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UUP's Beattie wants legal aid probe after Gerry Adams' £100k bill to overturn escape convictions

Doug Beattie

A unionist MLA has called for a “root and branch” investigation after it emerged the former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams received over £100,000 in legal aid.

Earlier this month, Mr Adams won an appeal to overturn two convictions for attempted prison escapes in the 1970s.

The Supreme Court quashed his convictions because his detention during internment was unlawful.

It was later reported by the Sunday World that the legal aid costs by the time the case reached the Court of Appeal were £106,478 plus VAT.

The costs of the case after it reached the Supreme Court are unknown at this stage.

The Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has now called for an independent examination of the “substantial failings” of legal aid in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein has been asked for a response to Mr Beattie’s comments.

Mr Beattie questioned why Mr Adams was entitled to legal aid when many victims were told they were not.

He said there seemed to be no appetite to challenge “the most generous” legal aid system in the UK.

“The simple truth is that since policing and justice were devolved in 2010 we have never been able to balance our books,” he said.

“The accounts are qualified due to ‘Fraud and Error’ with eye watering amounts of money, including £5.9m of legal aid in 2019, being viewed by the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General as being irregular. And yet nothing is said or done.”

Mr Beattie has now demanded an “external, root and branch, forensic examination” of legal aid provision in Northern Ireland.

The UUP justice spokesman said previously “that if the system allows for Gerry Adams to get legal aid, then that is the system, and so he can avail of it exactly the same as everybody else. My concern is that there are many victims who cannot get legal aid”.

Belfast Telegraph