Top legal bodies deplore prime minister’s ‘political posturing’
Boris Johnson has been accused of undermining the rule of law in the UK after his latest attack on “left-wing” lawyers, having claimed they acted “against the public interest”.
Some of the country’s leading legal figures said they were appalled by the prime minister’s remarks about the profession, which follow his previous comments dismissing human rights lawyers as “lefties”.
On Thursday Mr Johnson told LBC Radio: “The Labour opposition has consistently taken the side of, I’m afraid, left wing criminal justice lawyers against … the interests of the public.”
In a rare intervention, the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland issued a statement saying they “deplored” Mr Johnson’s “political posturing”.
And the Law Society, the professional body representing solicitors in England and Wales, told The Independent that the “deeply concerning” remarks put lawyers at risk.
“Solicitors have a professional obligation to act in the best interests of their client, whoever they may be, and their personal and political views do not come into it,” said a spokesperson for the Law Society.
“Repeated government attacks on the integrity of the legal profession are deeply concerning. This divisive language serves nobody and puts lawyers and their clients at risk.”
The Faculty of Advocates accused Mr Johnson of trying to gain “political capital from a baseless mischaracterisation” of the legal profession.
The advocates’ body said: “These comments go hand-in-hand with recent pronouncements by the home secretary and appear to be part of a strategy to undermine the rule of law.”
It added: “It is essential to a fair system of justice that those charged with crime have legal representation. Without such representation, no conviction would be safe. For the prime minister to undermine that principle, with the aim of political posturing, is damaging to the rule of law.”
Last year home secretary Priti Patel was accused of putting the lives and safety of lawyers and court staff at risk after she branded those defending migrants as “lefties” and “do-gooders.
Criticising Mr Johnson’s latest comments, former Treasury solicitor Sir Jonathan Jones said that all criminal justice lawyer – regardless of their politics – either prosecute on behalf of the state or defend members of the public.
Sir Jonathan tweeted: “The government is developing a habit of setting up conflict between aims [and] principles where none should exist.”
The high-profile legal blogger Secret Barrister called on justice secretary chancellor Robert Buckland to apologise for Mr Johnson’s “egregious attack on the rule of law”.
He said it was another “outrageous assault on lawyers who independently prosecute and defend the most serious cases in the criminal courts”.
Sarah Forshaw QC tweeted: “I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being a ‘left-wing’ criminal justice lawyer. And yet I agree wholeheartedly with the Secret Barrister – as does anyone else who works within and truly understands our criminal justice system.”