Barrister is £1m richer after fraud trial collapse

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The Independent Online

A leading barrister and Conservative parliamentary candidate received more than a million pounds in legal fees from the collapse of the Jubilee Line corruption trial.

A leading barrister and Conservative parliamentary candidate received more than a million pounds in legal fees from the collapse of the Jubilee Line corruption trial.

Geoffrey Cox QC, who also helped to bring to an end the prosecution of the property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten, was one of 10 barristers who billed a total of £4.6m in legal aid for work on the £60m case, the most costly in British legal history.

Last week, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, announced an urgent inquiry into the circumstances that led to the trial judge ordering the acquittal of six defendants accused of serious fraud before any of them had completed their evidence at the Old Bailey.

The collapse brought public condemnation of the way complex fraud cases are tried in this country and called into question the role of juries in such cases.

Now, figures released by the Legal Services Commission show how the men's barristers were paid nearly £5m out of the public purse for the 18-month trial. Five firms of solicitors shared fees of almost £9m.

But Geoffrey Cox QC, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Torridge and West Devon, was paid £300,000 more than any of the other publicly-paid barristers. Mr Cox, who heads his own London chambers, represented Anthony Wootton, 50, a contracts manager who was employed as a contractor by London Underground for the Jubilee Line extension project.

Mr Wootton denied conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to corruptly accept any gift or consideration while employed by London Underground. The trial collapsed before Mr Cox had the opportunity to put Mr Wootton's case before the jury.

Mr Cox has a reputation as being a "flamboyant" and "very persuasive" trial lawyer. In 2003, he represented Nicholas van Hoogstraten, 58, who had been found guilty of the manslaughter of Mohammad Raja, 62, one his business associates. Mr Raja was shot in the head and stabbed six times at his home in Sutton, South London, in 1999 by two men whom the prosecution alleged had been hired as contract killers by Mr van Hoogstraten.

But during his appeal Mr Cox successfully persuaded the judges that a retrial was not possible because Mr van Hoogstraten could not have foreseen the death.

But it is his work on the Jubilee Line trial that has brought Mr Cox to national attention. Yesterday, Lord Goldsmith set out the full terms of reference for an independent inquiry into how that case had failed.

Stephen Wooler, Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, is to "ascertain the factors leading to the decision to terminate and to consider what steps the prosecution could have taken to avoid that outcome."

Mr Wooler will also make recommendations aimed at preventing a repeat of what many lawyers believe was one of the worst fiascos in recent history of the criminal justice system.

After the collapse of the case last week, Lord Goldsmith said: "The decision will cause great public disquiet as it causes me considerable disquiet. Most serious allegations have not in the end been brought to a final conclusion."