Jodi killer's defence bill costliest in Scots history

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TEENAGE murderer Luke Mitchell has cost the taxpayer more money in legal bills than any other defendant tried on Scottish soil.

Charges from defence lawyers in the case against 17-year-old Mitchell earlier this year reached nearly half a million pounds. The 452,687 sum is the biggest ever paid by taxpayers for a murder trial in Scotland.

And the cost is likely to rise even higher after Mitchell's defence team recently launched a bid to overturn his conviction and sentence.

Mitchell was convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh earlier this year of murdering his 14-year-old girlfriend Jodi Jones. He killed her in a frenzied attack on a woodland path between their homes in Dalkeith, slashing her throat up to 20 times. He then slashed her face and stomach.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that nearly two-thirds of the bill - 290,783 - was paid to counsel, led by veteran lawyer Donald Findlay, QC, while 82,046 was paid to Mitchell's team of solicitors, and the remainder - 79,857 - was classified as other "outlays".

Mr Findlay was hired at a cost of up to 1000 a day to represent Mitchell during the nine-week murder trial.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board said the fees were paid over 2004/05 and the current financial year.

A spokesman said: "These payments make this the most expensive criminal legal aid case."

In August, lawyers put together a 20-page appeal, listing 12 grounds against conviction and one against the length of his sentence. They claim the case against Mitchell was never strong enough.

Following last January's trial, Lord Nimmo Smith ordered that Mitchell serve a minimum of 20 years for what he described as a "truly evil murder".

The trial lasted 42 days - the longest single-accused murder trial in Scottish legal history - but it took the jury just six hours to find Mitchell guilty.

The Lothian and Borders Police investigation that preceded the court case involved 3150 statements from 2237 people, and 2243 items were collected as possible productions in the case. The final report to the procurator fiscal consisted of 26 volumes and around 7200 pages.

Mr Findlay, who became the first Scottish lawyer to claim more than 300,000 for a year's criminal legal aid work in 2003/04, said the case was one of the most complicated and intensive in which he had ever been involved.

"For eight months I spent virtually every waking hour working on the case," he said.

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