination, including that which makes them look bullying or abusive.
  • Not knowing what arguments to make at sentencing.
  • Not knowing the best arguments to use (or not use) with particular judges.
  • Not knowing the mandatory sentences for certain offences.
  • Not mentioning improvements they have made in their lives since the offence, e.g., getting a job or taking treatment.
  • Not being aware of or asking for a certain type of sentence, e.g., conditional discharge or intermittent sentence.
  • Not speaking up to argue against the imposition of unworkable conditions of sentence when they are discussed or read but in court, conditions which must then be altered – or will be violated.

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