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States 'failed to control care inquiry costs'

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A LEGAL costs experts has criticised the States for failing to control the spiralling costs of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.

On the day the inquiry publishes it findings, Jim Diamond, who has assessed legal costs for 35 years, has spoken of his frustration that the States took no action to control the costs of the inquiry, which currently stands at £23 million.

The figure is almost four times the initial projected spend of £6 million.

He also alleged that there had been a lack of effective oversight as the deadline to appeal against legal fees charged by UK firms had now passed, meaning that the issue could not be properly addressed.

His comments come as the findings of the historical child abuse inquiry were due to be made public at 3 pm today – nearly three years since evidence was first heard by the inquiry panel, chaired by Frances Oldham QC.

Mr Diamond said that he made both Treasury Minister Alan Maclean and External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache, who is a former Bailiff, aware of the services he offers to control the costs of large legal cases, but still no action was taken to appoint him or a similar professional to oversee the inquiry spend.

As at February 2017, the inquiry's costs stood at £14,994,857, of which £10,541,841 was spent on 'fees and expenses' – in large part lawyers' fees.

One of the main recipients of that money was London-based firm Eversheds, which provided 'solicitor services to the inquiry'.

In addition to the money spent by the inquiry team, the States had spent a total of £6,637,327 at the end of February, more than two thirds of which was spent on lawyers.

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It is estimated, therefore, that the inquiry has cost the taxpayer somewhere in the region of £15 million in legal fees.

'I think some serious questions need to be asked of Senator Bailhache and of Senator Maclean,' said Mr Diamond, who has worked on large cases in the city of London.

'Why would Sir Philip in his position as one of Jersey's senior ex-judges not be interested in controlling costs? I sent him the report I did so it was not as if he did not know about it.

'They should have appointed me or someone like me to control the costs of inquiry but they didn't.'

The latest breaking news on the inquiry's findings to be published on Monday afternoon.

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