Murdered man’s widow brands £1m plus legal aid bill as ‘sickening’
TAXPAYERS have been left to foot a legal aid bill of well over £1 million awarded to four Dungannon men who were found guilty of various offences in connection with the murder of father-of-three, Eamonn Hughes, the Tyrone Times can reveal.
Although all four defendants - Martin Murray, Liam Murray, Kevin Toye and William McDonagh - were charged with murdering Mr Hughes as he made his way home from his daughter’s 18th birthday party in September 2008, only one of them, Martin Murray, from Windmill Drive in the town, was found guilty of the charge.
Liam Murray, from Windmill Court, Toye, from Windmill Drive, and McDonagh, from Kew Gardens in Ballymena, were convicted of affray in relation to the incident, with Toye also found guilty of attempting to murder two women who were rendering first aid to a dying Mr Hughes.
Following a Freedom of Information request to the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission, the Times can reveal that, for hearings at Magistrates and Crown Court level for each of the four defendants, the final total legal aid bill came to some £1,148,252.43.
That bill also includes legal aid awarded to a fifth man, Kevin Murray, 41, formerly from Lisnahull Gardens, who was acquitted of attempting to murder Eamonn Hughes’ son, also called Kevin, with a crossbow on the night of September 13, 2008.
Mr Hughes’ widow, Eileen, described the amount of legal aid awarded to the five men as “sickening” and called for an overhaul of the court system which has also allowed Martin Murray, Liam Murray, Kevin Toye and William McDonagh to be financially supported in appealing their cases.
“It’s just sickening, because even though Martin Murray was found guilty of murder, he wants it reduced to manslaughter even though he admitted sticking a knife in Eamonn”, Mrs Hughes told the Times.
“And when he (Murray) doesn’t get that, he now wants to be out of prison before his 18 year sentence is up. I would love to have Eamonn back in 18 years, but that’s never going to happen for me.
“The legal aid system is all a money racket, and the amount of money given out in this case is disgusting when there are other services like health or education which could be doing with it.”
Eileen Hughes has also revealed how a barrister appointed to defend her husband’s murderer was flown in from England and provided with accommodation at one of Belfast’s top hotels.
“I still have to go out and do my day’s work every day but these boys (defendants) haven’t worked a day in their lives”, Mrs Hughes continued.
“This is where taxpayers’ money is going to, it is just about milking the system.
“There has to be questions asked about how somebody who murders another person is allowed to get an appeal even though they admitted putting a knife in that person.
“Why is it okay for that person to say, ‘Yes, I did stick a knife in another person, but I didn’t mean it’?
“At the end of the day, Eamonn Hughes is not on this earth any more because of what Martin Murray did. Me and my children have to live with that. I am angry and disgusted at the amount of legal aid given out in this case.
“And the worst thing of all is that our nightmare is still ongoing because although Martin Murray and Kevin Toye were turned down in their grounds for appeal case, they are now appealing their convictions. The system is all wrong, but the sickening thing is that they (defendants) are allowed to do it.”
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