The legal services
commission released figures under the freedom of information act (FOIA) showing
that the barrister, who is based at Matrix chambers in London, has received
cash payments from legal aid totalling just over £432,000 in the past
However, it said that this figure included a pay-ment of £210,000 – ultimately not paid from public funds – for her work helping to represent former staff, and spouses of staff, of the collapsed BCCI bank. They were in dispute with the bank’s creditors over unpaid salaries and loan repayment, with the case being settled in 2002.
The commission said: “In the end, there was no cost to public funds for this case as the opposing party paid the legal-aid costs as part of the settlement.”
As part of unusual terms of settlement, because of the complexity of the case and number of parties involved, the commission received a lump sum for the costs and determined what payments to make to each lawyer working under legal aid.
The commission said that Booth carried out no work under criminal legal aid – only civil.
It added that barristers, who are self-employed, “typically pay 25%-30% of their fees in professional expenses.”
Booth specialises in public, human rights, and employment law. Tony Blair’s wife was called to the bar in 1976, took silk in 1995 and became a recorder, or part-time judge, in 1999.
In the last financial year, 2004-05, the comm-ission authorised payments to Booth totalling just over £117,000.
It authorised payments of another £750,000 to other barristers in her chambers, which has grown from 23 members, when it started in 2000, to 50.
FOIA Centre commentary
The way in which this information was released under FOIA serves as an illustration of the primary problem we are finding with the way the freedom of information act is working in the UK.
The legal services commission took far longer than the statutory limit of 20 working days to release this data, taking some nine months to provide the information requested.
The public body says that several similar requests for the information came from various journalists, but it was still painfully slow.
It said that collating the information was “complex” and “time consuming”.
This raises questions about how it stores inform-ation and keeps track of its expenditure – of taxpayers’ money.
Comment on this article