Law firm got pounds 2m legal aid in Clowes case

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The Independent Online
More than pounds 2m in legal aid was paid to a single firm of defence solicitors in the Barlow Clowes case and four top barristers had received more than a quarter of a million pounds each, the Lord Chancellor disclosed last night.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern, giving the figures in a Lords written reply, said the amounts had been "assessed as reasonable by the appropriate taxing authorities". The sums had included VAT, disbursements and other necessary expenses.

The payments were defended by the chairman of the Bar Council, Peter Goldsmith QC, who said in a statement: "No one should think that fees earned by the top of the profession in the more demanding cases represent what is paid for the standard cases up and down the country, where rates, which work out at less than those paid for servicing a car or washing machine, are regularly paid."

Lord Mackay told Labour's Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe that in the Barlow Clowes case, pounds 2.08m had been paid to solicitors Burton Copeland and pounds 1.28m to solicitors Walker Morris Turnbull. Four other firms of solicitors had received payments ranging from pounds 72,731 to pounds 606,967. Twelve defending barristers had received sums ranging from pounds 24,894 to pounds 332,144. The highest payment had been to Robert Rhodes QC; Anthony Glass QC had earned pounds 315,641; David Whitehouse QC received pounds 309,312; and Anthony Hacking QC was paid pounds 261,014.

But these individual payments were exceeded in the Britannia Parks case in which Douglas Day QC got pounds 460,299 from legal aid; David McEvoy QC received pounds 419,337; Nigel Mylne QC was paid pounds 365,012; and barrister R Offenbach pounds 322,803. Solicitors Offenbach & Co had been paid pounds 1,389,158.

In the long-running Guinness case, Richard Ferguson QC received pounds 315,987 and AC Shaw QC received pounds 257,833.

Lord Mackay detailed individual payments to 41 barristers or firms of solicitors in the three cases, of which 11 payments included increases awarded after an appeal to the Taxing Masters. Among the increases were an extra pounds 110,608 for Mr Day; pounds 100,758 for Mr Mylne; pounds 95,448 for Mr Mc- Evoy; pounds 86,114 for Mr Ferguson; pounds 83,521 for Mr Shaw; pounds 79,521 for Mr Offenbach; and pounds 75,056 for Mr Whitehouse.

Mr Goldsmith said: "These are exceptional and highly complex commercial frauds quite outside the normal run of criminal cases, demanding on the part of the advocates great skill and experience and involving months of preparation ...

"The fees paid were not decided by barristers. They were first assessed by assessors appointed by the Lord Chancellor's Department and further considered by High Court fee judges whose job is to set reasonable rates. The figures quoted include VAT, professional overheads and expenses ... They are, of course, before tax."