Rexdale Youth Justice Initiative connects youth to duty counsel outside the courtroom
Posted on: Friday, May 4, 2012
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is acting on its conviction that an accessible duty counsel can turn things around for a young person at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system.
That conviction, combined with its commitment to a stronger relationship with Ontario’s courts and other local criminal law stakeholders who work with young people, spurred LAO’s decision to support the Rexdale Youth Justice Initiative.
“This project shows how we can achieve excellent results for our clients when LAO collaborates with its clinic partners,” says Paula Beard, Director of Criminal Law Services, GTA Region, Legal Aid Ontario.
“Most of the time, young people first encounter duty counsel after they have been charged, in a courtroom, before they’ve learned all of the legal options available to them. Through this initiative, youth and their families, working in partnership with the Youth Justice Coordinator, can meet with duty counsel – before they enter the pressure cooker environment of a courthouse – to discuss how to avoid being charged, and, if charged, how to achieve a more successful outcome.”
Housed in Toronto’s Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, the Rexdale Youth Initiative opened its doors to low-income youth aged 25 and younger in September 2011.
From its inception, the clinic’s Youth Justice Coordinator Camieka Woodhouse provided services that can help young people stay out of court, such as case planning for alternative measures.
Since the arrival of LAO’s duty counsel lawyers Paul-Andre Macleod and Immanuel Lanzaderas in March 2012, Rexdale’s vulnerable young people can also make an appointment or walk in and ask one of these professionals for advice on criminal matters. Paul-Andre and Immanuel are at the clinic on Tuesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 to 6 p.m.
The Rexdale Youth Justice Initiative is making a difference, one young life at a time, in the Rexdale Community Hub, a multi-service facility easily accessible to Metro West Courthouse (which is equipped with a youth court).
Since September 2011, it has offered more than 40 youth – and counting – a holistic, seamless set of supports to a court process that most find difficult to navigate. Its on-site LAO duty counsel will ensure many more appropriate resolutions, a higher number of diversions and withdrawals as well as the supports in the community these at-risk youth need for future success.
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