Introduction to Criminal Law (1:I)

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This chapter provides a reference for self-represented litigants and law students to assist and advise them through each step of the criminal justice process. It highlights the procedures and issues self-represented litigants and law students commonly face in representing themselves or clients in criminal proceedings, sets out the relevant substantive law to assist students in preparing for trial, and includes practice recommendations for students and self-represented litigants.

A. Governing legislation and resources


  • David Watt & Michelle Fuerst, eds, Tremeear’s Criminal Code, 2015 ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2015).
  • Edward L Greenspan, QC& Marc Rosenberg, eds, Martin’s Annual Criminal Code, 2014 ed (Aurora: Canada Law Book Inc, 2014).
  • Eugene E Ewaschuk, Criminal Pleadings and Practice in Canada, 2d ed (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 1988).
  • Peter K McWilliams & S Casey Hill, McWilliam’s Canadian Criminal Evidence, 4th ed (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 2003).
  • David Watt, Watt’s Manual of Criminal Evidence (Toronto: Carswell, 1998).
  • R Paul Nadin-Davis & Clarey B Sproule, eds, Canadian Sentencing Digest Quantum Service (Toronto: Carswell, 1988) (also available on e-carswell).
  • Francis Lewis Wellman, Art of Cross-Examination With the Cross-Examinations of Important Witnesses in Some Celebrated Cases (New York: Collier Books, 1903).
  • Earl J Levy, Examination of Witnesses in Criminal Cases, 3d ed (Toronto: Carswell, 1994).
  • Thomas A Mauet, Donald G Casswell, & Gordon P MacDonald, Fundamentals of Trial Techniques (Toronto: Little, Brown, 1995).
  • Christopher Bentley, Criminal Practice Manual: a Practical Guide to Handling Criminal Cases (Scarborough, Ont: Carswell, 2000).

Relevant statutes

  • Criminal Code, RSC, 1985, c C-46.
  • Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, SC 1996, c 19 (if drug offence).
  • Canada Evidence Act, RSC, 1985, c C-5.
  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982 being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c. 11 (particularly ss 7 – 14, 24 (1) and (2)).
  • Identification of Criminals Act, RSC, 1985, c I-1.
  • DNA Identification Act, SC 1998, c 37.

Legal Aid

The Legal Services Society of B.C. (LSS) is the only source of criminal legal aid in British Columbia. Legal Aid’s purpose is to provide free representation for financially eligible accused persons (low-income individuals), who are charged with certain offences. The Society will provide a retainer to a lawyer chosen by the eligible client in private practice who will provide legal assistance on a contract basis. The Society will also assist the eligible applicant in finding a lawyer if needed.

A wide range of booklets and pamphlets covering various legal problems and legal rights are also available from LSS offices. This material is free.

The client should be advised to contact Legal Aid directly at (604) 408-2172. See Chapter 23: Referrals, or the blue pages of the phone book, for more information.

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