Philip A. Riddell, KC

Criminal Lawyer

Over 30 years experience

Member of The B. C. Bar

Member of The Yukon Bar

Phillip A. Riddell

#6222 - 2850 Shaughnessy St. (map)
Port Coquitlam, B.C.,
Canada V3C-6K5
Phone: 604.520.6033  click to call
     24hr. Emergency only 604.818.1217

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Criminal Law

The question that is often asked is once the police start an investigation is there an inevitable charge. The answer to that question in quite simply no. Phil has been involved in a number of cases in which due to early intervention, detailed investigation, and an exercise of professional judgment and experience the client, although investigated, has not been charged. Recently this has involved situations in which clients are alleged to have been involved in sexual assault with a minor, sexual assault of an adult, and offences of violence.

Through the process of early intervention Phil has managed to ensure that clients who have been under investigation for sexual offences have had their files closed before the matter has even been referred to the prosecutor for file review. He has had other matters where he has been able to engage in early discussions with the Crown and have been able to make submissions to the prosecutor, persuading the prosecutor not to charge our clients.

When asked “When should I hire a lawyer?” the only answer is as soon as you are aware that you are under investigation. It is only in a case where you have early intervention by experienced defence counsel that you have the opportunity to maximize your chance that a charge will not be laid.

"As a result of the interaction between criminal law issues and issues leading to professional discipline and professional regulation combined with my experience of being a regulator, I believe that I am in a position to provide a unique perspective for those persons who are subject to difficulties with maintenance of their membership with a regulator or entry into a regulated profession or trade."

Phil Riddell has been involved in the defence of matters such as:
1. Murder
2. Fatality Cases
3. Fraud and Theft
4. Sexual Offences
5. Child Pornography
6. Drug Offences
7. Spousal Assaults
8. Driving Offences


A murder charge is considered by many to be the most serious charge that a person can face. The penalties are the most severe known in criminal law. A person convicted of first degree murder faces a mandatory life sentence with parole ineligibility of twenty-five years. Given the consequences of a conviction, the accused requires experienced, effective representation. At times a good result is a plea to a lesser included offence, such as manslaughter. Phil Riddell has been involved in the defence of a number of cases where the accused was initially charged with murder, but a plea to a lesser charge, manslaughter, was arrived at. An example of such a case is that of R. v. Pratt, [2006] BCSC 1198 a case which received a great deal of notoriety.

Fatality Cases

There are many cases in which as a result of everyday activities a death may result. This usually occurs in the context of operation of a motor vehicle, and charges of dangerous or impaired driving , or criminal negligence causing death charges being laid. These are cases in which ordinary people find themselves in circumstances which have led to tragic consequences. The accused usually finds himself faced with the prospect of a jail term measured not in days or weeks, but in years. These are cases that require counsel who is familiar with not only all of the applicable legal principles and possesses the skills of a trial lawyer, but also the knowledge to deal with police accident reconstructions, engineers and medical professionals.

Not only is the accused in these cases faced with criminal sanctions that can accompany a conviction, but a conviction will lead to the loss of insurance coverage. Phil Riddell has been involved in the defence of a number of these cases through the years winning his clients outright acquittals, or a "plea bargain" with the client avoiding jail, license prohibition, and loss of insurance by pleading to an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.

He also has extensive experience in resolving matters in similar cases where bodily harm rather than death has resulted.

Fraud and Theft

Fraud and theft fall into the general category of depriving another individual of either money or an object. They can range in complexity from shop lifting, to employee theft, to intricate frauds. The penalty varies with the nature of the offence and the background of the offender. The likelihood of success depends on the evidence against the accused. At one end of the spectrum, shop lifting, the matter might be resolved by contacting the prosecutor's office and resolving the matter by way of an alternative measures agreement which means charges are not proceeded with. In more complex matters the case may have to go to trial, be resolved by way of negotiated plea, or, after discussions with the prosecutor, may be resolved in some other manner. Some of these cases can achieve a degree of notoriety, although a discrete result is always sought with the press as can be seen by R. v. Clark, [2012] BCPC 59.

Sexual Offences

Sexual offences as broadly defined includes not only sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual interference, but also include voyeurism and various offences associated with child pornography. There is a great deal of social stigma associated with being charged with offences of this nature. The defences are numerous, as are the range of penalties that may be imposed by the Court. Many of the offences in this broad category carry penalties requiring the Court to impose a period of imprisonment.

Possibly the best result that can be achieved is resolving the allegation before a charge is laid. While many defence counsel would not take their client to be polygraphed by the police, on occasion Phil Riddell has done this, and it has led to his client not being charged. This approach may not fit in every case, but experience counsel exercising sound judgment sometimes takes risks with great benefit to his client that others would not.

Experience counsel assess the strengths and weaknesses of their client’s case, and are decisive in choosing a course of action which obtains the best results available. A client who is subject to an allegation of a sexual offence is placed under a great deal of stress. The role of defence counsel is to help the client to navigate through the criminal justice system, and have a client arrive at a resolution which gives him the best possible outcome.

Child Pornography

The offence involving child pornography attracts a high degree of social stigma. Child pornography offences range from production, distribution, possession and accessing child pornography. The degree of social stigma that is associated with offences involving child pornography is such that all of these offences carry a minimum jail term. These offences are now almost exclusively charged in situations which involve computer images, although a person might also be charged with possessing, distributing and making or accessing these images if they were in some other form. The reality of the modern world is that these images are usually found on computers, having been downloaded from the internet. Downloads from the internet usually do not occur from generally accessible “websites” but are accessed from more private areas on the internet such as user nets and chat rooms.

The issues involved in the defence of these cases include:
a. Possession in that who was using the computer on which the images were found;
b. Are the images within the definition of child pornography?
c. Was there a valid search of the computers in that was a Search Warrant properly issued?

These are cases in which you require counsel who is not only experienced in dealing with the areas of the law, but is also experienced with the technology.

Drug Offences

Cases in this category range from simple possession of marihuana, to production of a controlled substance, to possession for the purpose of trafficking, to trafficking, to importing and exporting. Many of these offences carry minimum jail terms.

These are complicated cases involving issues regarding search and seizure, arbitrary detention, and the right to counsel. These cases also involve issues of proving possession, which involves proof of knowledge and control. These are issues that require experienced, knowledgeable counsel to deal with them.


Many times when you think of guns and the law your thoughts turn to "gun toting gangsters" as the media have been known to describe them. The reality is a number of gun charges that Phil Riddell has dealt with through the years deal with people who are not "gun toting gangsters", but people who enjoy hunting and target shooting. These people find themselves in conflict with the criminal law when they are in a situation where firearms have not been stored safely, or have been discharged accidentally. These are situations where experienced counsel can take steps to resolve matters in a way to minimize the chance of the client attracting a criminal record. Experience shows that early involvement by counsel can lead to the negotiation of a resolution before a charge is even laid.

Spousal Assaults

Domestic violence cases disrupt the lives of the accused and the complainant. They are situations that arise in circumstances where the underlying relationship may be good or have a long history of difficulties. The principle concern is trying to get the family back together. Generally what happens is that the accused is required to leave the family home, have no contact with the complainant leading to no contact with the children. The goal is to re-establish the family unit, if that is possible. In the vast majority of cases both the accused and the complainant are seeking a resolution which re-unites the family and avoids the matter going to trial. There are a number of approaches that experienced counsel can use to try and achieve these results.

Generally the sooner defence counsel is involved, the sooner the matter can be resolved.

Driving Offences

Driving offences include the offences of driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol level over .08, refusal to provide a breath sample, dangerous driving, driving while prohibited or disqualified. The charge of operating a motor vehicle while imparred by a drug is being seen more often. The consequences of these offences upon conviction include a criminal record, a fine, and a minimum one year driving prohibition. To people charged with these offences, these are serious offences, and Phil Riddell treats them a serious offences. Over the last two decades he has defended thousands of these matters and has succeeded in getting his client results they are happy with. These cases are technical and not only require a knowledge of the law, and the skills of a lawyer experienced in conducting trials but they also require a lawyer who understands the science used in breath and blood testing. Your lawyer must understand the science of drug impairment

Serious Driving Offences

If you are in a situation in which you have been charged or under investigation for offences such as dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, impaired driving causing death or bodily harm, or leaving the scene of an accident, you require the assistance of experienced defence counsel. These are offences which if you are convicted of not only carry serious criminal sanction, usually a term of imprisonment, but also carry long-term financial consequences for you. Being convicted of any one of these offences creates a situation in which you have breach your insurance coverage. This means you will be held responsible for the cost of all injuries and damage caused as a result of the act. This can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A person who is charged with such offences requires the assistance of someone who is experienced. Steps taken early on in the case can lead to a more successful outcome.

The classic example of such a situation is someone who leaves the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident. Time is crucial. It is not a Criminal Code offence to leave the scene of an accident unless you were doing so to escape criminal or civil liability. If you leave the scene of an accident and you have done so because of an over-riding sense of panic, consulting with a lawyer at a very early stage may create a situation where you can “come clean” with the police and avoid a criminal charge. Serious driving cases are cases in which the early involvement of experienced counsel can and does lead to good outcomes for the client.

Driving While Prohibited

The defence of charges of driving while prohibited under the Motor Vehicle Act or driving while disqualified under the Criminal Code have a very real impact for those who have had no previous contact with the criminal justice system. A typical situation can be a young driver who has an “N” licence. They receive three points on their licence for speeding and are prohibited by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles for a relatively short period of time – 30 to 60 days. The driver then, for a variety of reasons, drives during that period of prohibition and is stopped by the police. They then find they are charged with driving while prohibited. They now face a situation in which they are looking at a minimum of $500.00 fine, 10 points on their driver’s licence, and a one year licence prohibition. These cases are technical to defend in that they generally will rely upon the Crown proving its case by way of certificates produced by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. Phil has extensive experience with these cases, and has been successful in a number of them. These are also cases in which experience defence counsel who is able to note the weaknesses in the Crown case, can negotiate a resolution with the Crown before a Trial.