Boris Johnson continued the government attack on ‘lefty human rights lawyers’ in his conference speech yesterday. ‘We’re also backing those police up, protecting the public by changing the law to stop the early release of serious sexual and violent offenders and 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.’
It was a reference to Priti Patel’s recent attacks ‘lefty lawyers’, human rights ‘do-gooders’ and activist lawyers. It is a now familiar refrain. For example, in May 2019 Boris Johnson set out his stall on justice issues in a controversial column for the Daily Telegraph which ridiculed our ‘cockeyed crook-coddling criminal justice system’ and lambasted ‘the Leftist culture’ of the justice ‘establishment’.
Boris Johnson repeats Priti Patel’s attack line that the justice system is “hamstrung by lefty-lawyers and do-gooders”.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) October 6, 2020
Law Society president Simon Davis described the speech as ‘deeply concerning’. ‘This divisive language serves nobody and puts lawyers and their clients at risk,’ he said. ‘All solicitors advise their clients on their rights under the laws created by parliament. Legal rights cannot be rewritten through rhetoric.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said that it was ‘shocking and troubling’ that our the prime minister ‘condones and extends attempts to politicise and attack lawyers for simply doing their job in the public interest’. ‘Lawyers – including those employed by the government itself – are absolutely vital to the running of our grossly under-funded criminal justice system. Their professional duty is to their client and to the court, and not to play political games.’