Here we go again. Another legal aid consultation by the Ministry of Justice, in response to the quashing by Burnett J of the flawed decisions based on the last one: not that you’d know from the announcement that the MOJ has suffered the humiliation of having its decision described as so unfair as to be unlawful. It says nothing about the judicial review. There is no trace of contrition, regret, much less of apology for mucking the profession about, wasting time and energy, and for creating a shambles.
The MOJ press office employs no fewer than 28 people, according to its website. How many of them did it take to decide to whitewash the debacle of the Burnett judgment and pretend that it merely ‘raises some technical issues’? But then, they are only their master’s voice.
We know from evidence which Burnett J heard, that the Ministry would have paid no attention even if the reports that are now the subject of consultation had been made available when they should have been. To use the language of the Courts, the MOJ has a ‘propensity’ for not listening to reasoned responses. It was strike action by the Criminal Bar, and the threat of more strikes, that got Grayling’s attention and persuaded him to abandon one small aspect of the destruction they are determined to wreak on the legal system.
With the MOJ, the clue is not in the name. If justice involves listening, weighing things up with an open mind, and even changing your mind, you won’t see it in their dealings with the profession. They might want to think about what Megarry J said in John v Rees  1 Ch 345:
As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not; of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; of inexplicable conduct which was fully explained; of fixed and unalterable determinations that, by discussion, suffered a change.
Instead, the Mandarins may have been studying Bleak House. Old Tom Jarndyce was talking about chancery litigation, but today it would be death by consultations:
‘For,’ says he, ‘it’s being ground to bits in a slow mill; it’s being roasted at a slow fire; it’s being stung to death by single bees; it’s being drowned by drops; it’s going mad by grains’.