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MORE than 800 legal figures have accused the Prime Minister and Home Secretary of endangering lawyers’ safety and undermining the rule of law through their “hostile” attacks on the profession.
The letter, signed by three former justices of the Supreme Court, urges Boris Johnson and Priti Patel to apologise for attacking lawyers for simply “seeking to hold the government to the law.”
In recent months, the pair have escalated abusive language against immigration solicitors, branding those upholding the rights of asylum-seekers facing deportation as “activist” lawyers.
The powerful intervention from senior legal figures, retired appeal court judges, former high court judges, QCs and law professors, comes after a man was charged last week with attempting to launch a terror attack against an immigration law firm in September.
Prosecutors said that the alleged far-right extremist appeared to target the firm because of its involvement with immigration cases.
The letter, published on Sunday in the Guardian, reads: “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.
“We invite both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to behave honourably by apologising for their display of hostility, and to refrain from such attacks in the future.”
Ms Patel and Mr Johnson’s offensive began in August when the Home Office posted a video which blamed “activist” lawyers for frustrating attempts to deport asylum-seekers. The department later took down the video.
Earlier this month, Ms Patel said in her speech to Tory conference that “lefty lawyers, do-gooders and Labour” were to blame for Britain’s “broken” asylum system.
This was later echoed by the PM who said the Tories would stop the criminal justice system from being “hamstrung” by “lefty human rights lawyers, and other do-gooders.”
Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald, who signed the letter said Ms Patel and Mr Johnson 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,” he said.
A government spokesman said that “any form of violence is unacceptable” but that lawyers are “not immune from criticism.”
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