800 UK immigration lawyers call for Johnson, Patel apology


Priti Patel visits Calais 12 July 2020

Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

As we have mentioned in the past there is a serious problem with the ethics and morality of agencies in the Government.  There are many allegations of discrimination and numerous instances of unlawful behaviour.  The Boris Johnson Government pretends most of the time that these problems do not exist.

A letter signed by more than 800 UK immigration lawyers and ex-judges has demanded an apology from UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Home Secretary, Priti Patel, following remarks made by the pair that seemingly undermined the rule of law and endangered immigration lawyers.

In August, Workpermit.com reported that the Home Office had released a video accusing so-called ‘activist’ immigration lawyers of blocking deportations. Meanwhile, Patel and Johnson branded immigration lawyers defending migrants as ‘lefties’ and ‘do-gooders.’ Patel also said that ‘lawyers are as bad a people traffickers.’

The video, combined with Patel and Johnson’s remarks, sparked a furious backlash from legal professionals, while the comments have also been blamed for inciting a knife attack on an immigration law firm.

Accused of endangering safety of lawyers

The political pair have now been accused of endangering the personal safety of lawyers, who have now demanded an apology for the duo’s astonishing attack.

In the letter, Patel and Johnson are accused of ‘displaying hostility’ toward lawyers, while undermining the rule of law and risking the lives of those working within the justice system.

According to a report published by The Guardian, signatories to the letter include ‘three former justices of the UK supreme court, five retired appeal court judges, three former high court judges, the lawyer heads of four Oxford University colleges, more than 80 QCs, 69 law professors from leading English universities, the directors of Liberty and Justice, as well as hundreds of law firm partners, barristers and solicitors.’

The legal profession has come under fire from the Tory government and the letter is understood to be the largest coordinated response in hitting back against what has become a toxic attitude toward lawyers.

Controversial video by Home Office

The Home Office video posted on Twitter in August, which was later taken down, accused of ‘activist’ lawyers of frustrating the agency’s efforts to remove people who had no right to remain in the UK.

Meanwhile, during the Conservative Party conference, Patel labelled those defending the ‘indefensible’ and the UK’s ‘broken’ immigration appeals system as ‘do-gooders, lefty lawyers, the Labour Party.’

Boris Johnson took his comments at the conference a step further saying: “I will stop the whole criminal justice system from being hamstrung by what the Home Secretary would undoubtedly, and rightly, call the lefty human rights lawyers and other do-gooders.”

Man charged with immigration firm attack

Amid the spat between immigration lawyers, Johnson and Patel, an attack targeting an immigration law firm in London was carried out by 28-year-old Cavan Medlock from Harrow. Mr Medlock now faces six charges, one of which is preparing an act of terrorism.

Signatories of the letter have protested against the vilification of lawyers. An excerpt from the letter reads: “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.

“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.”

The letter has been backed by Lord Macdonald QC, the former director of public prosecutions, who said: “The Home Secretary might never grasp the inappropriateness of her language, but the Prime Minister should know better.”

“Lawyers who represent demonised people are always attacked by populist politicians, but it is demeaning to our country and its institutions that the government itself is now dipping into this disreputable playbook,” Lord Macdonald added.

The former director of public prosecutions said that the entire legal profession is ‘proud’ of the lawyers who stand for those demonised, despite being so crudely vilified themselves. “The sort of ugly authoritarianism displayed by the government is exactly what the rule of law should be fighting back against,” Lord Macdonald said.

Inflammatory language by Home Office

Lord Dyson, a former Supreme Court justice, told The Guardian: “What’s worrying is the inflammatory language used by the Home Secretary and supported by the Prime Minister. It was irresponsible and dangerous and quite unjustified to use inflammatory language of the sort. The language is almost the language of a demagogue.”

“We all know what happens when people in high places and in power resort to language of that kind … they are whipping up emotions without justification. It’s dangerous,” Lord Dyson added.

Meanwhile, the president of Magdalen College, University of Oxford, Dinah Rose QC said: “The people at the heart of government whose role it is to ensure that the legal system and the rule of law are respected have either decided to remain silent or their voices are not being listened to.”

“Where lawyers are abusing the system, they deserve to be criticised, but the problem is that the government’s attack is on any lawyer who is using the system to represent their clients. There’s an attempt to whip up hatred against lawyers for simply doing their job,” Ms Rose added.

Lord chief justice Lord Burnett of Maldon, who recently upheld the rights of migrants to have access to lawyers as part of a judgement, said: “It is a matter of regret that a minority of lawyers have lent their professional weight and support to vexatious representations and abusive late [immigration] legal challenges.”

Government response to the letter

In response to the letter, a spokesperson for the government said: “The government rejects the underlying insinuation in this letter and is clear any form of violence is unacceptable. 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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