You don’t have to be a celebrity like Justin Bieber to have a lawyer appear on your behalf in Toronto courts if you have a designation of counsel.

justin bieber did not appear in courtThere were several disappointed Justin Bieber fans at Toronto’s Old City Hall Courthouse when he didn’t show up in person at Court.   Many were probably wondering why he wasn’t there, and perhaps if he was receiving special treatment because he was a celebrity.

However, Justin Bieber is just like many people charged with criminal offences in Ontario.  Many accused have their lawyers appear on their behalf.   Lawyers make this appearance pursuant to what is called a “designation of counsel.”

Designations of counsel.  Section 650.01 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Under section 650.01 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a lawyer may appear on behalf of an accused person.  This serves many purposes and is used commonly in criminal cases in Ontario.  There is nothing unusual about it and one does not need to be a celebrity, rich, or famous to have a lawyer make the appearance in the accused absence.

For a designation appearance, the lawyer simply has the accused (in this case Justin Bieber) sign a form that permits the lawyer to appear without the accused being present in court.  That is precisely what happened today at Toronto’s Old City Hall and that is why so many were disappointed to not see their idol.

The Crown Attorney may also decide to “elect summarily” which also permits the lawyer to appear as “an agent” on behalf an accused person.  I expect that the Crown will make such an election in the very near future, if they haven’t already.  For more about summary conviction offences, you can read about them here. 

The accused must appear when ordered to do so and for their trial.

For those still holding out hope, the provision does allow for the Court to order the accused before it if it thinks it is appropriate to do so.  At some point, JB may very well have to come to court to defend these allegations made against him.  If a trial is held, he must attend.  If that happens, it’s nice to know that he has excellent legal representation.

Here is an example of a designation of counsel form (although this is for Superior Court and Justin Bieber appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice):

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