NEWS

Nelson Hart's Mr. Big appeals legal bills topped $553K

10/03/2014 06:44 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
The Newfoundland and Labrador government paid more than $553,000 to provide Nelson Hart with private legal counsel that helped overturn a murder conviction, CBC News has learned.

Hart had been convicted of murder in the 2002 drowning deaths of his twin three-year-old daughters at Gander Lake in central Newfoundland. He was cleared in July when the Supreme Court of Canada cracked down on the "Mr. Big" technique that undercover RCMP officers had used against him,

The charges were withdrawn in August, and he was quietly released from custody.

The provincial government paid a total of $553,628, to four different law firms, between 2008 and this year for a variety of lawyers in private practice.

The government paid for Hart's defence because he continually refused to co-operate with legal aid lawyers.

As well, Hart repeatedly fired or parted company with defence lawyers during a long-running appeal of his 2007 conviction.

The evidence in Hart's trial relied heavily on recordings made during an elaborate undercover investigation, in which RCMP officers recruited Hart into what he was led to believe was a criminal organization.

Hart told an undercover officer, posing as the boss of a fictional crime group, that he put his daughters in the lake and allowed them to drown.

Hart's lawyers, in briefings prepared for the Supreme Court of Canada, argued that Hart had a limited education, was impoverished and had had little social contact with others during his life.

The court agreed that the sting had given Hart "an overwhelming incentive to confess — either truthfully or falsely."

The Crown said that without the evidence from the so-called Mr. Big sting, it could not proceed with a new trial.

The Supreme Court decision has already had a ripple effect across the country, with new scrutiny put on similar cases.

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