Jack Shepherd leaving the Old Bailey
Speedboat killer Jack Shepherd should have his legal aid cut off until he returns to face justice, a Cabinet minister said last night.
James Brokenshire said it was ‘astonishing’ that fugitive Shepherd is receiving legal aid in order to lodge an appeal against a six-year sentence for killing 24-year-old Charlotte Brown.
The Housing Secretary’s dramatic intervention comes a day after Theresa May told the runaway to give himself up to police and called the case ‘shocking’.
Mr Brokenshire, a former lawyer, rounded on Shepherd’s solicitors for refusing to co-operate with police in their hunt for the callous killer, saying their attitude was ‘surprising, at best’.
He has been involved in the ‘appalling’ case since 2016, when he was contacted by Charlotte’s father Graham, who lives in his Old Bexley and Sidcup constituency in south-east London.
Mr Brokenshire said he wanted to see Shepherd, 31, ‘behind bars’, adding: ‘He has shown utter contempt for the family... and utter contempt for the justice process itself.
‘He is literally sticking two fingers up to justice. That is just unacceptable. It is right that all police and other resources are deployed to see he is brought to justice.’
The Daily Mail has offered a £25,000 reward for information leading to Shepherd’s capture – a move Mr Brokenshire said had been ‘very helpful’ in the international manhunt.
Charlotte was killed in December 2015 on a date with Shepherd, who took her for a spin in his speedboat on the Thames in London while drunk. She died when his boat flipped over at high speed.
Shepherd, who is also wanted for allegedly glassing a Devon pub barman in the face in a separate incident, has already run up a legal aid bill totalling almost £100,000.
ack Shepherd had been trying to impress 24-year-old Charlotte Brown after meeting her on dating website OkCupid
Justice Secretary David Gauke has asked officials to look at whether to close an apparent loophole in the law that allows criminals to claim public money to appeal against convictions while they are on the run.
Mr Brokenshire, a former Home Office minister, said there was a clear case for action.
‘I think it is astonishing that legal aid could continue to be provided to someone for effectively a challenge to a criminal prosecution against which he has fled and against which he is now seeking to appeal, which has caused huge upset to the family,’ he said.
Calling for a change in the law, he added: ‘These are very specific circumstances. Legal aid to protect a right of appeal is one thing.
‘But then advancing that appeal when you are not even prepared to face the judgment of the court that has been handed down, not prepared to hand yourself in – to try to game the system in some way. I think that is unacceptable.
‘Therefore, I think there are specific circumstances here that do require us to review, and I believe change, the practice which sits around the legal aid system.’
Police said that Shepherd's speedboat, which he used to impress his date, had several defects
Shepherd’s solicitor Richard Egan stunned Charlotte’s family this week when he declared he would give no help to police in helping to trace their daughter’s killer.
Mr Egan, a senior partner with Tuckers Solicitors, told ITV News: ‘He is entitled to contact his lawyer. I have a duty to act in his best interests. I’m not part of the police – it’s not my duty to dob him in or say what I know about him. Interactions with Mr Shepherd are privileged.’
Mr Brokenshire said Mr Egan’s response was ‘surprising, at best’ and urged him to search his conscience.
He said that even if the firm did not know Shepherd’s location, it may hold information, such as electronic data, which could give the police vital clues in the hunt for the killer, who is thought to have fled abroad.
The minister added: ‘I really commend the Mail for the work it’s been doing.
‘Shining a light on this case, and the reward, are important in helping keep the focus we need on bringing him to justice.’
Jack Shepherd reward
DAILY MAIL Reward: Terms and Conditions
You must not do anything dangerous, or that would put yourself or others at risk.
The Daily Mail’s offer of a total reward of £25,000 (twenty five thousand pounds) is for information provided to police which leads to the arrest of Jack Shepherd and him serving his sentence, and is subject to the following terms and conditions and will only be payable in accordance with them.
1. To be eligible to claim the reward, you must have provided information to police which leads to the arrest and imprisonment of Jack Shepherd. You must be over 18, a UK resident, and you must be the person who provided the information to the police.
2. If more than one person provides information that fully meets these criteria, the reward will be divided equally between the claimants.
3. The following people are not eligible to claim the reward or any part of it: (i) anyone who in the reasonable belief of the Daily Mail has any foreknowledge of or involvement in the crime (ii) any accomplice, and (iii) serving police officers, or civilians working with or for the police, or any emergency services (iv) staff of Associated Newspapers Ltd (publisher of the Daily Mail, MailOnline and The Mail on Sunday).
4. If the suspect voluntarily surrenders to anyone for any reason the reward will not be payable.
5. The offer of reward will, unless renewed by the Daily Mail, automatically terminate on 1 April 2019.
6. The conditions set out hereunder are subject to variation only by the Daily Mail who will, at all times, have the final decision over the terms and conditions, and payment of the reward. The Daily Mail may vary these terms and conditions if it is reasonable or necessary to do so.
7. No payment(s) will be made until the Editor of the Daily Mail has received confirmation from police (or other competent authority) as to the legitimacy of the claim(s) to the reward. Finally, payment of the reward will be at the sole discretion of the Editor of the Daily Mail.
The conditions are subject to English law and the jurisdiction of the English courts.
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