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Djanogly 'not going to get the chop' for calling in private investigators

13 September 2010

Legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly is expected to cling onto his job despite admitting he paid private investigators £5,000 to monitor his colleagues.

The millionaire justice minister has confessed the move may have been an “over-reaction” to suspicions that his staff were conspiring to leak revelations about his private life to the press during the expenses scandal.

But prime minister David Cameron, who is currently battling calls for his chief spin doctor Andy Coulson to resign over the phone hacking scandal, is understood to be backing Djanogly’s position as well.

Argent Chambers barrister Jerry Hayes, who is a former Tory MP, said: “The local party will take a very dim of the fact they have been spied upon. Nationally, he will be regarded as a bit of a joke. His career will just gently fade away. He’s not going to get the chop from the ministry though, I very much doubt that.

“But I must say, as a practising criminal barrister I am horrified he is in charge of legal aid,” added Hayes, who was the subject of a News of the World sex scandal back in 1997.

Djanogly was forced to come clean after the Telegraph obtained documents from Morris Chase, a Heathrow-based ‘intelligence gathering organisation’, showing it had been commissioned to telephone the Huntingdon MP’s constituency staff.

Pretending to be journalists, the private investigators gleaned claims from Djanogly’s colleagues and aides that he was “lazy”, “dishonest” and a “disaster” for the Tory party.

Senior members of the local Conservative Party, including his election agent, told the undercover investigators they thought Djanogly was “a wet fish” with “no political convictions or beliefs”.

The investigation took place in the summer of 2009, while Djanogly was still employed as a partner at SJ Berwin. It was sparked by a series of allegations in the papers that Djanogly, then shadow solicitor general, lied about his expenses, paying £13,000 to a cleaner who was also his children’s au pair.

An Electoral Commission investigation had also raised concerns that Djanogly was using trainees on secondment from SJ Berwin to provide around £150,000 worth of parliamentary trainee hours.

“Following a series of malicious allegations made against me in newspapers last year, I felt I had to act to find out who was spreading these untrue stories,” said Djanogly.

“I was extremely upset that my private family life had been invaded. I would never have contemplated condoning anything unlawful and dishonest in the investigations, and the investigators have assured me that their inquiries were carried out in an entirely lawful manner.

“I am sorry if some people judge that I made a mistake, with hindsight I can see that I may have over-reacted, but I was being subjected to very malicious, anonymous attacks on my family.”

Djanogly added: “A report of their investigation was prepared and sent to me on a confidential basis and I am very disappointed to see the report released publicly without my consent.

“I paid for the cost of the investigation myself and did not claim it back on parliamentary expenses.” Both the MoJ and SJ Berwin declined to comment.

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Legal Aid Conveyancing