Sydney, July 5 : Aussie taxpayers may face a multi-million-dollar legal bill to ensure that "Dr Death" Jayant Patel, of Indian origin, gets a fair trial. Dr Patel is expected to be extradited to Australia from the US by July 21.
Despite being an Indian-born US citizen, Dr Patel can apply for public aid to offset the costs of a potentially lengthy defence against manslaughter charges, said an AAP report.
Earlier, Dr Patel's application for a public defender in the US was rejected after a judge reviewed details of his assets, which were not disclosed. But, legal sources say what remains of the unemployed surgeon's resources will disappear quickly as he prepares from scratch for a committal hearing in Bundaberg at the end of the year.
Family members of Dr Patel's alleged victims are not opposed to Dr Patel getting assistance if it speeds resolution of the case. "You can't compare money to justice. We just need things to move forward. If it's our duty as citizens to provide him with legal aid, so be it. At least he'll be here," the report quoted said Beryl Crosby, head of the Bundaberg Hospital patients' support group, as saying.
Dr Patel's Brisbane solicitor Arun Raniga, a Legal Aid provider, said a request for public assistance would be explored if Dr Patel met the criteria.
Bond University law professor Eric Colvin said he could not think of any reason why Dr Patel would not get legal aid.
Similarly, Gold Coast lawyer Bruce Simmonds said he would be surprised if the Government hadn't already budgeted up to 2.5 million dollars for Dr Patel's defence. He expected Dr Patel would have to pay for his initial legal applications, but then would apply to legal aid or petition the court to pay expenses of 10,000 dollars or more a day.
The case, with appeals, could drag out for years and wind up costing taxpayers 10 million dollars, the report quoted him as saying.