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House: Same-sex battle cost grows

The estimated cost for legal services so far in Bermuda's fight against same-sex marriage was pegged at between $120,000 and $150,000.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: “The estimated cost for counsel to Government to date is likely between $120,000 and $150,000.”

She added: “The cost to appeal to Privy Council and the cost of responding to the appeal has not been finalised at the moment.

“It may be subject to taxation, and as a result, we will defer the answer with respect to further details concerning that cost until such time if it is taxed.”

Ms Wilson was speaking as the Budget for the Legal Affairs ministry was debated in the House of Assembly yesterday.

It came in response to a question from Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, about the anticipated costs of the legal challenge.

Mr Pearman took issue with Ms Wilson's response that an answer would have to wait until taxation was tallied.

He said: “I would have anticipated that the other parties involved would have had to give cost estimates to the court as part of the process.

“And therefore, one would expect the Attorney-General's ministry to be in a position to say, roughly — at least on an estimated basis — how much this cost bill is going to be if the Government loses.

“I take the point we'll know what it actually is when it is taxed, it's a very fair point.

However Mr Pearman added: “I would hope that the ministry would have at least some sort of idea what the estimated number is, or may be.”

David Burt, the Premier, told MPs last December that the Government paid roughly $14,000 for legal advice before it decided to take its legal fight to the Privy Council in London.

Mr Burt told the House of Assembly that £11,250 had been spent — about $14,140 at the time — on legal advice so far in connection with its appeal to the island's highest court of appeal.

He added that the Bermuda Court of Appeal case the month before had cost £41,750, about $52,000.

The on-island costs, however, were about $9,000 lower than those given by the Ministry of Home Affairs about two weeks earlier.

A spokeswoman for Mr Burt explained later that the Premier's figure did not include the cost for travel for the London-based barrister retained to argue the Government's case.

The home affairs ministry said earlier that the cost to hire James Guthrie QC, for the Court of Appeal case, fly him to Bermuda and house him in the island totalled $61,188.

That amount did not include the effects of a costs order — which required Government to pay for both sides of the legal battle — or any other legal expenses that may have been run up.

Mr Pearman said that “one lawyer's brief fee isn't the totality of the case”.

He explained: “We will operate under a loser pays system.”

Mr Pearman questioned what the bill would be if its legal challenge failed.

He asked: “How much does the Government anticipate will be paid out by the Bermudian public in legal fees for this appeal? And for the Court of Appeal below? And for the Supreme Court of first instance?

“All of which will be paid, if ordered, by the Privy Council.”

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm (Updated March 16, 2019 at 10:14 am)

House: Same-sex battle cost grows

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