The mother of a man killed in a brutal knife attack in Dundee has hit out at the “shocking” level of legal aid given to his killer.
Speaking exclusively to the Tele, Gary McMillan’s mum Moira – whose son was killed by Arran Fender in May 2017 – claims the victims’ families are forgotten during the justice process.
Gary was stabbed repeatedly by Fender who was found guilty of culpable homicide after a trial.
A freedom of information (FOI) request revealed Fender received £43,729.28 in legal aid.
Moira said she was shocked by the amount of legal aid granted to her son’s killer and believes those who reoffend shouldn’t be given such support.
She said: “I do understand you’re innocent until proven guilty but for someone like him who had a history and three previous convictions for knife crime, it’s a public safety thing – that money shouldn’t be spent on someone like him.
“I think the Legal Aid Board should take that into consideration when someone is accused of another crime. It’s public money and I just think it’s shocking that people like that get that level of defence.
“To me, he’s a coward anyway. Gary’s injuries were horrific.”
Since the end of the trial, Moira has approached Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to voice her disappointment at how Fender’s trial was handled.
She said she was forced to relive the whole ordeal of losing her son during the trial.
Moira believes there should be a change in how families are treated during such trials which involve the death of a loved one.
She said: “Although the police family liaison officers and Victim Support were really good, the criminal justice system doesn’t take into account the devastating effect a trial has on the family.
“People have been asking for changes to the process for a long time but nothing has happened. It was like I had lost Gary again.”
Moira believes there has to be more monitoring of criminals, especially once they have served their sentences.
She added: “Even though Fender was sentenced to 12 years in court, he and others like him should have a licence put on them for life.
“Exclusion zones could even be set up. If he comes back into the city, how do you think I’m going to feel if I walk round the corner and he’s there? I’d feel like leaving Dundee.
“I just think he’s getting all he wants in prison apart from freedom while I have to go and visit my son’s grave. It’s shocking.”
The figures from the FOI submitted by the Tele reveal almost £250,000 has been spent on legal aid for the perpetrators of some of the area’s worst crimes in recent times.
Here we look at some of those offenders, the crimes they committed and the value of legal aid they obtained:
Dundee man Arran Fender was given a 12-year sentence for the killing of Gary McMillan, 44, in February last year.
A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found him guilty of killing Mr McMillan following a fight at the junction of Lawton Road and Lawton Terrace in May 2017.
Fender and Mr McMillan were described as “friends” by the deceased’s 22-year-old daughter Brogan but they had fallen out months before her father’s death.
Fender repeatedly stabbed Mr McMillan during the altercation.
He was on trial for murder but was later found guilty of a lesser charge of culpable homicide following a 10-day trial.
Earlier this week he was found not guilty of an attack on prison guards while awaiting his murder trial.
Fender obtained £43,729.28 in legal aid to defend himself.
In 2017, Aldis Minakovskis was found guilty of stabbing 34-year-old Aigars Upenieks to death on Thurso Crescent, Menzieshill, in December 2015.
The pair, both originally from Latvia, had ended up in a drunken fight in which Minakovskis stabbed the dad of five three times.
The two men were best friends and had travelled to Scotland together just months before.
Minakovskis stood trial for murder but was found guilty on a reduced charge of culpable homicide and received a sentence of 13 years and eight months.
But in May 2017, less than two years after the incident, Minakovskis had his sentence cut by more than a third.
He had claimed he’d grabbed the knife to protect himself as he came to blows with Mr Upenieks. He was awarded £38,645.46 to cover the legal costs of the trial.
Drug addict John Styles killed Dutch artist Jeroen Van Neijhof in Stobswell last year.
The stabbing came just 38 days after Styles had been granted bail for carrying heroin and an offensive weapon.
Mr Van Neijhof was battered and stabbed to death by Styles on Brown Constable Street on May 23.
The pair had met outside the Co-op on Albert Street and had gone back to the flat just yards away where they took ketamine and MDMA.
Things turned sour when Styles – who had taken drugs from the age of 14 – asked his Dutch victim for heroin.
After becoming enraged that there was none in the flat, Styles battered Mr Van Neijhof on the head and stabbed him 19 times.
Styles pleaded guilty to murder at the High Court in Edinburgh and was sentenced to life in prison.
He was awarded £10,451.65 in legal aid.
Rapist Mark Arnott, 37, caused his victim to suffer panic attacks and suicidal thoughts after his assault on the city’s West Henderson Wynd in November 2017.
The rape was committed just 20 days after he had been released from prison for robbery.
Arnott admitted carrying out the attack on his 18-year-old victim at the High Court in Glasgow last year.
He was jailed for nine and a half years in July as well as being put on the sex offenders register and placed on licence for four years after his release from prison.
He appealed against his sentence last year and appeared via video link at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh to fight his case.
But in October last year, he abandoned his appeal.
Arnott was given £11,649.16 in legal aid.
Shadow Justice Secretary Liam Kerr admitted the system can represent an issue for taxpayers – as well as victims and their families who see the figures involved in representing the accused.
The North East MSP said: “Even when someone has been convicted of heinous crimes by a sheriff and jury, seemingly nothing can stop them spending the same amount on appeals.
“Most will rightly be denied – but again, enough are granted to make this a real problem for the taxpayer – and a source of anguish for victims and their families.”
A Legal Aid Board spokesman said: “Legal aid is paid to solicitors to ensure that an accused person, including those eventually convicted of a serious crime, is professionally represented in court so the justice system can operate properly and fairly for all concerned.
“While certain high-profile criminal cases attract attention, legal aid allows large numbers of often vulnerable people to get help with their legal problems.”
Tomorrow on the Tele website, we look at the cases of double-killer Robert Stratton, rapist Brian McTaggart – who received the highest of any of the criminals in our study – as well as a pair of murderers who obtained almost £60,000 between them after launching a brutal attack on a Dundee dad, stabbing him 13 times and hitting him with a baseball bat.