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Lacking training in criminal law, a self represented accused person will have great difficulty in securing a fair trial.

The prosecutor cannot assist the accused for obvious reasons.  Even if the prosecutor is as fair as possible in prosecuting the case, this will not provide any real comfort to the accused.

The judge has sworn an oath to impartiality as between the prosecution and defense.  The judge is not able to act as an advocate for the accused.  The judge is not able to provide specific legal advice to the accused.

Most judges will bend over backwards to be fair to an unrepresented person, but that cannot substitute for a properly prepared and presented defense.  Even if the judge could provide legal advice, the judge would have to have a detailed understanding of the case to be presented.  The judge would literally have to act as a defense lawyer in terms of case preparation, prior to the trial.  That is clearly not permitted.

The accused will usually not have sufficient legal training in the complexities of criminal law.  He or she will therefore not be in a position to correctly recognize and assess the significance of potential pieces of evidence in relation to an overall case strategy.

Therefore, even if the judge is the extremely fair, the judge can only deal with the evidence brought forth in the courtroom.  If the accused fails to present available and important evidence at the trial, the judgment of the court will be imperfect and potentially unjust.

Additionally, an inexperience person in a courtroom environment usually has great difficulty in understanding how to effectively present evidence to the court.   Not only is direct examination difficult, cross-examination is usually a frustrating experience for that person.  Ineffective cross-examination means that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses will not be properly tested and therefore will not be properly weighed by the court.

When all factors are examined, the only reasonable conclusion is that for an unrepresented and untrained accused person to obtain justice ... it has to by good luck rather than by design.

That aside, the reality is that many people cannot afford to hire a lawyer.  If you are in that position and you cannot obtain a qualified lawyers through legal aid or other means, then you’re going to have to represent yourself.

This site will provide some helpful information in the Self Counsel section but they do not deal with the development of a defence.  

You should refer to other sections of this site in the Case Law section in relation to disclosure and the trial process for some assistance.  

I will be providing a section to assist unrepresented accused persons to develop a strategy in the near future.

Good luck!

Jim O'Neil, LL.B.

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