Northern Ireland

£70m paid in legal aid to top ranked 200 lawyers in Northern Ireland

Figures released by the Legal Services Agency NI have revealed that legal aid payments to the top ranked 200 lawyers in Northern Ireland were worth more than £70m in 2013-14.

The agency said the top ranked 100 solicitors received total gross payments of around £48.5m during the period covered.

The top ranked 100 barristers received total gross payments of around £22.1m.

The highest earning legal aid barrister was Patrick Lyttle.

His gross total payments from legal aid were recorded by the Department of Justice as around £1.729m in 2013-14.

The highest earning solicitors firm was Kevin Winters & KRW Law Advocates Ltd.

Their total payments were recorded by the Department of Justice as around £2.8m.

The Law Society of NI said the value of legal aid cannot be determined "simply in monetary terms" and that the volume of work also had to be considered.

The Legal Services Agency NI said the payments from the legal aid fund are made retrospectively for work completed and include a number of different components.

It said they can reflect payments "in respect of cases conducted over a number of years but which were paid in the same year".

Bar Council chairman Gerry McAlinden said that publishing a selective list of historic payments without a clear explanation of age, volume and complexity of cases involved "is of limited value".

He said it "disguises the stark reality that families in Northern Ireland will suffer from ongoing cuts to the legal aid system".

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