A Birmingham lawyer has become the highest-paid Legal Aid criminal barrister for the second year running, official figures have revealed.
The head of Equity Chambers, Balbir Singh was paid £957,000 out of the public purse in 2006/07, following the £1.1 million he received in the previous 12 months.
In the last three years former magistrates’ clerk Mr Singh - who has never been made a QC - has been paid more than £2.8 million in Legal Aid. He was the only non-QC on the list of highest earners for criminal defence work published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today.
The second highest earner, John C Rees QC, closely followed Mr Singh with £956,000, following his previous year’s total of £947,000.
Third highest was the father of film star Emily Blunt, Oliver Blunt QC, who earned £924,000. Mr Blunt was also fourth-placed in the 2005/06 ranking with £913,000.
The 10 barristers on the criminal defence list earned a total of £7.8 million between them. A separate table of barristers paid for civil law work named Jeremy G Goldblatt as the top earner with £508,000.
The 10 lawyers on this list earned a total of £3.4 million between them.
The MoJ stressed that the payments can cover work over a number of years.
The sums do not represent barristers’ personal earnings because the amounts are subject to VAT and do not take account of professional overheads paid by the legal profession, such as staff costs and office fees.
The MoJ added that payments were "carefully scrutinised".
Reforms introduced by the Government in 2006 pledged to end the £1 million-a-year Legal Aid barrister and trim £100 million off the Legal Aid bill.
In all, about £2 billion a year is spent on Legal Aid.