VANCOUVER – The Supreme Court Self Help Information Centre provides free information and access to referrals to help individuals prepare for court if they can’t afford a lawyer, announced Attorney General Wally Oppal today.
“The centre is an innovative pilot program which gives people access to legal information and help if they can’t afford a lawyer and are faced with managing their legal affairs on their own,” said Oppal. “We’re very pleased to be a part of this innovative pilot project. Going to court, no matter what the situation is, can be a complicated and stressful situation. The centre will help people get information they need in order to understand their situation and prepare more effectively.”
The Supreme Court Self Help Centre is the result of a very successful and creative partnership between government, B.C. courts and several non-government agencies within the justice system.
“For the last several years, in jurisdictions around the world, there has been an increasing trend of individuals going to court without a lawyer,” said Mr. Justice Paul Williamson, acting president of the Law Courts Education Society. “Supreme Court processes and documents are very complex. On their own, many people find it difficult to understand legal processes and the roles of people in the courtroom. We want the centre to support people’s efforts to help themselves as much as possible. We hope that centre users will be better informed and not need as much help in the courtroom from judges, court staff and opposing counsel.”
At the Self Help Information Centre, users can find information and help on Supreme Court civil and family matters. People can use the centre to:
· Talk to staff about available resources and referrals.
· Locate and use print, video and online resources to learn about the court system, procedures and legal information.
· Locate and fill out relevant court forms for family or civil cases.
· Get referrals to free legal help and advice.
· Find information on alternatives to court.
“A justice system that works better benefits everyone,” said Mark Benton, executive director of the Legal Services Society. “This centre is an important step forward in advancing access to justice, particularly for people with low incomes.”
The pilot project is scheduled for a one-year term (April 2005 to March 31, 2006). At that time the program will be evaluated, and, in consultation with the committee, the ministry will determine whether the program will continue.
“We are pleased to be able to provide support for the Self-Help Information Centre,” said Wayne Robertson, executive director of the Law Foundation of British Columbia. “It serves our mandate by testing an innovative model that makes the law more accessible by increasing awareness of the law and the justice system, especially for unrepresented litigants.”
The centre, located at 274 – 800 Hornby Street, is open from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. A wide variety of online resources are also available on the Internet at www.supremecourtselfhelp.bc.ca.
The Self Help Information Centre is part of the ministry’s overall plan to make B.C.’s justice system fair, equitable and efficient for all British Columbians.
Ministry of Attorney General
Visit the Province's website at www.gov.bc.ca for online information and services.