It is an extraordinary fact that roughly 50 per cent of the legal aid budget for Crown Court trials is spent on one per cent of the cases. Putting it another way, the 1,000 most expensive trials cost taxpayers about £300 million a year - the same as the remaining 99,000 cases put together.

These hugely expensive cases tend to be fraud trials. Some last a year or more; others involve a series of interlinked prosecutions. At least two of the most expensive cases currently before the courts have received no press coverage because reporting restrictions have been imposed.

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