Vast majority of Britons say on-the-run criminals should NOT get legal aid
THE vast majority of Britons want to end the scandal of legal aid being granted to on-the-run convicts such as speedboat killer Jack Shepherd.
Some 72 per cent of people would change the law to stop fugitives being eligible for the public money, a poll shows. Only 16 per cent thought they should get legal aid.
Among Conservative voters, the feeling was even stronger, with 85 per cent saying legal aid should be barred from those on the run.
The survey, commissioned by the Daily Mail, reveals significant backing for ministers who have pledged to review the rules.
Shepherd sparked a public outcry by claiming – and getting – legal aid to stage an appeal, despite having absconded from justice. Shepherd fled before his Old Bailey trial and is now on the run from a six-year prison sentence for manslaughter – yet has been granted the right to appeal.
The poll by Survation found that 69 per cent of people believe the courts were wrong to allow him to have an appeal while he is on the run. Only 14 per cent thought it was the right decision. Most people (61 per cent) said on-the-run convicts should be entitled to legal aid – designed to ensure everyone has access to a lawyer – only if they turn themselves in.
The Prime Minister has called it a ‘shocking case’ and said Justice Secretary David Gauke had asked his officials to examine the legal aid rules.
Shepherd has been awarded almost £100,000 in legal aid to pay his solicitor and the barrister who represented him at the trial. His law firm, Tuckers Solicitors, which has so far been paid about £30,000 from the legal aid fund, has refused to help the police find their fugitive client, citing the principle of client confidentiality.
Senior partner Richard Egan said: ‘He is entitled to contact his lawyer. I have a duty to act in his best interests. I’m not part of the police, it’s not my duty to dob him in or say what I know about him. Interactions with Mr Shepherd are privileged.’
The Mail’s opinion poll found that twothirds of people believed Shepherd’s lawyers should be compelled to help find him. And almost half the people surveyed (47 per cent) don’t believe the police are doing enough to find the web designer, who absconded in March last year.
Survation interviewed 1,013 adults online on Thursday and Friday.