Child killer Robert Black claims £350k in Legal Aid as victim’s family tell of outrage
Dec 11 2011 Exclusive by Stuart Macdonald and Lauren Crooks, Sunday Mail
THE parents of Jennifer Cardy yesterday condemned the £350,000 in Legal Aid given to child killer Robert Black before he was was finally convicted of murdering their daughter.
Black, who was already serving life for killing three young girls, was given massive financial backing to pay for lawyers after denying the kidnap and murder of nine-year-old Jennifer.
He was sentenced last week after the trial, where costs included more than £5000 for a private jet to transport Black from his English prison to the court in Northern Ireland.
His Legal Aid included £307,308 paid to Black’s solicitors in fees and costs for expert witnesses, and £39,841 to his defence counsel David Spens QC.
Grangemouth-born Black, 64, was already certain to die in jail for the murders he committed in mainland Britain.
Following the trial, he was last week handed another 25 years after being found guilty of abducting and murdering Jennifer near her home in County Antrim in 1981.
Jennifer’s father, Andy Cardy, 62, said yesterday: “The amount of money is unreal and I find it disgusting.
“He could have avoided this and the pain he has put us through by putting his hands up and saying, ‘I did it’.
“Instead, he put us through a six-week trial and all the trauma that went with it.
“If he had admitted it, taxpayers’ money would have been saved. Although money is not the biggest issue for us, that is awful lot in this day and age.”
The huge bill was racked up in the 23 months after Black was charged with the murder in January last year.
And the Legal Aid figure is set to soar further after Black launches an appeal against the conviction.
Lord Morrow, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has raised concerns.
He said: “Black has got a lot better justice than his victims ever got.
“I don’t think the same amount of money will be spilled out to the Cardys and other families who have suffered at the hands of this man.
“Spending more than £350,000 is a disgrace and it shouldn’t be happening.
“It seems that because of human rights legislation, everything has to be done to ensure the human rights of people like Black are not infringed. That has to stop.”
James Kelly MSP, Scottish Labour’s shadow community safety minister, said: “Given the huge demand for legal aid, people will be stunned that a serial murderer has been able to claw back so much taxpayers’ money.
“It is a real slap in the face to the families of the victims of this man’s heinous crimes. We need a cast-iron guarantee that the rules on Legal Aid have been properly implemented.”
Other costs paid to Black included a bill for legal advice at the police station before his initial appearance in court from custody, which cost an extra £1339.
Black’s chartered flight from Leeds to Belfast, costing £5675, was funded by the UK Ministry of Justice’s National Offender Management Service. A further £7012 was spent transporting him to court each day.
Van driver Black stopped Jennifer before she reached a friend’s house. He abducted her, then sexually assaulted and killed her before dumping her body.
His appalling record of child murders was revealed during the trial.
In 1982, he abducted and murdered 11-year-old Susan Maxwell from the village of Cornhill-on-Tweed, close to the border between Scotland and England.
A year later, he killed five-year-old Caroline Hogg, who disappeared from outside her home in Portobello, near Edinburgh.
A third girl, 10-year-old Sarah Harper, was abducted and murdered as she walked from a corner shop near her home in Morley, Leeds.
Black is suspected of murdering a string of other young girls, including 13-year-old Genette Tate, who went missing on her paper round in a Devon village on August 19, 1978.
While Legal Aid handouts to criminals have been criticised, leading QC Paul McBride insists they are necessary.
He said: “Nobody likes to see a horrible child killer getting public money but there are two reasons why it has to happen.
“The first is that we live in a civilised society where everybody has the right to a fair trial and everybody who is in court over a serious offence is given Legal Aid.
“Secondly, if Black didn’t have Legal Aid then he himself would be cross-examining all the witnesses, including parents of victims, which would be just abhorrent.
“While there is great distaste when public money is given to people like Black, the bottom line is that the consequences of not doing it is far worse.”
McBride added the total cost of the five-week trial could top £2million.
He said: “When you count up the costs of solicitors, prosecution, the judge, the court, the jurors’ expenses and security, this trial would easily cost upwards of £2million.”
A spokeswoman for the NI Legal Services Commission said: “The Commission processes payment in keeping with statutory schemes established to regulate the remuneration of all criminal Legal Aid cases.”
Lyn Costello, of Mothers Against Murder And Aggression, said: “This is a massive amount of money and normally I think the sentence given should reflect the costs that have been run up.
“In Black’s case this won’t apply because he is never going to be released.
“He shouldn’t be allowed an appeal. It’s going to cost thousands more – it’s a total waste of money.”
What is price of justice?
The government has admitted there are strong arguments in favour of making criminals pay towards their court costs. It came after a string of notorious killers and other offenders claimed taxpayers’ cash for trials and appeals – helping push the Legal Aid bil in Scotland to £161million last year.
Tobin racked up bills of £350,000 during his trials for the murders of Polish student Angelika Kluk and Vicky Hamilton, 15, and Dinah McNicol, 18.
It cost £109,300 to pay for the defence in his trial for killing Angelika in 2006.
His defence costs in the Vicky trial totalled £192,502, while in England, Tobin ran up £40,757 in his trial at Chelmsford Crown Court for murdering Dinah.
Limbs-in-the-Loch killer Beggs has cost the taxpayer £1million in a nine-year battle to get out of jail.
He is serving a 20-year minimum sentence for killing Barry Wallace, 18, then dumping his limbs and torso in Loch Lomond, and his head in the sea. He has failed in a string of court actions paid for with Legal Aid – including 17 procedural hearings and a two-week appeal.
Webster is launching a legal bid at taxpayers’ expense to return a headstone to the grave of the wife he killed.
The family of Claire Morris succeeded in getting the monument, commissioned by Webster, put into storage.
But the ex-nurse – convicted of killing Claire, 32, in 1994 – is battling to get the stone reinstated. He’s applied for Legal Aid.
Mitchell, who murdered girlfriend Jodi Jones, 14, in 2003, has run up bills of more £112,000 during five appeals.
The first, in 2005, left the taxpayer with a £78,609 bill, while an appeal against his 20-year sentence cost £10,312. He lost another appeal in 2008. It cost £22,838.
Earlier this year, Lord Hamilton refused to allow Mitchell to appeal using the Cadder Ruling, which took away Scots cops’ right to quiz suspects without a lawyer.