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Paul Bernardo has won the right to have taxpayers finance the appeal of his murder convictions of Niagara Region teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.

A panel of three Ontario Court of Appeal judges ruled Monday that the public will pay for his court challenge. Bernardo failed in earlier efforts to get the province's legal aid program to fund the appeal, expected to cost more than $40,000 (U.S.).

In 1995, Bernardo was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Miss Mahaffy, 14, and Miss French, 15. He was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for his role in the abduction, sexual torture and slayings of the two girls.

After that trial, Bernardo pleaded guilty to a series of rapes in suburban Toronto and was declared a dangerous offender by the courts, a designation that severely limits his chances for parole after 25 years.

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