The barrister who represented the lord chancellor at the appeal of a halted fraud trial was paid more than double legal aid rates.
A response to a Gazette freedom of information request showed that Anthony Peto QC of Blackstone Chambers received £6,300 (excluding VAT) for the one-day hearing in May.
He acted in an appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority against a decision by His Honour Judge Leonard at Southwark Crown Court to stay a prosecution against five defendants charged with a land-banking fraud.
None of the five was represented by an advocate, following the refusal by most criminal barristers to undertake very high cost cases (VHCCs) because of the 30% fee cuts introduced last December. The bar and Ministry of Justice have since settled their differences.
The MoJ said the rate agreed between the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and Peto was £180 per hour, in accordance with standard rates set out by the attorney general. Peto received £4,860 for 27 hours preparation and £1,440 for eight hours of hearing and preparation.
A senior criminal silk who undertakes VHCC work told the Gazette that on the reduced legal aid rates the government was prepared to pay defence counsel at the time, Peto would have received around £2,485 – 39% of the rate agreed.
He said: ‘[This] highlights the inequality the ministry seems content to establish within the criminal justice system.’
A spokeswoman for the attorney general said the nature of the intervention by MoJ meant that it needed a barrister with public law experience and that the rates were ‘well within’ the range the government would pay to a civil silk.