A local solicitor has been found not guilty of eight charges of submitting fraudulent legal aid payment application forms to the Legal Services Agency.
On the twelfth day of the trial at Derry Crown Court sitting in Coleraine, the eleven strong jury, following almost three hours of deliberations, returned eight not guilty verdicts, each of them by majorities of ten to one.
The defendant, Damien McDaid (44) from Templegrove, had denied submitting fraudulent legal aid payment application forms to the Legal Services Agency for which he had been paid between £6,000 and £10,000.
He was acquitted of committing the eight offences on various dates between July 2010 and January 2012 when he worked as a sole practitioner specialising in family law matters.
The jury had heard Mr McDaid’s work involved clients from a variety of disadvantaged backgrounds, including domestic abuse victims, troubled children and clients with special needs.
During the trial, it had been alleged by the prosecution that the hours of work claimed by Mr McDaid on a number of legal aid forms were ‘grossly inflated’.
During police interview, Mr McDaid said that his mother, who was his book keeper, had complete control for submitting the forms from his practice. He also said he was “under pressure running a single practice and he said it was a terrible mistake in that he did not realise” the claims were being made.
After the not guilty verdicts were announced by the jury foreman, trial judge Madam Justice Denise McBride thanked the jurors for what she said was the crucial role they had played in the administration of justice.
She then turned to the defendant in the dock and said: “You have been found not guilty by the jury and therefore you are free to leave”.
Commenting after the acquittal, Des Doherty, Mr McDaid’s solicitor, said: “My client is grateful to the judge, the jury and the court for the courtesy extended to him during the course of the trial.
“He is content this nightmare is behind him and now wants to get on with his life and doing what he does best, which is giving the fullest representation that he can to his clients and looking after their needs’.