Abu Hamza must pay £1m for trial, judge said

abu hamzaBBC News 

Abu Hamza's £220,000 house could now be seized Jailed radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri has been told to pay back more than £1m in legal aid spent defending him against race-hate charges. The cleric was jailed for seven years in February 2006 for soliciting to murder and inciting racial hatred.  

A judge at the Old Bailey said Abu Hamza might not be able to pay, but the decision would allow the Legal Services Commission to seize his assets.  He accused the London-based cleric of lying about his financial interests.  Lord Justice Hughes made the order for the recovery of the full costs of the defence.  

Private school costs  This will allow the Legal Services Commission to apply to seize a £220,000 house in Greenford, west London, which Abu Hamza had claimed belonged to his sister.  

The judge, however, said he did not believe him.  Abu Hamza told the Old Bailey, via video link from prison, that since his disability benefits had been stopped in 2003, he had no assets and no access to money.  He said he had been living off handouts from family and friends.  But the court heard that Abu Hamza, whose wife and six children live in a council house, was still contributing to private school fees of £9,000 a year.   

We must ensure that legal aid is spent on the most vulnerable people in society and those who can afford to pay, do so  Richard Shand, Legal Services Commission  An investigation was carried out by the Legal Services Commission last February after Abu Hamza was ordered to disclose his financial circumstances.  

The judge said that his failure to declare his interest in the Greenford property back then demonstrated that "the story I have been told today is simply not true".  

The court was told that Abu Hamza's defence solicitors were seeking to recover costs of just over £1m but the judge warned that sum could rise.  Legal Services Commission spokesman Richard Shand welcomed the judgement.  

"We must ensure that legal aid is spent on the most vulnerable people in society and those who can afford to pay, do so," he said.  

Abu Hamza, a former preacher at Finsbury Park Mosque, in London, was convicted of 11 of the 15 charges he faced.  During a later appeal that failed, lawyers argued his case had been prejudiced by "unique" world events and a media hate-campaign.   

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