The father of murdered schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy says he is “disgusted” after it was revealed £350,000 was spent on legal aid for psychopath Robert Black before his conviction for killing the youngster.
The huge sum was given to Black — who was already serving life in prison for killing three other young girls — to pay for lawyers after denying the kidnap and murder of the nine-year-old.
The 64-year-old serial killer was sentenced to another 25 years behind bars last week after being found guilty of the 1981 abduction and killing.
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.
Costs also included £5,000 for a private jet to take him from prison in England to court in Northern Ireland.
On Saturday Jennifer's father, Andy Cardy (62), said: “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 an 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. It is set to rise further still when Black launches an appeal against the conviction.
DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow labelled the figure “a disgrace”.
He said: “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.”
Leading QC Paul McBride said that legal aid was necessary for the judicial process.
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.”
Mr McBride added the total cost of the five-week trial could top £2m.
A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission said: “The Commission processes payment in keeping with statutory schemes established to regulate the remuneration of all criminal legal aid cases.”