Belfast Telegraph

£60k bill for aborted murder trial

Cost revealed after jurors in laundrette death case went out to get chips

By Adrian Rutherford

A murder trial which collapsed after three jurors popped out for a takeaway has left the taxpayer with a £60,000 bill.

The case of laundrette killer Fred McClenaghan was in its 10th day when it was aborted by the judge.

He took the decision after learning that the three had left the court at lunch to get chips - which is strictly against the rules of jury service. It has now emerged that the bill for the aborted trial has topped £58,000. The figure was released by the Justice Minister after an Assembly question from Lord Morrow. The DUP peer said it was a shocking waste of money at a time when public services were facing severe cutbacks.

"Yet again the public will be left wondering just how their money is being spent," he said. The trial in question ran between September 17 and 30.

It was the second time McClenaghan was before a jury after his first conviction for Marion Millican's murder was ruled unsafe.

However, with the retrial in its 10th day, it emerged three jurors had left the court on one of the days to buy chips.

It is understood they complained that no hot food had been available to them throughout the trial.

Sources told this newspaper that weeks earlier a decision had been made to provide sandwiches to jurors in future as a result of budget cuts.

However, jury service guidelines forbid jurors from leaving the building until the case is finished for the day.

When the judge was informed of the matter, he discharged the jury and aborted the trial, wasting several days of evidence.

A breakdown of the cost of the aborted trial, obtained by Lord Morrow, shows £36,311 was spent on legal aid.

Court costs added another £21,616 to the bill, while prosecution costs were £472. Lord Morrow said he had seen little evidence of the efficiencies promised by public bodies.

"I was under the illusion that determined efforts were being made to run things more efficiently, however, when I look at this matter I am left wondering if that is really the case," he added.

"I would like to know what has been done to ensure value for money and ensure the taxpayer isn't always called upon to pay out.

"It doesn't seem to be happening, despite assurances that things would change."

Background

Marion Millican was shot dead in March 2011 at the launderette in the Promenade area of Portstewart where she worked. On July 3, 2012 her former partner, Fred McClenaghan, was convicted of her murder. However, the conviction was quashed on a technicality and a retrial was ordered. After a second trial was aborted, he was convicted of murder for a second time on November 5.

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