Legal aid payment of £7m for lawyers in terror trial

Costs revealed after five men were convicted in 2007 of fertiliser bomb plot
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The Independent Online

Lawyers who defended the men prosecuted for a plot to kill thousands of innocent people using massive fertiliser bombs were paid £7.16m in legal aid, it emerged last night.

The 2007 trial was one of the biggest in British legal history and followed raids by the Metropolitan Police across London and the Home Counties. The judge described five of the men convicted for their part in the foiled terror attack t as ruthless and devious misfits who had betrayed their country of birth.

The Operation Crevice case was one of the biggest terrorism trials in British legal history. It lasted more than a year and the jury took a record 27 days to reach a verdict. The case was unprecedented in its nature and volume of evidence, including 3,644 witness statements and 105 prosecution witnesses. Omar Khyam, the ringleader of the British terrorist cell, and his accomplices planned to use the 600kg bomb on targets such as the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent or the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.

Jailing them all for life, Mr Justice Astill said they were "cruel and ruthless misfits who should be removed from society for its own protection".

A spokesman for the Legal Services Commission said: "Of the seven defendants tried in relation to Operation Crevice, five were convicted of criminal offences and two were acquitted. The cost of the defence for the trial was £7.16m."

He added: "The decision to grant legal aid in criminal cases is made by the court after applying an 'interests of justice test', which considers a number of factors, including whether an individual is likely to lose their liberty and the complexity of the case. The court applies the test objectively."

The judge described Khyam, 25 at the time of the trial, as "ruthless, devious, artful and dangerous". He gave warning that he and the others may never be released from prison. Khyam had spoken with "enthusiasm and pleasure of the slaughter of non-believers", the judge said.

"You took full advantage of the benefits free society had to offer. You exploited the freedoms you sought to destroy with such evil purpose. You betrayed the country that's given you every advantage in life."

The LSC said: "Following the court's decision to grant funding, the Legal Services Commission then managed the seven cases under special contract arrangements.

"These arrangements ensure that work undertaken by defence teams is effectively planned and costs are controlled throughout the case."

Six firms of solicitors were involved in representing the seven defendants. They were paid the following totals, which include the fees paid to the barristers who provided the advocacy in court and experts' fees.

The firms are: Imran Khan & Partners, £2.019m; Christian Khan, £1.782m; Birnberg Peirce & Partners, £1.504m, McCormacks, £1.206m; Tuckers, £377,000; Arani & Co, £273,000. The defendants, who were originally represented by Tuckers and Arani & Co, transferred to the other firms during the case.