Billing protest over legal aid spreading

Strict billing caps and meagre hourly rates are fuelling a rapidly growing legal aid boycott in Ontario.

Strict billing caps and meagre hourly rates are fuelling a rapidly growing legal aid boycott in Ontario.

It began June 1 in Toronto, where more than 300 criminal lawyers stopped accepting legal aid certificates for homicide and guns and gangs cases.

Lawyers in Kingston and northwestern Ontario joined the boycott, which in the past week spread to Barrie, Sudbury and Hamilton.

That pushed the number of protesters to more than 400, nearly half of all criminal lawyers in Ontario.

Under Legal Aid Ontario rules, lawyers can be paid for no more than two hours of work on bail hearing cases, at a top rate of $96.95 an hour.

Lawyers say an average non-legal-aid bail hearing can require 19 hours of work, three hours of preparation and 16 hours in court. They’ve suggested raising the hourly rate to between $105 and $140 an hour, as recommended eight years ago in a report done for the province.

 
 
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