Ineffective assistance of counsel based on an uninformed plea and fresh evidence at appeal.

Published On: Jan 21,2020

Ineffective assistance of counsel based on an uninformed plea and fresh evidence at appeal.
Ineffective assistance of counsel based on an uninformed plea and fresh evidence at appeal.

In Regina v. Beckford, 2019 ONCA 998 (CanLII) Ontario Court of Appeal recently set aside the convictions for the accused based on the ineffective assistance of counsel.  The argument raised was that “… trial counsel did not properly advise him as to the strength of the Crown’s case and his potential defences, and that he did not understand he was pleading guilty to an imitation firearm charge and that it carried a mandatory minimum sentence.”  This argument was raised through a “Fresh Evidence” application.  As expected, the trial record in this case was brief; and it was supplemented by affidavits sworn by the appellant, his father, trial counsel, and the appellant’s parole officer, all of whom were cross-examined by Crown counsel in accordance with this court’s protocol for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.  The Crown conceded that the fresh evidence should be admitted, and the Court found that it was in the interests of justice to admit the evidence pursuant to s. 683(1) of the Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46.  The Court also made the following remarks:


[72] In summary, trial counsel’s evidence establishes that he never met with the appellant at his office; did not obtain written instructions; did not review the DNA disclosure package; did not adequately assess the strength of the Crown’s case; did not consider possible Charter infringements; and made no submissions as to the appropriate sentence.


[73]       The recurring theme in trial counsel’s evidence is an insistence that his knowledge of the appellant’s guilt obviated the need for him to take the sorts of steps that would normally be taken before advising an accused person regarding a guilty plea. Moreover, trial counsel’s evidence is replete with inappropriate criticism of his client and disapproval of his conduct and character. For example, he testified that the appellant treated the matter as “a caper” and a “big joke”. Trial counsel said that the appellant enjoyed hitting people with the bat and “seemed to revel in what he had done.”


[74]       Whatever trial counsel may have thought of his client, it was his duty to represent him to the best of his abilities. He was required to evaluate the strength of the evidence against the appellant before advising him to enter a guilty plea, no matter how advantageous he thought that plea would be.


[75]       The shortcomings in the representation provided by trial counsel go to the heart of his responsibilities as counsel. They compel the conclusion that the appellant did not receive the effective assistance of counsel. The appellant’s guilty pleas to the remaining charges must also be struck.


Ultimately, the court held that trial counsel failed to properly advise the accused as to the strength of the Crown’s case and his potential defences before he decided to plead to those charges.


If you require the services of a Criminal Appeal Lawyer, contact Mr. J.S. Patel, Barrister at 403-585-1960.