A FATHER whose daughter died at the hands of the so-called Suffolk Strangler has reacted angrily to reports that the serial killer received almost half a million pounds to fight his case.
Brian Clennell, of Spittal in Berwick, whose daughter Paula, 24, was one of five women murdered by Steve Wright in Ipswich, says the amount of public money spent on defending the killer was “ridiculous and unjustifiable”.
Paula, who was born and grew up in Berwick and is now buried there, was killed by Wright while she was living and working as a prostitute in Suffolk in December 2006.
Wright – who earned the name the Suffolk Strangler – was sentenced to life in prison in 2008 for the murders of Paula, Gemma Adams, 25, Tania Nicol, 19, Anneli Alderton, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29. He was found guilty after a six-week trial.
His sentence means he is one of only a handful of prisoners whose crimes were so heinous they have been told they must spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Reports claim that information from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) showed that at least £444,220 was spent in legal aid on Wright’s defence, prior to his conviction for the five murders.
It was made up of £306,000 to a London law firm, £128,000 to his legal team – including almost £81,000 to the barrister who represented him in court – and various additional costs.
Mr Clennell, 63, a former engineer, has described Paula as a sweet and gentle girl who loved life. He said: “How can they justify such a huge amount when everybody else is on the breadline? There seems to be one rule for rich lawyers and another rule for the rest of us. It is just getting ridiculous.”
The LSC said the total spent on Wright’s defence may be even higher because of the system used to record payment information. The LSC said clients’ names may be recorded in different formats, and there was a small risk that some payments may not be picked up. It says the Government has reduced the legal aid fees paid to senior barristers in the most complex cases by more than 10% since 2008.
A Crown Court means testing scheme was introduced in 2010 to ensure that well-off defendants pay their fair share towards the costs of their defence.
Last month it was revealed that the legal aid bill for terror suspect Abu Qatada stands at more than £500,000 and is still rising.
As of December 5, the LSC had paid out £515,778, said Justice Minister Jeremy Wright in a written parliamentary answer.
Steve Wright launched an appeal against his conviction in 2009, only to drop it. He then made a second appeal, which was thrown out by the courts.
Last month it was claimed he is planning a third challenge.