Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ineffective assistance of counsel

R. v. Buckley, 2013 NSCA 73 holds:

[3]                  The standard of review for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is well settled.  This court said in R. v.West, 2010 NSCA 16 (CanLII), 2010 NSCA 16:

[268] The principles to be applied when considering a complaint of ineffective assistance of counsel, are well known.  Absent a miscarriage of justice, the question of counsel’s competence is a matter of professional ethics and is not normally something to be considered by the courts.  Incompetence is measured by applying a reasonableness standard.  There is a strong presumption that counsel’s conduct falls within a wide range of reasonable, professional assistance.  There is a heavy burden upon the appellant to show that counsel’s acts or omissions did not meet a standard of reasonable, professional judgment.  Claims of ineffective representation are approached with caution by appellate courts.  Appeals are not intended to serve as a kind of forensic autopsy of defence counsel’s performance at trial.  See for example, B.(G.D.), supra; R. v. Joanisse 1995 CanLII 3507 (ON CA), (1995), 102 C.C.C. (3d) 35 (Ont. C.A.), leave to appeal ref’d [1996] S.C.C.A. No. 347; and R. v. M.B., 2009 ONCA 524 (CanLII), 2009 ONCA 524. 

[269] One takes a two-step approach when assessing trial counsel’s competence:  first, the appellant must demonstrate that the conduct or omissions amount to incompetence, and second, that the incompetence resulted in a miscarriage of justice.  As Major J., observed in B.(G.D.), supra, at ¶ 26-29, in most cases it is best to begin with an inquiry into the prejudice component.  If the appellant cannot demonstrate prejudice resulting from the alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, it will be unnecessary to address the issue of the competence.

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