Belfast Telegraph

Earlier trial fell apart when jurors went out for chips

By Chris Kilpatrick

Robbed of their loving mother-of-four, Marion Millican's family have had to endure more than three years of legal wrangles and court proceedings before finally getting justice.

Relatives, including Mrs Millican's daughter Suzanne, were present throughout every court appearance.

Their relief after numerous setbacks was obvious yesterday.

Fred McClenaghan's second trial was halted after three jurors were found to have left the court at lunchtime to get chips.

When the trial judge was informed he dismissed the entire jury, meaning several days of evidence was wasted.

McClenaghan was charged within days of the March 2011 murder and first went on trial in June 2012.

The following month a jury took just over an hour to convict him.

The subsequent 16-year minimum jail term imposed on the violent woman-beater was branded "too lenient" by Suzanne who said she felt let down by the justice system.

In January of this year the Millican family was faced with re-living their ordeal yet again.

Court of Appeal judges scrapped the conviction and ordered a re-trial after concerns about the exclusion of a defence witness during the trial were voiced by McClenaghan's lawyers.

Mrs Millican's family were in the court to hear the verdict.

In September of this year, McClenaghan went on trial again.

He repeated his previous claims that he had killed Marion by accident, but prosecutors rejected his account of events.

Almost a fortnight into the trial it had to be halted and the jury dismissed. Jurors were found to have left the court to get chips.

It is understood they are said to have 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.

A new jury was sworn in within hours but the blunder was yet another setback for the family and is believed to have cost tens of thousands of pounds to the public purse.

During the latest proceedings, a prosecution forensics expert broke down in tears in the witness box as she revealed that she was taking medication at the first trial.

She said in cross-examination that the medication, both prescribed and unprescribed, had made her "weary, tired and confused'' when she was in the witness box in June 2012.

On her fifth day in the witness box at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, the witness agreed that her evidence at the most recent trial contradicted testimony she gave at the previous trial in 2012.

She admitted that she did not take notes while testing the shotgun in a workshop and also confirmed she had not followed all procedures and protocols on testing the firearm.

The witness confirmed that she had been on sick leave from work at Forensics Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) between January 2012 and June 2012.

She told the jury: "My doctor had advised that I do not take the stand. I was on 10mg of Valium and 30mg of Citalopram.''

At this point the witness broke down in tears and proceedings were adjourned for a short period to allow her to compose herself.

Defence lawyer John McCrudden QC asked if she was aware that an expert, who had formerly worked with her at FSNI, was going to examine the gun while she was on sick leave.

The court heard that the colleague prepared a report in March 2012 in which she said the witness's testing had been done in the "wrong order".

The witness was also asked if she was on medication while giving evidence last month and confirmed she was on 20mgs of Citalopram.

"How long have you been on them?'' she was asked. Witness: "Since I was prescribed it in 2012. "I actually want to come off it. I was looking to come off it after this trial".

After five days in the witness box, Mr Justice Treacy thanked the witness for her evidence and told her she was free to go.

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