Belfast Telegraph

Top legal aid barrister earned £1m

At least 100 barristers in Northern Ireland were paid more than £100,000 in legal aid fees last year - with the top earning counsel receiving in excess of £1 million.

The £1,070,028 paid to Patrick Lyttle QC, including VAT, was almost double that of the £541,352 paid to the second highest recipient of legal aid funding, Noelle McGrenera QC.

Final place in the top 100 legal aid earners published by the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (NILSC) was Alan Stewart, who was paid £105,323 out of the public pot.

Belfast-based law firm Kevin R Winters topped the list of 100 solicitors practices, receiving almost £2.5 million in legal aid fees.

The £2,439,301 total included VAT and almost £382,000 that was re-distributed to others, such as expert witnesses appearing on behalf of the firm's publicly funded clients.

Not all money paid to barristers and solicitors was necessarily for work carried out last year, as many payments take years to process.

The total legal aid bill in Northern Ireland was around £100 million in 2012/13 - divided almost evenly between criminal and civil cases.

Justice Minister David Ford has been taking steps to reduce the bill. He has already introduced measures to limit spend on the criminal side and is proposing similar moves with civil cases. Solicitors and barristers have voiced opposition to the policy direction, claiming it is undermining the basic right to good legal representation.

Chair of the NILSC Ronnie Spence said the lists detailing those paid most from legal aid were published to ensure the system was open to public scrutiny.

"The commission remains committed to transparency in accounting for significant sums of public money paid out of the legal aid fund," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph