On the Fence of Justice

By Phillip Millar

It may be called the Justice System, but often the result is not justice, the result is a verdict. But before one ever gets to a verdict the ‘Justice’ System often sees a man convicted before he gets a day in trial.

Although our society embraces the concept of Innocence Until Proven Guilty, human nature leads people to convict someone before they have had their day in court.

The average citizen thinks to themselves, well if the police charged him and they are prosecuting him then he must be guilty. As soon as the police give a press conference, the public sighs thankfully, feeling another crime is solved.

Unfortunately, the frequency of wrongful convictions is ignored by the public. Pressure on the police to arrest a suspect is intense and the police feel the public pressure acutely. This can lead to shortcuts in the investigation, stones left unturned, and the first suspect becoming the only suspect. DNA evidence has freed hundreds of individuals who were convicted by prosecutors sure the evidence pointed to their guilt. Human nature assumes the worst and an individual who is arrested and charged faces the most daunting task of proving he didn’t do it…. a nearly impossible feat in the face of an investigation committed to putting you in jail.

Since we all assume we will never get charged, it is of little consequence to us, but if god forbid, one of our loved ones is charged our perspectives change immediately.

Recently, Sarnia Fire Chief, Pat Cayen, was arrested and faces sexual assault allegations. In the court of public opinion this is a death sentence as a life and career are destroyed just by the allegations.

Millars Law has been retained to defend him. Essentially, we are here to clear his name and try to save his life’s work.

As a lawyer known to take on cases where I litigate for victims I often get asked how I can defend those charged with these types of serious allegations. My response is similar to the question I often get about how as a past Assistant Crown Attorney I can now defend people charged with crimes…my answer, ‘because justice can be found on both sides of the law.’

My approach to life and law is different than most. I do not see the world as black vs. white, good vs. evil. It does not satisfy me to simply say my side is the righteous side. In my travels overseas, in war zones, in the courtroom, what I have learned is that there are those who need justice. It could be an accused or it could be a victim. My passion is helping those who need help– the underdogs, the lone individual who stands alone against the establishment and power players.

Also, working on both sides of the law makes me a stronger and smarter lawyer. I do not have blinders on and become more valuable to my clients because I have seen both sides of the issues, the bias’, the prejudices, the strengths and the weaknesses.

Furthermore, to some, it could be argued there is more credibility in taking on cases where justice is the primary concern, not simply always fighting for one side regardless of the circumstances.

Pat Cayne, the Sarnia Fire Chief for 11 years was summarily fired last week. Before he could have his day in court. Not suspended with pay, not suspended without pay, not temporarily reassigned…just fired before he could clear his name. He has been judged before any evidence has been called. His life destroyed by the charges, his career over. Even if the charges are found to be groundless the damage is done and he will never fully recover.

My military background instilled in me a desire to fight for justice, to fight in the face of adversity, to stand up to forces that appear overwhelming. Having a client depend on you as the only person who can help him is as stressful, demanding and in the end rewarding as any of my overseas missions. Thankfully, in my second career I still get the opportunity to fight the good fight, and in the end hopefully justice will be done.

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