Alexander Ostroff is a criminal defence lawyer with Edward Royle & Partners LLP, whose practice focuses on his special expertise in criminal appeals. He is a member of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the Ontario Bar Association.
Mr. Ostroff graduated from McGill University Faculty of Law’s transsystemic program in 2014, with degrees in both common and civil law. In law school, he worked with the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations on cases of discrimination and racial profiling by law enforcement, and on related complaints to the Québec Human Rights Commission and the Commissaire à la déontologie policière (Police Ethics Commissioner). He also co-developed and co-facilitated the Faculty’s first Critical Race Theory course. These experiences strengthened his interest in criminal law, his commitment to the pursuit of justice, and his dedication to advocacy for marginalized people facing structural inequality in the criminal justice system.
Prior to joining Edward H. Royle & Partners, Mr. Ostroff was an appellate associate at a premier Toronto criminal defence firm, where he worked with, and learned from, some of the country’s most prominent wrongful conviction and criminal appeal lawyers. Mr. Ostroff has appeared regularly at the Court of Appeal for Ontario, arguing a wide range of conviction appeals, both independently and with senior partners, including a significant number of complex murder appeals, as well as appeals from convictions for firearms, criminal organization, and sexual offences on his own. Mr. Ostroff has also obtained reductions in sentence on appeal, including in cases where the trial judge failed to properly consider the client’s experiences as an indigenous person.
In addition to his work on complex criminal convictions, Mr. Ostroff has successfully litigated criminal and quasi-criminal appeals at every level of court in Ontario. At the Ontario Court of Justice, he obtained a new trial for a client convicted of multiple provincial regulatory offences, and an acquittal on multiple counts at the re-trial. On a summary conviction appeal to the Superior Court of Justice, he recently obtained a new trial for a client convicted of assaulting prison guards due to the trial judge’s refusal to consider the client’s allegations that he was violently beaten by prison guards and a series of related Charter violations. After this successful appeal, the charges were withdrawn.
Mr. Ostroff has also successfully obtained Court-ordered funding for multiple criminal appeals that had been denied funding by Legal Aid Ontario, secured the release of numerous clients on bail pending appeal, and obtained Legal Aid funding to advance Test Case litigation to the Supreme Court of Canada.
A non-exhaustive sampling of Mr. Ostroff’s cases can be found below:
Summary conviction appeal from convictions for assaulting a prison guard and assaulting a prison guard causing bodily harm. At trial, in addition to self-defence claims, the self-represented accused made allegations of multiple Charter violations by prison guards, including a retaliatory beating, other physical mistreatment, and interference with his ability to press criminal charges against corrections officers and preserve evidence relevant to his defence. The trial judge, despite accepting much of the accused’s testimony about his mistreatment, ruled that he had no authority or jurisdiction to deal with Charter violations if they occurred after the charged offences. The appeal judge found that this was a serious error and that the trial judge did, in fact, have the authority to order a stay due to mistreatment or brutality by prison guards. A new trial was ordered, and the client’s charges were subsequently withdrawn.
Successful sentence appeal for firearms and criminal organization offences. The Court of Appeal agreed that the trial judge had improperly imposed a harsher sentence on a Black client due to his stated belief that the commission of firearms offences by racial minorities were the cause of negative racial stereotypes against other members of the community. The Court reduced the sentence by two years.
Application for Court-ordered funding of counsel on a first-degree murder appeal. Legal Aid had denied funding on the basis that the Appellant (convicted of killing his wife) had failed to prioritize paying for his legal defence because, at the request of the Children’s Aid Society, he agreed to pay half of the proceeds of selling his home into trust for the support and maintenance of his three children. The Court found that the Appellant was not ineligible for Legal Aid funding simply because he voluntarily complied with his legal obligations to his children rather than forcing the Children’s Aid Society to sue him and obtain a court order. The Court ordered the appointment and funding of appellate counsel.
Appeal from first-degree murder conviction. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge improperly told the jury his opinion on whether an object seen in key video footage was a gun, using stronger and more definitive language than the Crown’s initial position. This unfairly undermined the defence and strengthened the Crown’s position on a critical factual issue.
Appeal from second degree murder conviction. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. There was evidence that the accused, an indigenous survivor of childhood sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress, had learned that his roommate was sexually abusing an underage girl and confronted him about this while intoxicated. There was evidence that the roommate reacted by suddenly drawing an ornamental samurai sword and replying that he intended to continue this sexual relationship, which prompted the accused to lose control. The Court of Appeal found that there was an air of reality to provocation, and that the trial judge erred by refusing to leave provocation as a possible defence with the jury.
Appeal from second degree murder conviction. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial, on the basis that the trial judge did not adequately instruct the jury on the state of mind and subjective knowledge required to convict someone for aiding or abetting a murder.
Appeal from convictions of first degree murder, attempted murder, and criminal organization offences. The Court of Appeal found that the case against the client was weak and that there was a miscarriage of justice due to the trial judge unreasonably admitting highly prejudicial bad character evidence that was unrelated to, and occurred subsequent to, the charged homicide. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. The client’s charges were withdrawn before the new trial.
Trial judge erred by sentencing a self-represented accused without obtaining any information about his personal circumstances, including his experiences of childhood physical and sexual abuse after being taken by child protective services and placed in a reformatory school. The Court of Appeal reduced sentence by two years.