Obiter is thinking of changing its name to the ‘Djanogly diary’, such is the frequency with which the unfortunate legal aid minister has been featured on this page in recent weeks.
Indeed, Jonathan Djanogly’s (pictured) eccentric performance at last week’s National Pro Bono Centre ‘question time’ debate on legal aid prompted some present to speculate on how long he would remain in the post.
Legal aid is, of course, a technically complex subject, and no lawyer would expect the minister to master every nuance of the brief.
But some of his remarks caused collective eyebrow-raising among the audience.
His suggestion that complainants in clinical negligence cases had ‘no interest in how long their cases lasted’, for example, prompted a solicitor from Action for Victims of Medical Accidents to put him straight about clients in urgent need of compensation to fund their care.
The lawyer went on to ask Djanogly a question about the funding of cases, but sadly the minister’s response was hindered by having to admit that he had, erm, forgotten what the question was.
Instead, he attempted to alleviate the situation by making an ill-judged joke referring to the time when he was a practising solicitor at City firm SJ Berwin.
The AvMA solicitor had said that she informed her clients every six months how much their case was costing. Djanogly pointed out that when he was in practice, his clients would call him ‘every two days’ demanding to know the size of their bill. The joke fell flat.
The hapless minister won few points for logic either.
Responding to a question about the impact legal aid cuts would have on citizens advice bureaux, Djanogly pointed out that CABx would still be ‘in trouble’ even without the legal aid cuts, as much of their funding comes from local authorities, which are also cutting the amount they give to bureaux.
Well that’s all right, then.
Meanwhile, at the same event, the Legal Services Commission’s director for commissioning, Hugh Barrett, put forward an innovative suggestion for funding legal aid.
Sidling up to Obiter after the debate, he quipped: ‘If we had a pound for every time the LSC was mentioned in the Gazette, we could fund the legal aid scheme.’
That’s another quid for the pot, Hugh.