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Law Society: Lawyers could face physical attacks following Home Secretary speech

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Priti Patel lashed out at ‘lefty lawyers’ and ‘do-gooders’ during conference address

Priti Patel

Lawyers are at risk of verbal abuse and physical attacks, the Law Society has claimed, following the Home Secretary’s comments about “lefty lawyers” and “do-gooders”.

The Home Office’s Priti Patel lashed out at “the traffickers, the do-gooders, the lefty lawyers, the Labour Party” who are “defending the broken system”, in a divisive speech during the Conservatives’ virtual party conference on Sunday.

During her address, she promised to deliver the “biggest overhaul of our asylum system in decades”, and will bring forward legislation next year to make the system “fairer and firmer” by stopping “endless legal claims” from people who are refused asylum.

“The fact that a lawyer represents an asylum seeker does not make them a ‘lefty lawyer’”, Law Society president Simon Davis said in a statement yesterday. “It simply makes them a lawyer. Attacks on members of the legal profession for doing their jobs do our country no credit.”

Davis continued:

“Slinging insults at lawyers undermines the rule of law in an area where views are already hotly held on all sides and risks leading to verbal abuse and to lawyers being physically attacked for doing their job.”

Patel also said she recognised that the plans would provoke criticism and controversy, saying: “No doubt those who are well-rehearsed in how to play and profit from the broken system will lecture us on their grand theories about human rights.”

But she made clear her commitment to the reforms, adding: “If at times it means being unpopular on Twitter. I will bear it.”

Patel’s speech did provoke the legal Twitterati, with The Secret Barrister briefly changing their Twitter handle to “The Secret Do-Gooder”.

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The Law Society previously condemned the Home Office’s attack on “activist lawyers” accused of frustrating the return of migrants to their home countries. The tweet was later taken down.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, added: “Attempting to paint lawyers with the ‘lefty’ brush seeks to demonise the very people helping constituents every day, without agenda, simply because they provide a vital public service. Lawyers carry out their duty and apply the law, irrespective of political persuasion, in accordance with our professional standards.”

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