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Solicitors ordered to repay £795,000 received for legal aid work

A High Court judge has ordered a firm of solicitors to repay around £800,000 of taxpayers' money it had been given for legal aid work.

Lord Chancellor Michael Gove sued Charles Ete & Co after officials responsible for legal aid payments raised concerns about the firm's "billing practices" - and asked for repayment of more than £795,000.

Charles Ete & Co denied wrongdoing and disputed Mr Gove's claim.

But Mr Justice Holgate has ruled in favour of Mr Gove after a High Court hearing in London.

Officials had terminated legal aid contracts the firm had relating to family and criminal work, the judge had heard.

Auditors' reports had contained "serious criticisms" of the firm's billing practices and officials said bosses had failed to "provide adequate information", he was told.

A spokesman for the Legal Aid Agency, which makes decisions about the provision of legal aid, said later: "We are pleased that the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Holgate confirmed the right under contract and case law for the Legal Aid Agency to recover payments made on account where solicitors fail to report on cases, or bill claims promptly."

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