British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Oct 23, 2021

Bilal Rawat earned £2.2M as Jr Counsel in UK’s ‘wasteful’ Saville Inquiry!

Bilal Rawat earned £2.2M as Jr Counsel in UK’s ‘wasteful’ Saville Inquiry!

Current Counsel to the VI Commission of Inquiry, Mr Bilal Rawat in 2009 had earned some £2,203,633 in fees, paid for by UK taxpayers as part of the then UK Government's ‘wasteful’ & ‘disgraceful’ Bloody Sunday Inquiry, also known as ‘The Saville Inquiry’.

The Saville Inquiry was the longest and most expensive in British history with costs, including administration fees and expenses as well as legal bills, having reached between £184.9m - £190M by the end of the inquiry.

According to the BBC, the Saville Inquiry was the independent public inquiry set up to examine the events of January 30, 1972, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland where 13 people died after members of the British Army's Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights marchers in the Bogside area.

The day became known as Bloody Sunday.

Reasons for inquiry


The BBC reported that an initial investigation headed by the late John Passmore Widgery, Baron Widgery, shortly after the shootings was regarded by Irish nationalists as a whitewash.

“Relatives of the victims campaigned for years for a fresh investigation to challenge Widgery's conclusions that the soldiers were fired on first and the victims had been handling weapons,” the BBC said.

The prospect of a new inquiry formed part of the peace process negotiations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement and was viewed by many unionists as a concession to Sinn Fein, an Irish political party.

The new inquiry opened in April 1998.

Length of Inquiry


In 1998 it was estimated that the inquiry would last only a year. 610 soldiers, 729 civilians, 30 journalists and photographers, 20 government officials and 53 police officers gave evidence in some form.

However, the scale of the evidence of the Inquiry meant that much of the first two years were taken up with amassing evidence.

2,500 witnesses gave statements, of whom 922 were called to give direct evidence, as well as 121 audio tapes and 110 videotapes for constantly revised timetable and costs.

Rawat as part of the Counsel team earned a whopping £2,203,633 in payouts as the inquiry dragged out, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

He joined his other Counsel members, Christopher Clarke who earned £4,488,266, Jacob Grierson - £394,879, Alan Roxburgh - £2,978,989 and Cathryn McGahey- £2,268,093, as Counsel for the inquiry all taking home big dollars.

Lavish payout for Rawat


Daily Mail online in a June 16, 2010, article reported that as a result of the lavish payout, Rawat had been able to indulge his passion for collecting ‘expensively rare 20th century furniture.'

“The home of the Human Rights lawyer in North London, where his parents continue to live, is in the process of an overhaul with a large loft extension, brand new kitchen and bathroom being fitted,” the Mail reported.

Rawat had also practiced at the bar for only five years before hitting the earnings jackpot in the UK.

The inquiry initially has a scheduled timeline of two years and at a cost of £11m, but it instead ran into millions over a timeline of a decade, while the lavish payouts, including those paid to Rawat, continued.

'Disgraceful' spending – Critics of Bloody Sunday Inquiry


Owen Paterson, a Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who initially requested the figures in parliament called the spending to which Rawat benefited, as one that was astonishing.

“To see in black and white the £190m cost of the inquiry broken down into individual payments to lawyers and legal firms really brings home the astonishing cost to the taxpayer of this inquiry,” Patterson said.

More critics expressed outrage at what they branded a “waste of public money” and senior politicians reacted with anger at the breakdown of the Saville legal bills, branding the staggering sums outrageous and disgraceful.

MPs and peers from across the political spectrum in th UK raised concerns about what the inquiry will ultimately achieve, claiming the only people who will really benefit are the lawyers.

Uk still has to Justify VI CoI costs


Meanwhile, in the Virgin Islands (VI), while the UK has indicated that they will fund the inquiry, it remains unclear its true costs and the cost to UK taxpayers, however, the UK would have to justify those costs.

VI talkshow host and social commentator, Claude O. Skelton-Cline in an April 28, 2021, edition of his radio show said currently, institutional UK is making ‘moves’ pointing to an outcome for the VI like that of the Turks and Caicos Islands inquiry when the constitution was suspended.

He said there is even the possibility of the UK government taking over the local Ministry of Finance as a target.

“When all this is said and done, they are going to spend millions of dollars here in regard to this Commission of inquiry... You think that the UK is going to walk away from here with a bloody nose, without looking for some intended desired result that they are now searching for?” Skelton-Cline questioned.

Legal status of CoI parties


In the VI, concerns have been raised over the status of all parties partaking in the CoI and whether they were admitted to the BVI Bar to be able to undertake legal work within the CoI as prescribed by local laws.

The spotlight was placed particularly on the status of Rawat as Counsel to the Commission of Inquiry; however, in a perplexing answer, CoI Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom, then responded that he does not believe and consider that the work being undertaken in support of the CoI to be the practice of VI Law.

The Commissioner; however, still ordered that any participant not complying with the law as raised in concerns, to become compliant.

The Saville Inquiry was the longest and most expensive in British history with costs, including administration fees and expenses as well as legal bills, having reached £184.9m by October 2008.

Daily Mail online in a June 16, 2010, article reported that as a result of the lavish payout, Rawat had been able to indulge his passion for collecting ‘expensively rare 20th century furniture.'

Owen Paterson, a Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who initially requested the figures in parliament called the spending to which Rawat benefited, as one that was astonishing.

VI talkshow Host and Social Commentator, Claude O. Skelton-Cline in an April 28, 2021, edition of his radio show said currently, institutional UK is making ‘moves’ pointing to an outcome for the VI like that of the Turks and Caicos Islands inquiry when the constitution was suspended.

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