It's seems too good to be true, but free legal advice is now just a call away for victims of sexual assault in the 519 area code.
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers has launched its Survivors Advice Line – a free community service that offers legal guidance to victims of sexual abuse.
The firm borrowed the concept from the province's Independent Legal Advice for Sexual Assault Survivors Pilot Program – an initiative that offers victims up to four hours of free consultation with a lawyer.
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers decided to launch its own pro bono hotline when they realized the provincially run pilot was only available in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.
“The province launched their own program but it was relatively truncated from what they had originally proposed ... Southwestern Ontario didn't have any access to it. We decided we would fill the gap,” said Rob Talach, partner at Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers and head of its sexual abuse department.
Since the hotline launched in late June, Talach said the frequency of calls, emails and texts has been difficult to predict but adds he's received plenty of referrals from community agencies.
While the provincial pilot project requires victims seeking assistance to complete a form, await approval, contact a lawyer on the referral list and book an appointment or phone call, Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers' hotline is much more straightforward.
“It's not government funded at all and it's very simple. It's a second cell phone that I carry everywhere. So people call the line, they email, they text and they'll get a lawyer immediately,” he said, adding the line is monitored weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Regardless of whether callers pursue legal representation or not, for Talach and his team, the hotline is almost therapeutic – a meaningful way to reach people who are unsure about their options.
“It's a balm on a sore borne of frustration. Many times we encounter people in our practice area where they were without legal advice at some stage and it became a problem for them in pursuing any legal remedy later,” he said.
“We're just trying to take some positives steps and say to people 'it's as easy as dialing a number.' Hopefully that encourages people to take further steps.”
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers' Survivors Advice Line
Telephone or Text: (519) 852-4148
Published on August 23, 2016