As the Canada Day terrorism case moves toward a possible bail hearing, concerns are being raised about how the suspects will pay for their legal defence.
The two defendants, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, made their first appearance in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, but Ms. Korody is still without her own lawyer.
Mr. Nuttal’s lawyer, Tom Morino, is acting as Ms. Korody’s counsel on an interim basis, but has repeatedly told the media his interactions with her have been minimal.
Mr. Morino, who has represented Mr. Nuttall in past cases, said there have been delays in finding Ms. Korody a lawyer because of complications around legal-aid funding.
“This is not a situation where they’re being denied, but this is a situation where the normal tariff just simply does not cover it,” Mr. Morino told reporters outside the courtroom on Wednesday. “I’ll have to canvass that with legal services to see if there’s sufficient funding.”
Mr. Morino said the unprecedented nature of a terrorism case in B.C. makes applying for legal aid a challenging task. “We’re all flying by the seat of our pants,” he said. “This is all very new to everybody: new to you, new to me, new to the courts.”
The court proceedings have been adjourned until Aug. 7. During Wednesday’s hearing, federal prosecutor Martha Devlin urged the judge to keep the next court date close to encourage the defendants to “get their affairs in order.”
Despite their legal difficulties, Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody were all smiles in the courtroom. They were seated near enough to lean forward and chat throughout the proceedings, and they frequently turned to look at the gallery. When leaving, Ms. Korody blew a kiss to Mr. Nuttall, which he promptly reciprocated.
Rishi Gill, a Vancouver lawyer who has worked on legal-aid issues through the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association, said that if Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody’s case becomes particularly expensive, they will likely have other options for funding.
“Legal services works in conjunction with the attorney-general for very large, complex cases,” said Mr. Gill. “So the money’s not being taken out of the main legal-aid fund. These are exceptional cases that are dealt with outside the main legal-aid fund.”
Though it isn’t yet clear whether this terrorism case will reach such levels of complexity and expense, Mr. Gill noted that previous examples include the Basi-Virk, Surrey Six, and UN Gang cases.
The Legal Services Society (LSS) also has a process called Criminal Case Management for making funding decisions around criminal trials, introduced in 2001. Counsel in criminal cases provides the LSS with its evidence and a budget, and the LSS then proceeds to make funding decisions.
According to documents on the LSS website, when a case’s costs exceed $175,000, the case is funded by the Ministry of Justice.