Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ombudsman Slams Legal Aid Ontario, Province Sues Convicted Cop

According to media reports, the Ontario Government is suing convicted former Toronto Police officer, Richard Wills, to recover $1.2 M of public money spent on his "preposterous" defence of first degree murder charges arising from the death of his long-time lover, Linda Mariani.

Wills was convicted of the charges last fall and is serving a life sentence in the Kingston Penitentiary.

The whopping defence bill caught media and public attention after it was revealed through family court documents, filed as part of a separation agreement with his wife, that Wills was a millionaire when he surrendered to police.

It is alleged in the Province's lawsuit that Wills transferred his assets to his wife Joanne and sister Patricia Rogers, so that he would be eligible for Legal Aid. His wife and sister are co-defendants in the action.

In a contemporaneous development yesterday, Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin, released a scathing eighty-four page report titled A Test Of Wills yesterday.

The Ombudsman was scathing in his criticism of Legal Aid Ontario for its handling of the case. Quoted in a Toronto Star article today, Marin stated:

Legal Aid Ontario failed, and the Ontario taxpayers lost. So did the Ontario justice system...

Legal Aid Ontario chose to approve bills as long as the math was correct, without budget or limit, no matter how extravagant the costs or how needless the work... Worse still, it led judges, prosecutors and the ministry of the Attorney General to believe that things were in hand when they were not.

In his report the Ombudsman commented:

“People wanted to know how unconscionable sums of public monies came to be spent defending a man who, shortly before he was arrested, bragged about being a self-made millionaire.”

“He hived off his assets while abusing the generosity of tax-payers. He should have to reimburse the province for the legal fees wasted in his cause”

Read the National Post story$1.5M in Public Money Spent to Defend Wills,” published October 31st 2007, for the details of the funding.

- Shashi K. Raina, Toronto

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