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Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says everyone is entitled to representation, regardless of how heinous the crime, even Tori Stafford’s killer Michael Rafferty.
And if we relied solely on the public’s opinion of a criminal, the legal system wouldn’t be as fair and balanced as it is today.
“Our country stands on principled grounds of justice and democracy, anything less would not be Canadian,” says Gadhia.
Rafferty is currently serving a life sentence in a Quebec penitentiary for murder. The 33-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping in the 2009 death of eight-year-old Victoria “Tori” Stafford, according to the National Post.
“The idea that he’s been convicted should preclude his right to representation on appeal is contrary to what our system of justice stands for,” says Gadhia.
After numerous attempts to seek appeal, Rafferty was finally granted public funding to retain legal representation after being denied by Legal Aid Ontario four times, the article says. Since his conviction, Rafferty has sought appeal, arguing that the trial judge’s instructions to the jury were flawed and Appeal Court Justice Marc Rosenberg ordered that the case be again reconsidered by Legal Aid.
“The appeal process is an important one, where significant laws are made, narrowed and re-evaluated,” says Gadhia. “The basis of our day-to-day application of the law is rooted in the decisions of the Court of Appeal.”
If an individual has grounds for appeal, regardless of whether a trial court determined his guilt, Gadhia says, “those grounds should be argued and due process should be given. The failure to do so is a failure to appreciate that the process is necessary to accomplish not just justice, but the appearance of justice.”
Once all appeal rights have been exhausted, “and if he fails to be successful in either getting a new trial ordered or his sentence reduced, then the public can be assured that all that could be done, was done,” Gadhia adds.