Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland QCs' £55m legal aid bill revealed

Barristers' wig
Image caption The most lucrative year for senior barristers overall was in 2009-10 when they were paid £15,568,813

Senior barristers in NI have been paid more than £55m in legal aid between them in the last five years.

Figures released by Justice Minister David Ford show that between 2006-7 and 2009-10, 66 Queen's Counsels were paid total fees of £47,925,554.

In 2010-11, 51 senior barristers were paid £7,752,253.

The Bar Council has pointed out that the fees paid to barristers in a year may reflect their work on several cases over several years.

Mr Ford is attempting to cut the legal aid budget from £100m to £75m, a move which has angered many in the legal profession.

The justice minister has argued that the current payment levels are unsustainable and that the new fees will still be higher than those paid in England and Wales.

Pearse McDermott from the Solicitors Criminal Bar Association warned last week that proper legal representation is impossible under the new fees.

He said that Mr Ford was proposing "yellow pack justice".

The figures for the legal aid earnings of QCs were released following an Assembly question asked by DUP MLA, David McIlveen.

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