Magherafelt man’s murder trials cost tax-payers over £500,000

Sentenced: Fred McClenaghan.
Sentenced: Fred McClenaghan.

More than half-a-million pounds was involved in the trials of Magherafelt man Fred McClenaghan, who cold-bloodledly murdered his ex-lover, according to the DUP’s Lord Morrow.

McClenaghan (52), was jailed for 16 years for blasting Marion Millican to death in a Portstewart laurendette where she worked in March 2011.

Lord Morrow who has previously raised concerns about the cost of the trials, yesterday said the entire case needed to be thoroughly scrutinised.

“Not only was the eventual outcome exactly the same after a re-trail, the defence put forward did not alter and it beggars belief that in such circumstances the same fees are replicated, when there was no additional work done,” he said in a statement.

“Figures provided by the Justice Minister show a confirmed total cost for the first trial of £196,657 and the subsequent appeal of £106,654. The resultant re-trial relied on nothing other than the original material evidence.

“The aborted trial it accepted was not the fault of the defence, but rather came about when several jurors wrongly left the court house to purchase food. That cost an estimated £58,409 – and I would suggest that is a very conservative total. I have requested the final fee from the Minister.

“The second trial has only estimated costs which so far total £180,718 and does not yet include the Prosecution costs.

“The final confirmed total spend is £333,051. Including estimated totals this rises to £542,438 – and I stress, further costs have yet to be added.

“That translates as over £½ million, and of that, £331,127 is Legal Aid. These figures are a scandalous insult to the tax-paying public, who are ultimately tasked with footing the bill.

“Court cases and their viability need to be brought under the microscope to ensure correct reasoning is applied. There was no credible defence and McClenaghan never once took the witness stand.

“Instead this was a doomed exercise to attempt to persuade a jury of vulnerability on the defendant’s part, in the hope of a lighter sentence.

“These cases are becoming legion and appear to be fought on a right-to-fight basis, as opposed to the actual potential of over-turning a wrongful conviction, which can only be possible in light of new or previously omitted evidence.

“The McClenaghan trials are case and point and should not have been permitted to run to this excessive level and costs

“The only winners in these instances are the defence lawyers. They are paid despite losing the case – twice. Advices need to be accurate and realistic in cases such as this and many lawyers would not be so keen to provide services if they were not guaranteed payment on failed outcomes.

“Legal Aid is no longer to protect the principals of justice – it is becoming an open chequebook for lawyers. It is out of control, and it would appear control cannot be regained. ”