United Kingdom

Priti Patel shrugs off attack by lawyers and brands their reaction to her criticisms 'ridiculous'

Priti Patel doubled down against ‘activist lawyers’ last night after they accused her of jeopardising both their safety and the rule of law.

More than 800 former judges and legal figures signed a letter calling on the Home Secretary, and Boris Johnson, to apologise for their ‘hostility’ toward the profession. 

The two politicians have been critical of lawyers who seek to frustrate Government policy, describing them as ‘activists’ and ‘Lefties’.

Published in The Guardian, the letter said: ‘Such attacks endanger not only the personal safety of lawyers and others working for the justice system, as has recently been vividly seen; they undermine the rule of law, which ministers and lawyers alike are duty-bound to uphold.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel was accused  by ‘activist lawyers’ of jeopardising both their safety and the rule of law

But Miss Patel’s spokesman dismissed the criticisms and urged the lawyers who signed it to ‘get back to work’ as soon as possible. 

He added: ‘Are Left-wing lawyers above reproach and to be free of all criticism? It is truly ridiculous.’

Signatories included former Supreme Court and High Court judges and more than 80 QCs. 

In August the Home Office had to scrap a video that accused ‘activist lawyers’ of undermining asylum laws.  

At the Conservative Party’s online conference earlier this month, PM Boris Johnson upped the rhetoric by observing his party was ‘stopping the whole criminal justice system from being hamstrung by what the Home Secretary would doubtless - and rightly - call the lefty human rights lawyers, and other do-gooders’.

Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls and head of civil justice, who signed the letter said: ‘The rule of law depends on an independent judiciary as well as an independent legal profession, fearless in its representation of those who cannot represent themselves, however unpopular their case may be.

‘That is why unwarranted and inflammatory attacks, such as those recently made by the Home Secretary and endorsed by the Prime Minister on lawyers who represent immigrants and asylum-seekers, pose a real threat to the rule of law and are so dangerous.’

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald, who also backed the letter, said: ‘The Home Secretary and Prime Minister should recognise that words have consequences.

‘Mimicking the language of lawyer-baiting populists is demeaning and dangerous, and a crude attack on the rule of law.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘Lawyers play an important role in upholding the law and ensuring people have access to justice.

‘They are, however, not immune from criticism.’

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