Belfast Telegraph

Sectarian gang trial after death of Catholic Kevin McDaid cost taxpayer £1.8m

By Chris Kilpatrick

The trial of a sectarian gang following the death of a Catholic community worker cost the public purse more than £1.8m, it has been revealed.

Kevin McDaid (49) died after he was set on outside his Coleraine home in May 2009.

His friend Damien Fleming, also badly beaten during the attack, clung to life for four weeks afterwards and now requires constant supervision.

Nine men were jailed for their part in what a judge described as an ugly sectarian attack fuelled by alcohol that resulted in the death of the father-of-four.

They were sent to trial for manslaughter and attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to lesser offences.

The men were sentenced more than five years after the incident.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who inquired about the costs of the legal action, said he believed the overall sum may be much higher.

"The end result of the investigation was that there were those against whom there were no successful prosecutions," he said.

"Then there were those who faced reduced charges and there was a very small number who were charged and convicted on serious charges. But given the extent of time and resource was spent I think many people will say the public purse came under very significant strain for very little end result. Hopefully lessons can be learned."

Justice Minister David Ford revealed the estimated cost of the men's trial was more than £1.8m. That included more than £1.6m of legal aid, £124,000 prosecution fees and more than £30,000 on court costs.

"Significantly, in addition to the £1.8m, there are no costs disclosed in terms of police resources in preparation for the trials," Mr Campbell added.

"I have no doubt, given the thousands of hours put in by numerous police officers, that in addition to the amounts disclosed that the true cost is well in excess of £2m."

Mr Ford said it was hard to put exact figures on such cases.

He added: "In the absence of detailed records of time spent on individual cases it is not possible to produce precise or even average costs for a particular case.

"Some costs are identifiable however, for example the fees paid to prosecuting counsel and expenses paid to witnesses and expert witnesses.

"It is not possible to quantify the associated PSNI costs in respect of investigation, prosecution and trial as a breakdown of expenditure is not recorded in a readily accessible manner."

Trouble flared following matches involving Rangers and Celtic when a group of up to 40 loyalists arrived in the Heights area of the town to remove tricolours which had been erected.

Last July, nine men were handed sentences which ranged from six months to eight-and-a-half years for a series of offences.

Theses included GBH, assault, intimidation and affray. Two men were given suspended sentences for affray, while another was given probation for his conviction for threats to harm.

Mr McDaid and Mr Fleming were said to have been kicked when they were on the ground, and weapons were used during the vicious assault.

Mr McDaid had an underlying heart defect, and while the trial judge acknowledged he could have had a cardiac arrest at any time, he said the events of May 24 "undoubtedly brought on a heart attack".

All the men jailed will serve half of their term in custody, with the remaining sentence served on supervised licence when they are released from prison.

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