While not legal tech, we think this falls into the ‘need to know’ category. Following reports over the weekend of a violent knife attack at a law firm in September, and following her letter to the Prime Minister regarding his recent anti-lawyer comments, Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, which represent all barristers in England and Wales, has issued a further statement today (12 October) demanding a public apology.
Pinto said: “There should never be a situation when a British Prime Minister, Home Secretary and other Government ministers need to be called upon to stop deliberately inflammatory language towards a profession simply doing its job in the public interest. Shockingly, we’ve arrived at that point. As this same government has proclaimed, lawyers are essential workers and play a critical role in making sure the nation’s justice system continues to operate. Even if it was never the intention of this Government to incite violence against members of the legal profession, the fact the personal safety of lawyers is now at risk demands an immediate retraction of the ill-judged comments made in recent weeks by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, as well as a public apology.”
You can read that letter of 9 October to the Prime Minister in full below.
We asked the Home Office for comment and are yet to hear back.
9 October 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
I write to you as Chair of the Bar, representing all barristers in England and Wales, following your recent comments about lawyers.
As you will be aware, the proper application of the laws of this country is fundamental to the functioning of our justice system and society more widely. Lawyers are a vital part of the administration of justice, including the criminal justice system. Early in the pandemic, we were rightly identified by your Government as ‘key workers’, crucial to keeping society operating safely and properly during Covid-19.
Lawyers are bound by a professional duty to their client and to the court. It is a barrister’s task to set out the proper arguments for the court, regardless of any political affiliation.
Barristers are bound by the ‘cab-rank rule’ whereby, if they are available and have the requisite expertise, they must take every case offered and do it to the best of their ability.
I therefore deplore your remarks at the Conservative Party Conference which wrongly seek to politicise and attack lawyers for simply doing their job in the public interest. Far from the criminal justice system being ‘hamstrung’ by lawyers, the backlog of cases, extreme delays, crumbling court estate and shockingly underpaid practitioners are a direct result of chronic underfunding by successive Governments. It is the continual lack of investment that hamstrings the system and prevents many members of the public from accessing effective justice.
A member of your Cabinet, the Lord Chancellor, recently said “The freedoms and protections which we all enjoy rely on the rule of law; it is an important constitutional principle and, as a responsible Government, we remain committed to it.” The Government cannot remain committed to this principle by attacking those who put it into action every day.
A few days ago, he deprecated as wholly wrong the harassment and attacking of professionals for “doing their job – we must call it out and deal with it.”
I urge you to withdraw your comments and to reassure thousands of key workers – including lawyers employed by your own Government – that they are not being attacked by their Prime Minister for their important contribution to the justice system.
In the interests of transparency, I will be publishing this letter. I look forward to your response.
Amanda Pinto QC
Chair of the Bar of England and Wales
Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
Rt Hon Suella Braverman QC MP, Attorney General
Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, Home Secretary