Decision of the Week

Costs awarded personally against counsel are a rare occasion. At 41 pages, R. v. Gowenlock, 2019 MBCA 5 is a detailed analysis of when it is appropriate to do so, and the amount that should be awarded. This was a decision of first impression and had the benefit of two intervenors, the Attorney General for Manitoba and the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba, as well as amicus curiae.

This appeal offers this Court the opportunity to provide certainty, clarity and guidance for the development and application of principles and procedures in regard to the costs-awarding rules. It is worth re-emphasising that the discretion to exercise the power to award costs against counsel personally must be exercised with restraint and that this is especially so in the criminal context. Courts must ensure that any costs award against defence counsel does not in any way affect the accused’s right to make full answer and defence. Courts must also be aware that unjustified non-compliance with valid court-ordered timelines causes delays and that these delays prejudice the accused and undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Para. 88

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