Vast ma­jor­ity of Bri­tons say on-the-run crim­i­nals should NOT get le­gal aid

Daily Mail - - News - By Sam Green­hill Chief Re­porter

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.

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