The Attorney General — on public confidence in the justice system

Attorney General Wallace OppalThe Benchers had the pleasure of welcoming Attorney General Wallace Oppal, QC to their meeting in November.

Mr. Oppal took the opportunity to urge lawyers to help him in restoring public confidence in the justice system. He said it was time to address the length of time it takes for cases to come to trial and the length of trials themselves and to acknowledge public concerns over use of conditional sentencing in criminal cases involving violent crime.

“I’m very passionate about our system … I think it’s the very best system in the world,” Mr. Oppal told the Benchers. “All we have to do is compare our system to other systems in the world and, on any objective analysis, I think we come out looking pretty good. But the fact is, the public is more and more demanding of us. We live in this era of accountability, where the public has high expectations of us and so we have to change the way in which we do business.”

Mr. Oppal asked the profession to embrace new approaches, such as alternative dispute resolution and duty counsel programs. Another important way to instil public confidence in the justice system is by explaining the system better, and he invited BC lawyers to play a role in public legal education programs. He said it was particularly important to reach people who come from countries without a fair justice system and who may not understand the meaning of an independent judiciary and independent lawyers. “There are whole groups of people here who do not have familiarity with our system,” he said. “What that means is that we have to step up our movement in public legal education.”