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2.4 Getting a court-appointed lawyer (section 684 application)

In some cases, you can get a court-appointed lawyer under section 684 of the Criminal Code. You can apply if:

  • you have no money to hire a lawyer for your appeal, and
  • you applied to the Legal Services Society for legal aid and were refused.

You can apply in the Court of Appeal, but only after you’ve filed your Notice of Appeal, as described in Filing a Notice of Appeal.

To get a court-appointed lawyer, you need to show the court that you can’t afford a lawyer and can’t effectively represent yourself.

You must tell the court about:

  • your financial situation;
  • your inability to get legal aid;
  • your education and knowledge of the court process;
  • the complexity of your case;
  • your grounds of appeal (the main points you will argue);
  • the reasons why you believe that you need a lawyer to organize and present your case;
  • how likely it is that your appeal will succeed; and
  • any special individual circumstances relating to your physical and/or mental health, or harm to you or your family if you aren’t released.

Write a letter of authority

To show that you were refused legal aid, you need to authorize the Legal Services Society to send the court the information and materials referred to in the Letter of Authority:

  • Fill out the Letter of Authority (Exhibit A) (page 47 in How to Appeal Your Sentence).
  • Make two photocopies.
  • Mail the original to the Legal Services Society at the address shown on the form. Note the date that you send the letter because you’ll need this information for the Affidavit for Appointment of Counsel. See “What to file with the registry” below.
  • Attach one photocopy of the Letter of Authority to the original of the affidavit.
  • Keep one photocopy for yourself.

What to file with the registry

You need to file the following two forms with the appropriate court registry:

  • The Notice of Motion for Appointment of Counsel (page 49 in How to Appeal Your Sentence). For the court file number, use the registry number on your Notice of Appeal. File the original plus three photocopies with the registry.
  • The Affidavit for Appointment of Counsel (page 49 in How to Appeal Your Sentence). The affidavit outlines the reasons why you think the court should appoint a lawyer for your appeal. Again, use the same registry number as on your Notice of Appeal. Fill out the affidavit by following the instructions on the left side of the page. File the original plus three photocopies with the registry. Remember to attach the photocopy of the Letter of Authority to the original.

You must sign the affidavit in front of a “commissioner for taking affidavits for BC,” who can be a lawyer or a notary public. You can find a notary through BC Notaries or in the Yellow Pages. To find a private lawyer, look in the Yellow Pages under Lawyers – Criminal, or try the Lawyer Referral Service of the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch.

When the application is heard, you’ll be brought in person before a Chambers judge of the Court of Appeal.

For those living (or incarcerated) in the Victoria Capital Regional District, The Law Centre at the University of Victoria can assist with a s. 684 application.
For those incarcerated in the Lower Mainland, the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (“LSLAP”) at the University of British Columbia can assist with a s. 684 application.

Legally reviewed: 2020/ Apr