Taxpayers face £1.5m bill for services of barristers and solicitors at inquiry

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Indy Politics

The legal bill for the Hutton inquiry is expected to cost taxpayers about £1.5m.

One of the biggest earners will be James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, who is expected to be paid up to £100,000.

Jonathan Sumption QC, the barrister representing the interests of ministers and civil servants, could end up being paid more. Mr Sumption, described by The Legal 500 last week as "one of the finest barristers of his generation", has been criticised by a number of Hutton watchers for underperforming. But he is one of the three highest-paid barristers in the country, reported to command a rate of £1,000 an hour.

His barrister colleagues argue that a judicial inquiry is a fact-finding exercise, not a trial, and Mr Sumption achieved his aim - to get Andrew Gilligan to make admissions regarding his original report carried on Today.

While the taxpayer will be asked to foot the legal bills for the Kelly family, the Government and all the official lawyers, the BBC's representation costs will have to come from the television licence fee. The services of the BBC's senior counsel, Andrew Caldecott QC, are not cheap at an estimated £450 an hour.

The BBC said it would meet the legal costs of its journalists who were represented at the inquiry. They include Heather Rogers, Andrew Gilligan's barrister, and Fiona Campbell, the solicitor representing the Newsnight reporter Susan Watts.

A BBC spokesman said: "This is normal practice in media organisations where a journalist's professional reputation is threatened or their actions are in question in the course of their duty."

Neither the BBC nor the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) was prepared to estimate its final legal costs. A DCA spokesman said: "A full breakdown will be provided when Lord Hutton reports. The [total] cost is likely to be over a million pounds."