September 6, 2017 8:00 am

Court ruling on father accused of molesting children highlights issues with self-representation

FILE PHOTO: Family photo

Global News

A stunning reversal of a court decision that had found a man had sexually abused his four children is raising questions about how the justice system deals with people who represent themselves.

Last week, the BC Court of Appeal overturned the 2012 ruling that came as a result of a 96-day BC Supreme Court trial. During that trial, the judge gave weight to one so-called expert in child sexual abuse and incest, who never interviewed the father or children in the case.

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READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: B.C. father accused of molesting his children speaks for the first time

But the expert’s credentials were called into question after it was discovered she had graduated from a school considered to be a “diploma mill.”

Self-representation was the only option

The man at the centre of that trial, a Vancouverite who can only be referred to as B.G., didn’t even have a lawyer.

At first, B.G. was able to hire a junior family lawyer to help him with his divorce in 2009, but when his wife began levelling child sex abuse allegations, things changed.

READ MORE: BC Court of Appeal tosses ruling that found MCFD allowed toddler to be molested

He couldn’t qualify for legal aid for a family matter and the case was too complex for pro-bono represenation.

He then begged and borrowed from family and friends but there wasn’t enough money.

“I was left with the decision, walk away and you’ll never see your kids again, or fight and do whatever it takes, including showing in court every single day in a suit pretending to be a lawyer, so that’s what I did,” said B.G.

Self-representation questioned

Morgan Camley took on the case pro-bono at the appeal stage because of concerns about evidence.

She said the situation leads to an important political question, about funding legal aid.

“There’s really no kinds of cases that are as close to losing your liberty, in a criminal case for example, as losing your kids. This is a fellow that came up against the system, trying to manage complicated experts who turned out not to be, in fact, experts, and trying to figure out procedure, much less law.”

READ MORE: B.C. government seeks clarity of child sex abuse case through an appeal

Camley said B.G.’s case should force the government to consider better funding for legal aid.

“The courts, themselves, in the large part do an extraordinary job of dealing with unrepresented litigants. I think that it is now the new and unfortunate reality of our court system where people are going to be coming before the courts with very complicated cases.”

The previous BC Liberal government was long accused of underfunding legal aid.

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