Justice questions in the House of Commons has become something of a ‘must-see’ in the political calendar.
The main attraction, of course, is Michael ‘Box Office’ Gove, but there are other factors, too. Conservative backbenchers are starting to wonder why their local court is being threatened with closure, while the Scottish Nationalists have brought a fresh outlook from the land of procurators fiscal (what they? Ed.).
As speaker John Bercow noted as he disappointed MPs waiting to ask a question, the event is becoming an ‘increasingly hot-ticket occasion’.
Under such a spotlight, it’s not surprising that some performers wilt in the heat. Solicitors were startled last week to hear justice minister (and solicitor) Shailesh Vara answer a question about miscarriages of justice caused by the court charge for convicted defendants by saying: ‘If people are innocent I hope they will plead innocent.’
Vara knows perfectly well that there’s no such thing as pleading innocent. But Obiter is more worried about his ‘I hope’.