People who can't afford a lawyer when they go to court have reason to celebrate after the Alberta Government announced new Legal Aid funding.
 

The government will pump another $70 million over four years into the system that provides lawyers for those who cannot pay out of their own pockets.

"It used to be funded largely from the Law Foundation (of Alberta), that got its money from the interest on lawyers' trust accounts," outlined Drumheller criminal lawyer Hugh Sommerville. "The amount of money coming on lawyers' trust accounts at present interest rates is very little; it's not enough to steadily fund a program."

Unlike America, Canadian law only guarantees access to a lawyer. In addition to being more fair, Sommerville thinks the new funding could help to speed up the justice system.

"If poor people don't have representation the courts come to a halt because you have these unrepresented people trying to deal with complicated matters," he told Drum FM. "It actually brings the court system to a virtual standstill."

"It's taken a long time to recognize that there has to be a stable funding model for a Legal Aid system," he continued. "Finally, the government and the Law Society and Legal Aid have negotiated a new agreement that recognizes that long term funding is required."

Last year, over 60,000 Albertans accessed Legal Aid, with more than a third of those cases serving family matters.

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