To paraphrase the saying, if losing one court case is misfortune, and a second is careless, what words are there to describe Chris Grayling now?
The justice secretary must be sick of the sight of courts after being defeated in recent weeks on challenges on legal aid for domestic violence victims and the criminal legal aid contracts.
Another week, another setback – this time it’s a judge telling Grayling he failed to keep a promise to review the effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act before applying it to mesothelioma claims. Along with insolvency cases, these cases had fallen through the net when LASPO was implemented.
The Ministry of Justice – backed in court by the Association of British Insurers – had tried to pass off last year’s consultation on mesothelioma as proof of its review.
The High Court’s ruling was a damning indictment of such an assumption.
The Hon Mr Justice William Davis made it clear that ‘no reasonable lord chancellor’ would have thought the consultation sufficient. Grayling had not attempted a review ‘in any meaningful sense’ and had made a ‘procedural failing’ in nature.
I’ve always had a problem with the exemption for the reason that it treats one intolerable affliction in a different way to another. As I’ve argued before, I don’t see a distinction to explain why a mesothelioma sufferer should be exempt from LASPO while a paralysed victim of negligence should have their damages reduced. It is all or nothing for me.
But the exemption exists and the review was committed to. For the government to ride roughshod over that pledge is not only insulting to cancer sufferers but undermines the rule of law itself.
Grayling seems to think he can bulldoze his way through statutes and legislation to meet his demands.
If he believes in LASPO – as he surely must – it was his duty to show in full why mesothelioma cases would benefit from lifting the exemption.
As it is he offered a flimsy consultation and a rushed announcement made just before Christmas (an ideal time to bury bad tidings).
The number of court appearances made by the MoJ is starting to stack up. Why? Because this government is too lazy to follow procedure and make fully-informed decisions.
He's like the pupil handing in his maths homework without showing the workings. Anyone marking it will naturally be suspicious how he got to his answers.
Grayling seems to dismiss lawyers’ opposition to his plans as self-interest, when in fact they are warning signs he should be taking notice of. If one is misfortune and two is careless, three is starting to seem like wilful recklessness.