A lesson for anyone out there who wants to represent themselves in court: complying with procedural steps in the legal process is hard. If you have a full-time job, a family, or other obligations, taking time out of your day for court is usually very difficult.
Hiring a lawyer not only takes this burden off your shoulders but also drastically increases your chances of winning. It’s easy to think you can deal with what’s needed when you self-represent, but the fact is you never know what’s going to happen down the line. If you make a commitment to start a legal fight on your own, you have to be prepared to fight it all the way.
Complying with procedural steps
In this case, a man brought an appeal against some convictions he had for Motor Vehicle Act offences. He filed the appeal in July 2019. A hearing was set for October 2019 but it did not proceed and was adjourned. Another hearing was set on December 10 of that year but that didn’t go ahead. It was adjourned another six times until October 2020, a full year after the first hearing was scheduled.
At this hearing the appellant did not appear in court, nor did he appear by telephone. The BC Supreme Court then had to decide how to proceed. The judge’s decision was governed by the Offence Act and The Criminal Code which include provisions to make sure legal matters are dealt with in a timely manner. The provisions basically state that an appellant has an obligation to order and file transcripts within a certain deadline.
Just as R. v. Jordan set an 18-month presumptive ceiling between the issuing of charges and the trial for Crown prosecution, someone appealing their conviction for an offence has to act in a timely manner. If you self-represent for an appeal and it becomes obvious you are not complying with procedural steps, you end up losing your opportunity to appeal altogether.
In the case in question the BC Supreme Court judge stated: “At a certain point, the moving party in an appeal has an obligation to make sure that it gets on and is dealt with on the merits.” The appeal was therefore dismissed which means the appellant now has little to no recourse to overturn his convictions for motoring offences.
I don’t know what prevented the appellant from complying with procedural steps. As a lawyer I do know that appealing a conviction is a full-time job. If you have other obligations or lack experience in legal matters, your appeal can easily fall by the wayside. Hiring a lawyer not only means you have someone to take on the responsibility for you, it also means the matter will be dealt with in a timely manner.