Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 16:56 UK

Omagh legal aid bias claim denied

Omagh bomb scene
Twenty-nine people were killed in the Omagh bomb

Two of the men being sued over the Omagh bomb atrocity have lost their appeal against exceptional legal aid being granted to victims' relatives.

Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly accused the Lord Chancellor of bias.

They said a public pledge of financial assistance to the families ahead of any legal authorisation was predetermining the outcome of the legal aid process.

The Court of Appeal ruled it could not be assumed the government had abandoned its fair and independent judgement.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr said: "It is perfectly possible for the government to give a firm pledge in respect of funding and to redeem that pledge by the creation of a statutory framework within which funding may be applied for but whose grant is not guaranteed.


"There is no reason to reject the unequivocal statements made on behalf of the Lord Chancellor that this application was subjected to the scrutiny that had been presaged by his guidance."

The ruling came during a summer recess in the civil trial, which resumes hearing evidence in Belfast and Dublin in September.

While no-one has been convicted of the atrocity, some families are suing the men they believe were involved in the attack for more than 10m.

Funding of more than 800,000 was made available to allow the civil action to proceed.

Alleging bias, legal representatives for the two men also argued that the Lord Chancellor had become so closely associated with attempts to secure legal financing that he should have been automatically disqualified from the decision-making process.

Rejecting the claims, Sir Brian stated: "Put simply, there is no reason to suppose that, just because he had previously supported the view that the families should be assisted in this way, he would fail to examine the application scrupulously as he had said in his guidance it would be."

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