Attorney General Responds To Ombudsman's Report



    McGuinty Government Acts On Recommendations

    TORONTO, Feb. 26 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is building on actions
already taken to safeguard public funds as outlined in the Ombudsman's report
on criminal defence funding in R. v. Wills.
    The government has already begun implementing the recommendations of the
Ombudsman, with four complete or underway.
    Today Attorney General Chris Bentley announced two new actions following
the Ombudsman's recommendations:
    
    -   Asking the court to review Richard Wills' legal bills to determine
        whether some of the public funds paid for his defence should be
        returned
    -   Launching a lawsuit against Wills to recover public funds spent on
        his defence.
    

    "We're building on the measures we've already put in place by acting
quickly on the Ombudsman's recommendations," said Bentley. "We have taken the
necessary steps to ensure public funds are spent effectively."
    In December, the ministry and Legal Aid Ontario finalized a protocol
ensuring the careful and effective use of public funds whenever a court orders
the ministry to fund the defence of an accused. The protocol includes
provisions enabling an independent third party with expertise in criminal
proceedings to review, monitor and assess legal bills, where necessary.
    In his report, the Ombudsman commends the ministry and Legal Aid Ontario
on the protocol and notes that the ministry acted "swiftly" to respond to the
issues. While noting that the protocol is "praiseworthy," the Ombudsman
recommends that the ministry take steps to ensure that the protocol is
followed. The ministry shares the Ombudsman's goal and is considering
recommendations on the best way to achieve that goal.

    
    The ministry is also:

    -   Supporting Legal Aid Ontario as it refines and enhances the way it
        manages big cases
    -   Working with Legal Aid Ontario to improve accountability with an
        early warning and rapid response system to ensure the effective
        oversight the public expects.

    In addition, the ministry is also awaiting the results of a review led by
Professor Michael Trebilcock on ways to strengthen Ontario's legal aid system.

     Disponible en français

                       www.ontario.ca/attorneygeneral
                       www.ontario.ca/procureurgeneral


    Backgrounder


                RESPONDING TO THE OMBUDSMAN'S RECOMMENDATIONS

    The Ministry of the Attorney General welcomes the Ombudsman's
recommendations in his report released today on R. v. Wills. It has already
begun implementing the recommendations of the Ombudsman, with four complete or
underway.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: Attempt to have the legal bills submitted
        in the Wills case analyzed.

        Ontario's response: Implemented. The ministry is asking the court to
        review Wills' legal bills to determine whether some of the public
        funds paid for his defence should be returned.

        If the assessor determines parts of the bills are not justified, they
        could order counsel to reimburse the ministry.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: Investigate all opportunities to recover
        public funds spent on the defence and take any available action.

        Ontario's response: Implemented. The ministry is suing Mr. Wills to
        recover the public funds spent on his defence.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: Establish a law to govern court orders for
        publicly funded defence counsel.

        Ontario's response: Since December, a protocol has been in place that
        sets out the duties and responsibilities of the Ministry of the
        Attorney General and Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) in the circumstance when
        a judge orders the ministry to fund the defence of an accused person
        who is not receiving legal aid.

        The protocol is fully implemented and formalizes the policies and
        procedures used in these situations.

        The ministry shares the Ombudsman's goal of ensuring that the
        protocol is followed and is considering recommendations on the best
        way to achieve that goal.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: Change the law to allow LAO and the Crown
        to ask a court to examine asset transfers when considering a funding
        order, and to allow the Court to void such transfers and apply the
        proceeds of sale to funding the defence.

        Ontario's response: We are considering this recommendation. Several
        laws already provide for court review of asset transfers in relation
        to the claims of creditors.

        These statutes include:

        -  Fraudulent Conveyances Act
        -  Assignment and Preferences Act
        -  Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

        We are asking the court to review the transactions entered into by
        Mr. Wills to determine whether they were made so that he would be
        eligible for funding.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: The Ministry of the Attorney General is to
        give the Ombudsman progress updates every six months.

        Ontario's response: The Ministry of the Attorney General will report
        its progress to the Ombudsman every six months.

    -   Ombudsman recommendation: The government is to give the Ombudsman
        progress updates every six months.

        Ontario's response: The government will report its progress to the
        Ombudsman every six months.

    Disponible en français

                       www.ontario.ca/attorneygeneral
                       www.ontario.ca/procureurgeneral
    




For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the
Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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