Disabled man's wheelie bin death among 10 murder cases facing delay due to legal strike in Northern Ireland
A disabled man left to die in a wheelie bin and a young father stabbed to death on his way home from a party are among hundreds of victims whose families are being forced to wait for justice because of striking lawyers.
At least 10 brutal murder cases have stalled because of the eight month dispute between the legal profession and the Justice Minister over pay.
Almost 600 criminal cases have been directly affected by the legal aid dispute.
Among the most disturbing criminal cases currently on hold is that of 40-year-old Owen Creaney, a "vulnerable" disabled man who was viciously beaten and dumped - still alive - into a wheelie bin in July 2014. Police believe he may have been in the bin at the back of a house in Craigavon for several days before he was found.
Others include that of 61-year-old grandmother Pauline Carmichael, whose body was discovered at Lough Shore Park in Antrim two days after she disappeared from her home and father-of-one Kyle Neil (23) who was stabbed multiple times after he left a party in Comber and his body dumped in the boot of a car.
The shocking samurai sword murders of UDA man Colin 'Bap' Lindsay (51) and his friend Stan Whiteman (51); the death of Edward Gibson (28) who was gunned down in an alley near Divis Tower, and the shooting of 31-year-old Christopher Mackin, who was shot in Belfast city centre four years ago, have also been put on hold after lawyers refused to represent the suspects.
DUP MLA Paul Givan, who led a Stormont inquiry into the justice system's treatment of victims and witnesses of crime, said it was "outrageous" that victims and their families were being caught up in the pay row.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," said Mr Givan.
"The inquiry we carried out included hearing from victims whose loved ones had been murdered.
"One of the biggest complaints was the delays with cases being dealt with."
He added: "Victims are being caught up in this ongoing industrial dispute between the legal profession and Justice Minister David Ford. It is imperative David Ford sorts this out.
"It is outrageous that families are having their day in court denied to them because of this dispute over pay. It is unacceptable."
Chairman of Stormont's justice committee Alastair Ross said he was "deeply disappointed" that the two disputing parties "have ceased talking to each other".
"I would continue to urge the Department of Justice and legal profession to recommence discussions and find a suitable resolution," the DUP MLA said.
"Legal aid is a vitally important component in a fair justice system, but current levels of spending are not sustainable in the longer term.
"That means there is an imperative on the legal community and the DoJ to work together to find ways of reducing the costs or look at innovative alternatives to current practice."
He added: "Ultimately we need a minister willing to reform the system. The current impasse will simply result in further delays for victims of crime who are seeking justice in the courts, those accused of a crime spending longer in remand, an ever greater backlog of cases and a double hit on the legal aid budget for next year when lawyers begin taking new cases again."
Barristers withdrew from cases in May last year in protest against reduced legal aid payments. The Bar Council said that the cuts meant barristers would not get any money for parts of their work.
Judicial review proceedings were launched by the Bar Council and the Law Society and a legal challenge was heard in September last year.
A High Court judge found that the new rules for legal aid fees do not provide fair pay to defence solicitors in some criminal cases.
However, legal representatives launched an appeal after the High Court refused to quash the rules for legal aid fees.
The outcome of the appeal is expected to be heard next week.
Murder cases still waiting to go to court
Grandmother Pauline Carmichael (61) went missing from her Antrim flat on the evening of February 23, 2015. Her body was discovered by police two days later at Antrim's Lough Shore Park. Alan Norman Foster (37), from Hillside in Antrim, has been charged with her murder.
Edward Gibson (28) was shot in his stomach and thigh in an alley near Divis Tower on October 24, 2014. He died in hospital. Malachy Goodman (57), of Rockmore Road, Belfast, has been charged with his murder.
Colin 'Bap' Lindsay (51), a well-known member of the UDA, and his friend Stan Whiteman (51) were killed in a horrific samurai sword attack at a house in Belfast in July 2015. Albert Armstrong, of Mahee Close, Belfast, has been charged with their murders.
Eamonn Ferguson (35) was found dead in a flat at Ardoyne Place in north Belfast in March 2014. 26-year-old Louis Maguire and 31-year-old Christopher Power have been charged with his murder.
Father-of-one Kyle Neil (23) was stabbed multiple times after he left a party in Comber in April 2015. Wesley Harry Vance from Church Gate Studios in Comber has been charged with murder.
Christopher Mackin (31) was shot up to seven times at College Square North in the centre of Belfast in March 2012. Three members of the same family, including husband and wife Charles and Julie-Ann Valliday, are accused of his murder.
40-year-old Owen Creaney, who was disabled, was viciously beaten and then dumped into a wheelie bin in July 2014. Shauneen Boyle and Stephen Hughes are charged with murder.