Patel vs "lefty lawyers" and "do-gooders"
A letter signed by prominent figures in the legal community has accused Priti Patel and Boris Johnson of endangering the safety of lawyers acting for asylum seekers.
"We are all deeply concerned at recent attacks, made by the home secretary and echoed by the prime minister, on lawyers seeking to hold the government to the law," said the letter. More than 800 people in the legal community signed the letter including former justices of the supreme court - Lords Collins, Dyson and Walker - as well as other former appeal court and high court judges, numerous QCs, partners and law professors.
The letter blasted Patel and Johnson for undermining "the rule of law", and called on them to "behave honourably by apologising for their display of hostility, and to refrain from such attacks in the future".
This month, Patel criticised immigration and human rights lawyers, denigrating them as "do-gooders", bracketing them with people traffickers, and accusing those who acted for asylum seekers as "defending the indefensible".
Boris Johnson took the baton for his keynote speech at the Conservative party conference and thumped the legal profession even more with it, claiming that the criminal justice system was “being hamstrung by lefty human rights lawyers”.
The letter, which was published in The Guardian, also accused the ministers of endangering "the personal safety of lawyers and others working for the justice system, as has recently been vividly seen."
The comment about the safety of lawyers alludes to a knifeman entering the Harrow office of Duncan Lewis Solicitors (a firm that has been involved in some high-profile immigration cases) on 7th September.
The man faces various charges including threatening to kill an immigration lawyer, and threatening another member of staff with a "large knife". The prosecution allege that the man told police that he planned to "take a member staff hostage" and place Nazi Germany and US confederacy flags in the window "so that like-minded people would take action".
“We have been repeatedly clear that any form of violence against lawyers is unacceptable," a spokeswoman for No 10 Downing street told RollOnFriday. "Lawyers play an important role in upholding the law and ensuring people have access to justice – they are not however immune from criticism."
She added, “the Government’s efforts to facilitate entirely legitimate and legal returns of people who have entered the U.K. through illegal routes are too often frustrated by last minute challenges submitted hours before a scheduled flight.”