More than £9,000 of taxpayers’ money was used to prosecute a woman acquitted of stealing kitchen repair patches worth £10.18.
The use of the public cash to pursue the prosecution has been branded “scandalous” by a DUP peer.
Ewa Pietrzycka (27) mistakenly put the patches in her pocket while shopping at B&Q, and then found herself in the dock accused of theft.
Ms Pietrzycka, who works as a care assistant, proclaimed her innocence from the start and said it was an accident caused as she was tired and lost concentration.
It can now be revealed the cost of taking Ms Pietrzycka to court amounted to £9,647.35.
She opted for a Crown Court trial after she refused to accept a police caution.
Details of the case costs were obtained by Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Lord Morrow.
He said: “Again the extravagance being displayed by the department when a case like this emerges for a very small amount of money is a disgrace.
“When the taxpayer is covering the costs it is spend, spend, spend.
“If they were paying for it themselves it would certainly not go this far.
“We need an effective, efficient and prudent way to deal with these cases. It’s scandalous. I have no other word to describe it. We need to stop and think about this.”
The breakdown of the cost of bringing a prosecution against Ms Pietrzycka — who was cleared of all charges — reveal the following.
The PPS prosecution costs were £500, and the PSNI prosecution cost came to £714.30.
Court costs amounted to £871.16 and the jury costs were £201.89.
A further £7,140 in expenses was paid out to cover Ms Pietrzycka’s legal fees.
SDLP north Belfast MLA and Justice Committee member Alban Maginness — who is a qualified barrister — said: “It seems to me that at least justice has been done.
“An innocent lady has undergone a trial and ultimately proven her innocence. I think that it is an important result for her and her family, it is also important she maintains her reputation.”
Reflecting on the overall situation Mr Maginness continued: “If common sense had prevailed at the time, this matter would never have come to trial and the taxpayer would have been saved a lot of money.”
Breakdown of costs:
PPS Prosecution: £500
PSNI Prosecution: £714.30
Defence (Legal Aid costs): £7,140
Court — Judiciary, Staff: £871.16
Jury costs: £201.89
Facilities (courtroom): £220