Legal Aid

Defiance over cases

PUBLISHED May 18, 2006

Legal aid solicitors who dealt with ?the most expensive cases in history? have this week hit back at media criticism.

A letter to Labour MP Andrew Dismore from legal aid minister Harriet Harman ? sent almost a year after his initial parliamentary question ? showed that the most expensive criminal law case, concerning computer fraud, saw national law firm Tuckers get almost ?6 million, with ?8 million going to four other firms. On the civil side, clinical negligence firm Houghton & Co received more than ?7 million acting for 120 women who had taken an oral contraceptive pill. Leigh Day & Co was paid ?1.8 million.

Tuckers partner Franklin Sinclair pointed out that the case concerned had spanned three years and had taken up the time of 30 fee-earners who had to trawl through 2.6 million documents. ?We had a 200% uplift but every case of serious fraud is dealt with like that,? he argued. ?We don?t feel that we need to defend anything we?ve done ? we tried our best to cut costs down, but that?s the nature of the case we were dealing with.?

Ms Harman said although the civil case had ultimately failed, it had been in the public interest.

Legal Aid Practitioners Group director Richard Miller said the sums paid out in both cases were exceptional and justified, and did not reflect personal earnings of the solicitors involved.

Barristers acting on the crime case earned more than ?3.5 million.