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Complainant Name:
Paul Humpherson

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mail


Mr Paul Humpherson complained to the Press Complaints Commission, under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice, that an article published by a newspaper had inaccurately reported information relating to barristers' fees paid through legal aid.


The complaint was resolved after the PCC negotiated the publication of the following letter:

The claim that 1,000 lawyers are paid at least £100k a year from the public purse and that criminal barristers on legal aid are paid an average of £72k is misleading. The figures came from a Ministry of Justice release which is now being reviewed.

Aside from flaws in the numbers, the amount barristers take from public funds has to pay for professional expenses and tax, including VAT. If a criminal barrister really were lucky enough to take £72,000 a year in fee income, about a third of it would be deducted for rent of office space, payment for clerical support staff, IT and stationery equipment, etc, and another 20 per cent would be paid straight back to the public purse in VAT, leaving a pre-income tax figure of more like £36,000.

Any ‘average' income figure is skewed upwards by the small number of senior barristers who are paid a large amount (in excess of £100k) from legal aid. Most barristers on legal aid take home significantly less than £36,000 a year.

Criminal barristers working for, and paid by, the state criminal justice system, are self-employed, with no pension provision, holiday, maternity or sickness cover. Of course, barristers in commercial and other private work earn very large amounts but they aren't generally the same people who work hard for comparatively modest reward on legal aid.

Date Published: 28/05/2014

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