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Fees dispute solicitor stops working for vulnerable client

A mental health patient is set to go on trial for harassment without legal representation after his lawyer stopped work as part of the escalating dispute over cuts in fees.

Solicitor Eoghan McKenna described his decision to come off record for Daniel Lowry as his “worst case yet” since the row about legal aid payments began.

Mr Lowry (23), of Lenadoon Avenue, Belfast, faces one charge of harassing a woman between January 2008 and March 2009.

The accused is now an in-patient at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim, under mental health legislation.

Two nurses accompanied him as he appeared before the city's Magistrates Court.

A judge granted a prosecution application to have him returned for Crown Court trial on a date to be fixed.

Mr Lowry was released on bail back into the care of the health authority.

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His solicitor also confirmed that he was coming off record as part of the legal aid dispute and asked the court to note the accused's vulnerability.

The action by lawyers is over new rules by Justice Minister David Ford which bring an end to enhanced rates paid out in ‘Very High Cost Cases'.

Mr Lowry has now become the latest defendant sent for Crown Court trial who faces the prospect of having no legal representation.

Mr McKenna added: “The ongoing dispute in relation to the Crown Court system is bad enough, but when it's affecting particularly vulnerable defendants it's all the more worrying.

“This is a very tragic case.”

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