Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ineffective assistance of counsel

R. v. R.L., 2013 ONCA 504:

[5]          The governing test for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is an exacting one.  As indicated by the Supreme Court in R. v. G.D.B., 2000 SCC 22, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 520, at para. 26, for an appeal to succeed on this ground it must be shown, first, that trial counsel's conduct constituted incompetence and, second, that a miscarriage of justice resulted. 

[6]          With respect to the first requirement, the Supreme Court explained in G.D.B.,at para. 27:

Incompetence is determined by a reasonableness standard. The analysis proceeds upon a strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.  The onus is on the appellant to establish the acts or omissions of counsel that are alleged not to have been the result of reasonable professional judgment. The wisdom of hindsight has no place in this assessment.

[7]          G.D.B. also cautions, at paras. 28 – 29:

Miscarriages of justice may take many forms in this context.  In some instances, counsel's performance may have resulted in procedural unfairness.  In others, the reliability of the trial's result may have been compromised.

In those cases where it is apparent that no prejudice has occurred, it will usually be undesirable for appellate courts to consider the performance component of the analysis.  The object of an ineffectiveness claim is not to grade counsel's performance or professional conduct.  The latter is left to the profession's self-governing body.  If it is appropriate to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of no prejudice having occurred, that is the course to follow.  [Citations omitted.]

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