A leading Birmingham barrister was yesterday named as one of the country's legal aid fat cats, when the Government revealed he was paid up to pounds 400,000 from taxpayers' money.
But Mr Timothy Raggatt QC accused the Lord Chancellor's Department of deliberately misleading the public for political ends. He said it had added together several years' legal aid earnings and presented it as his salary.
He hit out as the Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine's department ran into furious criticism from the legal profession after it "named and shamed" 40 barristers and 40 solicitors' firms.
Mr Raggatt was listed as being paid between pounds 350,000 and pounds 399,000 last year from legal aid cases.
But the barrister maintained he had made a total of pounds 265,000 in 1996-97, which included work that was not paid for out of legal aid. He said he had never earned anything like the amount the Government claimed.
Mr Raggatt, who works out of chambers in Fountain Court, Birmingham and lives in the city, said after wages and overheads, the final total was more like pounds 190,000.
He said he had told the department its figures were wrong last week but he had been ignored.
Mr Raggatt said: "It is quite deliberately misleading the public. It is like they have printed the turnover of a business and pretended that was the profits.
"I suspect there is some sort of political agenda. I don't know what it is, but the figures are nonsense."
The Lord Chancellor has previously attacked lawyers who earn millions of pounds from the legal aid budget. He is attempting to reform the system so personal injury cases, which now account for much legal aid work, will instead have to be taken on a "no w in - no fee" basis by lawyers.
Yesterday's list was printed as a Law Society report was published claiming the reforms would leave many accident victims unable to claim compensations.
The list was printed in a Parliamentary written answer in response to a Labour back-bencher, and revealed top criminal barrister Mr Alun Jones QC, who was involved in the Maxwell fraud case, was paid more than pounds 500,000 last year while nine of his c olleagues earned more than pounds 400,000.
The second-biggest earning solicitors' firm was the high-profile personal injury practice Irwin Mitchell, which employs 88 lawyers in Birmingham.
According to the figures, it made between pounds 2.6 and pounds 3.5million from legal aid last year. Other Birmingham firms named were McGrath & Co, who collected up to pounds 2. …