Derry solicitor comes off record

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The escalating row over cuts in legal aid has reached the local magistrates court and one defence solicitor has suggested justice minister David Ford represent his client.

Solicitor Kevin Casey made the suggestion as his client, 34-year-old Patrick Cathal Fullerton, was returned for trial at the city’s crown court.

Fullerton, of Lisneal, is charged with possessing class A and class C drugs on February 4, last year. At a preliminary enquiry, the 34-year-old declined to say anything in answer to the charges and was returned for arraignment at the crown court on May 11. The solicitor then applied to withdraw his services in the case.

He told the court: “At this stage I would normally apply for a defence certificate for counsel. Because of the recent changes to crown court legal aid I will be applying to come off record.”

Mr Casey added: “I regret leaving Mr Fullerton without representation but perhaps the ex social worker who presides over the Ministry of Justice can represent him as he thinks that appearing in the crown court is a simple, straightforward matter.”

Solicitors across Northern Ireland have withdrawn from new criminal cases after their standard legal aid fees were slashed by 25%. The revised fee structure, introduced by the justice minister, has been met with opposition since it came into force on April 13.