PEI Legal Aid reviewed the case and considered a range of factors, including the complexity of the appeal, legal merit, financial eligibility, and public interest. It concluded that Waite had, in fact, the financial means to retain counsel. Legal Aid pointed out that he had retained a privately funded counsel during trial and at sentencing.
Waite acknowledged that he owned his residence, but he argued that he should not have to sell it to raise sufficient funds to finance his appeal.
The appeal court noted that the Legal Aid’s determination on the issue of financial eligibility was not conclusive on the court. The judge must still make his own independent assessment of the relevant criteria on the record, while Waite bore the burden to persuade the court that he did not have sufficient means to obtain legal assistance.
After an independent assessment of the relevant criteria, the court was ultimately ruled that Waite failed to show that he lacked sufficient means to obtain privately funded legal assistance. The court considered his admission that he had net property of approximately $25,000, as well as the fact that he had retained privately funded legal counsel for the trial and sentencing.
Interests of justice
The other criteria to consider in determining whether the accused should have legal assistance is the “interests of justice” element. The appeal court noted several factors that must be considered, including the merits and complexity of the appeal, the ability of the accused to effectively present his appeal without the assistance of a lawyer, and the capacity of the court to properly decide the appeal without the assistance of counsel.