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72m paid to lawyers in legal aid

27 November 08 14:28 GMT

The body responsible for legal aid has paid £72m in fees to firms of solicitors and barristers in Northern Ireland.

It is the first time that the Legal Services Commission in Northern Ireland has detailed who got what and how much.

But it was not a full list, only the top 100 earning solicitors' firms and top 100 earning barristers were listed.

However, the commission said they accounted for some 92% of the total money paid out.

Chairman Jim Daniell said the move was "part of the commission's commitment to the principles of openness and transparency" and to ensuring such information was widely available on a routine basis.

"I must stress that amounts paid to each barrister and solicitor's practice listed may represent payments for work covering a number of years and for a variety of cases," he said.

"It is also important to bear in mind that the amount an individual receives year on year can fluctuate widely."

Details of individual payment to lawyers published cover the years 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Belfast-based solicitors' practice - Kevin Winters & Co - topped the list in each year, receiving a total of £2,483,117 in the first year and a slightly smaller £2,123,072 in the next.

Seamus Tracy, the barrister who received the highest amount in Legal Aid payments, got just under £640,000 in the financial year up to April 2005.

There are about 600 barristers in Northern Ireland and about 540 legal firms.

Not all receive legal aid fees and not all specialise in the type of cases which require it to be paid.

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