Belfast Telegraph

Legal costs 'nearly match payouts'

Almost as much has been paid out in legal costs as compensation to Northern Ireland police hearing loss victims, it has been revealed.

Around 47% of the public bill has been in fees, according to a report received by Sir Reg Empey.

A total of £20 million had been paid in compensation but £18 million spent on litigation.

The former Ulster Unionist leader said: "I am calling for an urgent review of these costs. When we are short of money for health, education and other key front line services I don't see how the public will understand tens of millions going into legal fees."

The figures came from a Department of Justice paper on hearing loss claims, which had been expected in 2007 to cost £60 million.

Up to 20,000 former police officers who served in Northern Ireland before 1990, when new health and safety regulations were introduced, could lodge claims.

Financial pressures have already forced the chief constable to put on hold plans to recruit police community support officers.

Police in Northern Ireland are spending £6 million a year fulfilling their obligations to inquests and inquiries related to the Troubles.

The bill covers staff costs for the PSNI's legacy support unit, computer systems to document old case files and reports, and legal fees.

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