The defendant costs specialists

£191m legal costs bill

By on Jul 16, 2010 | 1 comment

The Saville Enquiry into Bloody Sunday lasted 12 years, sat for 434 days and cost £191m.

On the subject of whether it was worth it, Michael Mansfield QC, who represented some of the families of the victims, is reported to have said: "Absolutely, it’s been worth it".  Well, he would say that. The Northern Ireland Office records that he billed the taxpayer £743,421 for his work for the tribunal (and he was far from the highest billing).

It was not reported as to whether he managed to say this with a straight face.

Given the Enquiry was a token gesture as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, one does have to wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better to give £14m to each of the families of the 13 people shot dead or given the money to a local charity rather than waste it on lawyers’ fees.  However, I’m sure Michael was worth every penny.

Joshua Rozenberg, who was covering legal affairs for the BBC at the time Lord Saville was appointed to the Enquiry, remembers that Lord Saville was seen as a "whizz-bang judge – not an old fuddy-duddy but somebody who could really get to grips with this rather challenging Inquiry".  Given the total failure of such an experienced judge to control the process or legal costs in this Enquiry it does make one wonder whether Lord Justice Jackson’s dream of a future where judges in the lower courts effectively case manage and costs manage claims is really realistic.

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