Rowbotham Applications Needed for a Fair Trial? | Court Ordered Counsel

June 12, 2019

A Rowbotham Application is meant to ensure that everyone has a fair trial and good representation. Unfortunately, the eligibility cut-off for Legal Aid Ontario is well below the low-income household threshold. This leaves a lot of people without the legal representation they need.

A Rowbotham Application is sometimes the last chance for people to get the legal representation they require.

What is a Rowbotham Application?

A Rowbotham Application is an application to receive court-ordered counsel. It is an opportunity for someone who has been denied representation through Legal Aid Ontario to get a lawyer. The intent is to ensure the right to a fair trial, which is not always possible without a lawyer.

If the judge determines you need a lawyer for a fair trial, the trial may be delayed until you receive court-ordered counsel. A Rowbotham Order provides you with representation.

Rowbotham Applications were once a lengthy process and low acceptance rate that many defence lawyers were hesitant to pursue. In recent years, Ontario has launched a pilot program allowing for a faster application process. Still, a number of conditions have to be met for a successful application.

When Can Rowbotham Order be Used?

A Rowbotham Order can be used after a successful application. For consideration in this process the applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • They have exhausted all legal aid appeals
  • They are facing serious/complex charges
  • The Prosecution is seeking imprisonment
  • They already have a lawyer
  • The immediate family cannot pay for legal services

What Considerations are Taken into Account

When determining whether to accept a Rowbotham Application and provide court-ordered counsel a number of considerations are looked at.

Income, Assets, Outstanding Debts, & Lump Sum Payments

One of the first aspects considered is income. It is more likely to be granted in low-income households but can go to people with higher incomes than those eligible for Legal Aid.

In looking at income, assets are also considered. Someone with more assets, for example, a home or vehicle are assets that you can potentially mortgage or sell. A lack of assets means the applicant has fewer other options.

If the defendant receives lump sum payments may also be looked at as an option these will also be taken into account. For example, an annual bonus may not show up when looking at income on a monthly or weekly basis.

Willingness to Compromise with Legal Aid Ontario

The courts will also review the applicant’s willingness to compromise with Legal Aid. This helps determine whether they could have received help from Legal Aid Ontario had they been more cooperative.

Exhausted All Legal Aid Opportunities

If you are denied support from Legal Aid Ontario there are still opportunities to appeal the decision. Before you submit a Rowbotham Application you need to have already attempted and appealed all Legal Aid opportunities.

Efforts to Obtain Other Employment

A Rowbotham Order is more likely to go occur if you have made clear efforts to obtain other employment. These demonstrate that you are making efforts to improve your financial situation rather than relying on support. Documentation that can help show these efforts include:

  • Visiting government job centers
  • Attending resume workshops
  • Getting and attending interviews
  • Submitting job applications
  • Pursuing certifications, licences, and/or school


In addition to all of these factors, reviewing your application will also consider your specific circumstances. These details will help determine whether or not a Rowbotham order is given. Circumstances include:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Profession
  • Mental health
  • Nature of charges

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