Alex Easton MLA has today called on the Justice Minister to look at making changes to the criteria for those who can apply for legal Aid.

Speaking today Alex Easton MLA said:

“I am extremely annoyed and extremely fed up to see that our Legal Aid system is paying out vast sums of money Total £934,425.25 so far in legal costs to represent Christine Connor a convicted Terrorist, costing so far and counting £934,425.25. Christine Connor has been jailed for 20 years over a pipe bomb murder bid on a Police Officer.”

“Christine Connor’s was found guilty of four offences of attempted murder, and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life which related to two incidents in Belfast in May 2013. These included an attack on police who were lured to the scene by a bogus 999 call”

“While everyone has the right to have representation in court and have legal Aid if they meet the current criteria, one has to question the reasoning and wisdom of someone who is clearly guilty being allowed to exploit the legal Aid system, and who has also clearly shown no remorse continually being allowed access to Legal Aid to go to the Court of Appeal and spending rate payers money on a further sum of £441,493.51 and the Retrial £80,849.32 with more costs still to be paid making this over a million pounds to represent a convicted Terrorist. There needs to be a reform of Legal Aid system were in such terrorist cases, that those who have been convicted and have no further new evidence, and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear they have been involved in terrorist activity’s trying to kill police officers, and if they want to appeal their convictions that they pay for the appeal themselves. The only winners as the current Legal Aid rules apply are the solicitors and barristers and those that have committed terrorist offences who are trying to find loopholes to cut their sentences and cause more phycological damage to their victims. The Legal Aid system needs to change and the Justice Minister Needs to deal with this”

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NI Assembly Question

MR ALEX EASTON (North Down) has asked: To ask the Minister of Justice to detail the (i) cost; and (ii) breakdown of legal aid to date, in respect of Christine Connor’s conviction and appeal before the courts. ANSWER: The granting of legal aid in criminal proceedings is a matter for the court. Christine Connor was granted legal aid for the initial trial, the appeal and the subsequent retrial. I can confirm that at 26 November 2020 the legal aid costs paid to date by the Legal Services Agency are £934,425.25 inclusive of VAT. At this time, not all costs arising from the most recent trial have been processed. The breakdown below provides the costs thus far of the various criminal court proceedings in respect of Christine Connor’s conviction and appeal: Magistrates Court Pre Trial £116,352.96 First trial £295,729.46 Court of Appeal £441,493.51 Retrial £80,849.32 Total £934,425.25 NAOMI LONG MLA

By Alex Easton

Alex Easton