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'Astonishing' amount spent on case

A High Court judge has described the amount of taxpayers' money spent on a case relating to the welfare of a disabled woman as "astonishing".

Mr Justice Roderic Wood said the Court of Protection had analysed disagreements between the woman's parents and a local authority over a number of years - and legal costs had reached around £350,000.

His comments came in a written ruling published after the Independent newspaper had made an application to report details of the case.

The Court of Protection is part of the High Court and analyses cases involving vulnerable and sick people and hearings are often held in private.

The judge said the woman was in local authority care and litigation dated back to 2007. Two years ago her parents had made an application for her to be returned to the family home.

He said they had changed their mind earlier this year and agreed that she should stay in care.

Mr Justice Roderic Wood said the local authority involved had spent around £138,000, the Official Solicitor's office - a statutory body which gives legal advice to vulnerable people - about £130,000 and the woman's parents, whose legal costs were met through public funds, £82,000.

"I requested information as to the costs incurred," said Mr Justice Roderic Wood. "This is an astonishing sum of money to spend on one case."

The judge said he was "baffled" by the course the litigation had taken and "perplexed" by the "lack of clarity" in the parents' case.

He outlined documentation generated and said three judges had been involved at different stages.

"A brief glance at the index indicates that there have been over 200 pages of preliminary documents," he said.

"There have been approximately 250 pages ... of applications and orders. There have been 740 pages of witness statements filed.

"Just short of 300 pages of expert evidence, including evidence from an independent social worker, a clinical psychologist, and a consultant psychiatrist, have been filed.

"There are 274 pages of review meetings, weekly reports from the residential home, mental capacity assessments etc."

He added: "The case has taken up much judicial time."

Mr Justice Roderic Wood said neither the woman nor the local authority could be identified.


From Belfast Telegraph