Many of our clients ask us after they have retained our law firm, “Mr. Kruse can you provide me with a copy of my disclosure?” For example, it might be a banker’s box of disclosure, 2,000-3,000 pages of documents in a big case such as a murder case or 80 pages in a DUI case. “Can you copy my disclosure and provide it to me?”
The short answer to their question is we are not allowed to provide a copy of the disclosure to our clients to take out of our office or provide the original disclosure to take out of our office. The rules of the Crown Attorney’s offices across the province and our criminal court system do not allow this. We have a court system where defence counsel requests and obtains disclosure in a criminal case (i.e. all of the police reports, witness statements and any evidence against the accused which again can range from a very small file of 80 pages up to thousands of documents and video statements, you name it). Criminal defence counsel in Ontario are not allowed to provide any part of the disclosure directly to the accused to take out of their law office. We simply are not allowed to make a copy of our clients’ disclosure and provide it to them. However, we allow our clients to fully review their disclosure in our office. That is a very firm province wide policy and rule with each Crown Attorney’s office across the province. In many cases, we actually have to sign an undertaking with each Crown’s office which specifically states we are not allowed to provide anyone, including our clients, with a copy of the disclosure (some exceptions would be providing the disclosure to a defence expert witness or a private investigator). Some Crown’s offices do not require an undertaking to be signed, but they still have the same strict policy and if it is breached, a defence lawyer can get in serious trouble with the crown and court. This is a serious ethical issue and a very strict rule and defence counsel are simply not allowed to provide a copy of the disclosure to the client.
However, our client’s can have full access to their disclosure in our office. They can meet with their lawyer and we can set them up in one of our offices to fully review and read their disclosure for as long as they want and we ask them to take detailed notes. We also review and analyze the disclosure with them, but we are unfortunately restricted from allowing them to take the disclosure out of our office. This is a frustrating policy at times because it would be much easier if we could give the client a copy of the disclosure to read and review in the comfort of their home. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to provide it to them to take home and there are specific policy reasons for this which you might imagine are valid. I will not get into the exact reasons for this universal and strict rule in Ontario, but there are very specific and appropriate policy reasons for this and it applies to every case from the most minor criminal charge, such as shoplifting up to a first-degree murder trial in Ontario. So that is the short answer whether a criminal defence lawyer is allowed to provide you with a copy of your disclosure to take home.