Cutting speedboat killer Jack Shepherd’s legal aid could encourage other criminals to flee Britain, says Justice Secretary David Gauke
- David Gauke said there criminals would be given incentive to flee the country
- He argued if they were not granted legal aid they would not be given a fair trial
- Jack Shepherd is fighting extradition to the UK and paying Georgian legal team
Justice Secretary David Gauke said stopping Jack Shepherd’s legal aid could encourage more criminals to flee the UK
Stopping speedboat killer Jack Shepherd’s legal aid could encourage more criminals to flee the UK and evade justice, an MP has warned.
Jack Shepherd, who killed 24-year-old Charlotte Brown, while drunkenly showing off in his speedboat on the Thames, fled the country before standing trial because he was ‘too cowardly’ to face her family in court.
He was convicted in his absence and sentenced to six years.
Despite being on the run, he was awarded thousands of pounds in legal aid to appeal.
There was public outcry that a convicted killer, who did not attend his court case, was able from his hiding place to take taxpayers’ money to stage a second hearing.
The Justice Secretary last month ordered an investigation into the loophole.
But he has now said that denying the convicted killer tens of thousands of pounds in legal aid could lead to other criminals leaving the country ahead of their trial.
He claims criminals who flee and are subsequently denied legal aid may not bother to return to the UK if they had no rights to appeal their case.
The web designer (pictured in court at an emergency extradition meeting yesterday) has started learning Georgian in his prison cell and claims he hopes he can persuade his estranged wife to join him in the former Soviet state with their child
Shepherd’s wife disowned him after discovering he was on an internet date with Charlotte Brown, 24, (pictured) when he killed her in his speedboat on the Thames
Mr Gauke told Christopher Hope’s ‘Chopper’s Brexit Podcast’: ‘Some years ago it was relatively rare to try a defendant in their absence, so if someone went on the run there would be no trial.
‘And that is a very unsatisfactory situation because the family of the victim get no closure or justice.
‘For the courts to try somebody in their absence, they rightly are going to be confident that there is a fair trial and that includes proper representation … and also rights to appeal.
‘This is why it is not quite straightforward – if you say ‘if you fled the country you get no legal aid’, would they be able to get a fair trial, would they have fair appeal rights?
‘If the answer to that is no, then the fear is simply in cases like this he would not be tried.
‘So it is an incentive to flee the country but also the people who lose out are the victims or the families of the victims.’
Prosecutors had wanted Shepherd (pictured on January 29) to be extradited quickly to Britain
After ten months on the run and following a Daily Mail campaign, Shepherd turned himself in to the Tbilisi authorities last week.
The web designer has started learning Georgian in his prison cell and claims he hopes he can persuade his estranged wife to join him in the former Soviet state with their child.
Shepherd’s wife disowned him after discovering he was on an internet date with Charlotte Brown, 24, when he killed her in his speedboat on the Thames.
His bid to achieve Georgian citizenship will not be granted immediately, however.