Magherafelt man’s collapsed murder trial cost £60,000

Freddie McClenaghan was found guilty after just over an hour's deliberation by the jury
Freddie McClenaghan was found guilty after just over an hour's deliberation by the jury

As Magherafelt man Fred McClenaghan starts his 16-year jail sentence for murder, the DUP’s Lord Maurice Morrow has said there are many questions to be answered as to the handling of the case.

Fifty-two-year-old McClenaghan, who is expected to be free in just over 11 years, was sentenced for blasting his former lover, Marion Millican, to death in a Portstewart launderette where she worked in March 2011.

The mother-of-four’s family have expressed their “disappointment” at the sentence.

“At the very heart of the matter is a family left grieving, and traumatised by a trial, then re-traumatised, not once but twice by a partial retrial, then a full retrial. Yet the eventual outcome remained exactly the same,” said Lord Morrow. “Despite the first trial unanimously convicting for murder, an appeal court quashed the verdict over a technicality. A re-trial is commenced and aborted. A second retrial begins and the verdict is exactly the same. Nothing changed. Only the devastated family had to suffer additionally, which is appalling in itself.

“I want to know if this case fought on a so-called right-to-fight, or on solid defence grounds, and why legal team did not see impending difficulties in changing the jury’s mind. The defence was the same, manslaughter not murder. And at neither trial did McClenaghan give evidence. Even with the technicality which quashed the first verdict being addressed, there was no change to the eventual outcome.

“On another level I am deeply concerned as to how McClenaghan was able to be in possession of a firearm, given his violent tendencies and purported mental health issues. Whether the weapon was antique or not, it was still a firearm requiring to be on a permit as ammunition was available. I have written to the Chief Constable to establish if this weapon was legally held, and if so why it had not been removed by police – particularly after they informed Marion she was under a death threat from McClenaghan.”

Lord Morrow said the total cost for all court procedures in respect of the Fred McClenaghan case are not yet available.

“However what is known is the first collapsed re-trial which cost just shy of an estimated £60,000 after only a few days,” he said in a statement this week.

“This hearing fell as a number of jurors left the court precincts to buy chips at lunchtime, despite being warned they were forbidden to do so. The jury therefore had to be dismissed. This led to costs of an estimated £58,409, of which £36,311 was for Legal Aid.

“The overall costs will be stiff and the greater proportion will be for Legal Aid. The only winners in this case are the lawyers as they are paid every time, no matter the outcome.

“That’s something which needs to be looked at very closely because as things stand, legal aid is just an open chequebook, and the public pick up the bill.”