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Cody the dog: Fury as taxpayers foot £16,000 legal bill for two thugs involved in setting fire to pet

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Pet collie Cody

Pet collie Cody

Andrew Stewart was jailed earlier this month for setting fire to pet collie Cody two years ago

Andrew Stewart was jailed earlier this month for setting fire to pet collie Cody two years ago

Jamie Downey was jailed earlier this month for setting fire to pet collie Cody two years ago

Jamie Downey was jailed earlier this month for setting fire to pet collie Cody two years ago

Pet collie Cody

Two thugs involved in setting fire to a defenceless dog were handed more than £16,000 from the taxpayer as they tried to escape justice.

Andrew Stewart and Jamie Downey were jailed last month over their roles in the death of Cody the dog.

The attack, described by a judge as evil and vile, sparked outrage across Northern Ireland.

It has now emerged that Stewart and Downey - who denied their guilt for two years - were each handed £8,000 in legal aid to fund their defence.

The total legal aid bill for the case was £16,734.

The figure was released by Justice Minister David Ford following an Assembly question from DUP MLA Lord Morrow.

Cody's owner Natalie Agnew said she was angered by the cost.

"It is disgusting that taxpayers have been left to foot the bill for Cody's killers," she said.

"It is a real shock, it is a disgrace because they knew for two years and allowed the case to drag on and on.

"All the time others were paying for it."

According to figures released by Mr Ford, the final cost of Stewart's legal aid was £8,330. The 23-year-old, from Meadowfield Court in Aghalee, eventually admitted causing Cody unnecessary suffering.

A further £8,404 was spent on Downey's defence. He pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice after lying about the pair's movements.

Cody had to be put to sleep two weeks after she was set on fire by Stewart, who poured flammable liquid over her, which he then ignited.

Her injuries were so severe that, despite intensive veterinary treatment, she had to be put down.

The pair's trial had heard how, in August 2012, Cody "attached" herself to Stewart and Downey as they walked off the effects of alcohol after a party the evening before.

Part of their circuit took them past the Agnew home, and as Stewart and Downey continued, Cody followed them along a railway line and to a quarry.

After initially playing a game of fetch with the dog, at some stage Downey (23), from Chestnut Hall Avenue, Moira, turned away to urinate, heard a yelp and turned to see Stewart with a plastic petrol can.

After her coat was set on fire, Cody escaped and returned home. So severe were her injuries that when the Agnews first saw the dog, they didn't realise it was Cody. Despite their guilt, both denied their involvement for two years. During the second day of the trial, Downey pleaded guilty to lying about his and Stewart's movements.

Background

Cody, a three-year-old Collie dog, was put to sleep in September 2012, two weeks after she was doused in petrol and set alight. Last month Andrew Stewart was jailed for 10 months after admitting animal cruelty. Jamie Downey was given a six-month term, half of which to be spent in prison, for perverting the course of justice.

Belfast Telegraph