Fredericton – A legal defence fund has been established to hire a lawyer to represent Charles LeBlanc, the controversial Fredericton blogger who has battled the Fredericton city police and the justice system on social issues dealing with poverty and mental health.
Spokesperson André Faust says the legal defence fund is independently managed by a third party which will disperse the funds to the lawyer. No monies go directly to LeBlanc. Donations to the fund can be made online at http://charlesleblancdefencefund.com/.
“Charles has been accused of assault .” says Faust. “We believe the allegations are groundless and that Charles has several defences available to him: however, because of his ADHD, lack of legal knowledge and experience he cannot articulate those defences to the court’s satisfaction.”
LeBlanc receives social assistance and cannot afford a lawyer. He has no other recourse except to represent himself. If found guilty on a summary conviction of assault he can be fined up to 5,000 dollars or face up to 6 months in jail, or both.
Faust explains that the assault charge “is a summary conviction for which Charles needs a vigorous defence or else he could end up in jail and lose his subsidized housing. The end result is that Charles will be homeless.”
“There is a very distinct possibility that Charles could be found guilty of an offence which he would otherwise not if he had if he had legal representation,” says Faust.
Faust said the situation facing Charles LeBlanc is nothing new: thousands of New Brunswickers have been forced to represent themselves because they cannot afford a lawyer after cutbacks to Legal Aid. He says that according to the Canadian Bar Association’s 2010 report “Moving Forward on Legal Aid” those who represent themselves fair worse in court then those who can afford legal representation.
“That unrepresented accused are often vulnerable and disadvantaged due to their personal characteristics, low levels of education and literacy, and higher rates of drug and alcohol addiction. Regardless of the seriousness of the charges against them, these individuals cannot adequately advocate for themselves. Many of them end up in prison as a result.”