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Government’s Failure to Solve Staffing Issues at HMP Leads to Charter Breaches


For Immediate Release

5 February, 2024


People incarcerated at His Majesty’s Penitentiary are regularly being denied basic human rights, according to a letter sent from the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador to the Minister of Justice. NDP Justice Critic Lela Evans (Torngat Mountains) says it is not only embarrassing for the Minister of Justice and his department but this letter highlights how chronic erosion of correctional jobs is now directly impacting our citizens’ right to a fair trial. Government must stop making empty promises and start focusing on solving the many factors underlying the issues of understaffing.

 

The letter, sent on Dec. 15, 2023 by Scott Worsfold, President of the Law Society, to Justice Minister John Hogan, cites Section 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says: “Everyone has the right on arrest or detention …  to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right.”

 

Worsfold points to an August media report quoting lawyers who have not been able to consult with clients before court appearances and citing instances when clients could not make appearances because no HMP staff were available to escort. “Lawyers are ethically obliged to communicate effectively with their clients,” says the letter. “Advice and instructions cannot be provided where a lawyer cannot communicate with their clients.”

 

“This is beyond unacceptable,” said Evans. “What is the cost to society if people accused of crimes don’t have access to a proper defense?”

 

“Staffing at HMP is not a new problem. It has persisted through decades of successive Conservative and Liberal governments, and is directly related to the continued neglect of maintenance and refusal to act on replacing that antiquated structure. There has been more than enough time to address the longstanding issues but nobody has been willing to do the necessary work.

 

“The Justice Minister must agree to take this letter from his fellow lawyers seriously, and act immediately to ensure that people incarcerated at HMP have access to basic human rights.”

 

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A copy of the letter to Minister John Hogan from the LSNL is attached

 

For further information, contact Stephanie Curran, Media Relations Manager, NDP Caucus at 330-0328 (c), or stephaniecurran@gov.nl.ca


NR 05022024 Government’s Failure to Solve Staffing Issues at HMP Leads to Charter Breaches
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ATIPP - Law Society Letter to Minister Hogan - December 2023
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