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Legal Twitterati outrage over Home Office’s ‘activist lawyer’ tweet

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The Secret Barrister changed their handle to ‘The Secret Activist Lawyer (AKA Barrister)’ in response

Lawyers have hit out at the Home Office after it tweeted a short video in which it accused “activist lawyers” of delaying and disrupting the return of migrants to their home countries.

The 21-second clip, posted yesterday evening by the Home Office on Twitter, begins:

“We are working to remove migrants with no right to remain in the UK, but current return regulations are rigid and open to abuse… allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns.”

It continues: “Soon we will no longer be bound by EU laws and can negotiate our own return arrangements.”

Dan Sohege, not a lawyer, but a human rights advocate specialising in international refugee law, spotted the short clip and wrote: “It’s incredible that the Home Office can get so much wrong, and so offensively, in one short tweet.”

The Secret Barrister changed their Twitter handle to “The Secret Activist Lawyer (AKA Barrister)” in response. The anonymous blogger and author re-tweeted Sohege’s thread (worth a read to understand the core issues), and tweeted:

“Civil servants are now being enlisted to spread Trump-like propaganda denigrating ‘activist lawyers’ who ensure the Home Secretary follows our democratically enacted laws.”

“Bad enough for ministers to talk about ‘activist lawyers’ but next level politicisation for civil servants at the Home Office to put it on an official departmental channel,” wrote Colin Yeo, immigration barrister at Garden Court Chambers, adding: “The authoritarian anti-law agenda has moved on from ‘enemy of the people’ judges to ‘activist lawyers’. We stood with the judges, for whatever good that did. Will they just let us swing?”

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Other Twitter users described the video as “worrying”, “disgraceful” and its use of warlike graphics as “chilling” and “propaganda”. One lawyer questioned “what is an activist lawyer anyway?”, adding, “I know I wouldn’t want a passive one!”.

Another user thought the video must be a parody. “Difficult to apply the usual approach to trolls when the troll is the official account of a government department,” wrote Charles Bishop, legal and parliamentary officer at the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association.

Jan Doerfel, a sole practitioner barrister advising on matters of asylum, immigration and human rights law, provided some clarity:

Issues around immigration have magnified in recent weeks as border closures caused by COVID-19 leave asylum seekers little choice but to make small boat crossings to try and reach the UK.

In a statement today the Law Society condemned the Home Office video, describing it as an “attack” on the integrity of the legal profession undermining the rule of law. “Solicitors advise their clients on their rights under the laws created by parliament. To describe lawyers who are upholding the law as ‘activist lawyers’ is misleading and dangerous,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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28 Comments

Property Barrister

Here are some social media tips for those seeking pupillage:

1) The majority of the Bar holds the “legal twitterati” in contempt;

2) Practitioners with busy diaries and a strong client base tend not to incessantly tweet;

3) No-one will be impressed if you cite these commentators as inspirational. Inspirational people do not constantly self-promote;

4) If you are known to over-use social media, it may suggest to panels that you are a person with limited useful interests and talents. If you are actually passionate about something, be it a cause or an interest, do something about it (that can be evidenced) in the real world;

5) An “OK boomer” attitude isn’t too useful when the majority of those people making a recruitment decision are, in fact, boomers.

(74)(14)

Rubyshire

So true. It is always helpful to remember that narcissism is a weakness – and viewed by most others in the profession that way.

(36)(5)

Trainee who has had quite enough

I don’t think that tweeting is synonymous with narcissism. Perhaps check your Greek mythology before you start pathologising people who are just expressing concern over an objectively concerning message from the government.

(3)(23)

Activist Lawyer

Here are some social media tips for those seeking pupillage, from someone who probably is a member of the ‘Legal Twitterati’, though not one of those named in the article.

1. It is perfectly possible to have a busy career and a presence on social media. It’s our sleep patterns and personal relationships which suffer, not our work. Not all of us have time to post self-important comments on Legal Cheek, however.

2. Many of us regard publicising problems with the legal system as part of our function. Far from being inconsistent with doing something useful in life, social media is a good way to get messages out. It’s also a good way of interacting with like-minded people and feeling you’re not alone in thinking the world is a mess.

3. You are entitled to be inspired by the Secret Barrister or anyone else you’ve encountered on social media. It’s 2020.

4. If you’re applying to a property set, none of the above applies. Tell them your hero is Lord Denning and that you don’t even know what this Tweeter thing is.

(24)(43)

Inactivist Lawyer

5. The person above is not talking about Tik Tok dance routines. These are fatal to applications.

(7)(0)

Intactivists non-lawyer.

Property barrister. The greediest of the greedy.
Tell me

Which public school did you go to?

Did you vote Tory because there was no one rightwing enough for you?

If you got enough time to mess around on here you definitely have enough time to be on Twitter.

Lawyers work towards the rule of law, not the arbitrary whim of minsters or the servants. There is no lower form of legal life than a lawyer who willfully ignores the law because it suits their own political bent and joins in a pile on against those who hold government and the authorities to lawful process.

(12)(24)

Benj

Snore. Twitter is for losers.

(15)(2)

Anon

“To which public school did you go?” So much better style. But then 3:17pm thinks “If you got enough time” is acceptable written English and they cannot spell “minister”, so perhaps we should start with the basics. Such a shame the comprehensive school system churns out those who write that poorly.

(9)(3)

Inactivist non-non-lawyer

Grammatical pedantry is the last refuge for people with no substantive argument.

(1)(11)

Anonymous

The government comment is spot on. We are not hard enough in regulatory terms on those that play the system as part of a political agenda. Worse we let honest taxpayers money be wasted on these legal challenges. Immigration should be administrative with no or virtual no court recourse and in particular no legal aid at all. We are far to soft in our pandering to lefitsts.

(58)(38)

Tim Farrell

The UK should be adhering to a Australian style policy,send them back where they came from,none of them will ever work a day in their life here.

(31)(21)

Gary, son of Tony

I don’t think Eton take in pupils if they’re old enough to be government ministers

(0)(1)

Quizzical

If you think upholding the rule of law is a waste of money, I weep for the future of British democracy.

The Government ought to comply with the laws Parliament sets. I suspect if the Government illegally ran roughshod over your rights, you would seek a lawyer too.

(4)(13)

Shock horror! A different point of view.

Sir John Thomas P (as then was) in R (ex p. Hamid) v Secretary of State for the Home Dept [2012] EWHC 3070 (Admin) at [3] “the Administrative Court faces an ever increasing large volume of applications in respect of pending removals said to require immediate consideration. Many are filed towards the end of the working day, often on the day of the flight or the evening before a morning flight. In many of these applications the person concerned has known for some time, at least a matter of days, of his removal. Many of these cases are totally without merit. The court infers that in many cases applications are left to the last moment in the hope that it will result in a deferral of the removal.”

As Thomas P went on to observe (at [10]): “These late, meritless applications by people who face removal or deportation are an intolerable waste of public money, a great strain on the resources of this court and an abuse of a service this court offers”.

It is quite possible for lawyers (often with, I suspect, a certain political outlook) to conduct proceedings in a manner that has the practical effect of disrupting or delaying removal irrespective of the merits. This is a long standing problem. Such conduct is the legitimate subject of political discussion.

(57)(11)

Concerned

Such conduct should be penalised by the exercise of the wasted costs discussion.

And whilst such conduct can be considered legitimate political discussion, the official twitter account of the Home Office is not the channel by which political discussion should occur. If Priti Patel tweeted it, no problem. The Home Office tweeting it is very much a problem as it drags a great office of state into political discourse rather than the occupant of that office.

(12)(19)

Correction

*wasted costs jurisdiction

(10)(5)

Bazzor

Comment of the fucking century. Get that up you twatterati.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Hero judge! Best read with Land of Hope And Glory being sung in the background. Stick it to the illegal immigrant loving leftists!

(11)(2)

Alan

The Home Office is disgusting. The only abuse taking place is by the vile Home Office.

(14)(23)

Anon

Truth hurts I guess. Its also quite bizarre that, for whatever reason, immigration firms are inevitably staffed by those who have a direct connection with the subject i.e. the lawyers are themselves immigrants or are descended from immigrants.

(25)(17)

THFC

I don’t think that it’s bizarre. It’s good business. If you are a lawyer practising in the UK and you speak a language which is relatively uncommon in the UK – you may have a good client base in migrants from countries which speak that language.

Plenty of migrant lawyers work in other practice areas. I don’t think that those who do immigration work are necessarily activists.

For that matter, nor do I see how making applications to advance your client’s case is ‘activist’ – I thought this was the whole point of the job?

(17)(28)

Nothing To Envy Here

Same at Bar. Yes, they are usually second generation immigrants.

Most immigration barristers spent years applying for pupillage and work in immigration because it was all they could get. They are also usually people that have family money to fall back on as brief fees are so low.

I know one who constantly whinges that she’d rather be doing employment law and wonders why she bothered in the first place.

(10)(3)

Mark

Having worked for both sides and done some of my training contract in immigration law working at a legal aid firm I can confirm many applications against deportation are without merit that are used to frustrate the system and politicise matters. However as there are no cost consequences to applications without merit law firms will continue to do them. You will find that in most legal aid firms immigration is the largest practice area. The reason for that is legal aid for immigration brings in the most (taxpayers) money. It is also the only area of law which justifies payment for legal research as standard. Normally the Legal Aid Regs only allow you to claim for legal research if it’s a novel point of law but immigration lawyers can claim this as standard by claiming this research as “Country Research” Needless to say I did not become an immigration legal aid lawyer upon completion upon my training contract.

(9)(1)

Anon

Well said. Tribunal members should make professional complaints against those that pursue hopeless applications and impose wasted costs orders.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

As long as costs is costs and not a fine.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Costs will be higher. Fines are pitiful because of the social justice warriors.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

My point is they should be lower – actual necessary costs and not a higher amount which amounts to a fine.

Anonymous

The higher the penalty the better, these people are a disgrace to the profession and parasites feeding on the hard working honest taxpayers of England.

Comments are closed.

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