London Law Firm Offers Free Help To Rape Victims
A London law firm is reaching out to victims of sexual assault excluded from a provincial pilot project for survivors of such attacks.
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers has launched a Survivors Advice Line (SAL) to provide free legal advice for sexual assault victims in southwestern Ontario. The initiative comes two days after the Ontario government announced the Independent Legal Advice for Sexual Assault Survivor’s Pilot Program, which is limited to residents in Toronto, Ottawa, and Thunder Bay.
“I understand it is a pilot project but it really left southwestern Ontario in the cold,” says Robert Talach, partner and head of the sexual abuse department at Beckett. “We’ve been dealing with this type of law for a long time and we thought it wouldn’t be a substantial drain on our resources just to open up a free hotline for those that can’t access the government program.”
Under Beckett’s SAL program, anyone seeking advice regarding a sexual assault who lives in the 519-area code, from Windsor, through London, to Brantford can call, text or email between 10am and 7pm Monday to Friday.
“The way our system works, especially criminal law, the victim is not entitled or even encouraged to get any type of advice before they march down to the police station or before they take other steps,” says Talach. “Bad guys get a lawyer within the first seconds and a lot of times those lawyers are funded by legal aid. We are just trying to right the balance here and provide some more assistance to victims.”
Unlike the provincial program, which is only good for four hours of free, confidential advice from a lawyer, Talach says their program isn’t capped.
“A lot of times a person can get what they need in 30 minutes or an hour but then there will be other people where you might need up to ten hours to help them,” says Talach. “So we aren’t fixing a time period. We are going to take it on a case by case basis.”
Talach anticipates a total of 500 hours of pro-bono legal advice will be offered by the firm before the end of the year. Beckett has two partners and two associates dedicated to their sexual abuse department, one of whom will always be assigned to monitor SAL.
Survivors of sexual abuse can reach the Survivors Advice Line (SAL) by calling or texting 519-852-4148 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.