Boris Johnson’s ‘misleading and dangerous’ attack on lawyers over Rwanda deal condemned

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Boris Johnson’s fresh attack on lawyers over attempts to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda has been condemned as “misleading and dangerous”.

A legal body warned of “real-life consequences” from the government’s repeated targeting of the legal profession.

A man is to stand trial later this year accused of plotting to kill an immigration solicitor in an attempted terror attack on a London law firm.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the prime minister said that “liberal-left lawyers will try to make this [Rwanda deal] difficult”.

“We always knew this was going to happen,” he added. “I think it’s a humane, compassionate and sensitive thing to do. I’m not going to pretend to you that is going to be without legal challenges … but we will get it done.”

The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said they “serve the rule of law and keep the government accountable”.

President Stephanie Boyce said: “Anyone at risk of such a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights.

“It is misleading and dangerous for the prime minister to name-call lawyers who are doing their job and upholding the law.

“Attacks like this, from the highest politician in the land, undermine the rule of law and can have real-life consequences.

“Britain’s standing internationally is underpinned by our reputation for democracy, fair play and the independence of our legal system.

“We should all be proud that we live in a country where legal rights cannot be overridden without due process.”

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The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, said the government’s own factsheet on the Rwanda deal said that “everyone considered for relocation will have access to legal advice”.

Chair Mark Fenhalls QC added: “It is unclear who will be making these decisions, or what criteria they will be applying. But, as the government acknowledges, the lawyers who provide legal advice in such cases will be fulfilling their professional duties. Attacks on men and women for simply doing their jobs are irresponsible and undermine the rule of law.”

Theresa May clashes with Priti Patel over Rwanda asylum seeker policy

Downing Street previously admitted that there has been no date set for the start of transfers to Rwanda, and that the process could take several months to start.

The UN Refugee Agency has vocally opposed the deal, saying it “evades international obligations and is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention”.

Legal action by groups Care4Calais, Detention Action and the PCS civil service union – which represents Border Force and Home Office staff – started last week.

A pre-action letter challenged the Home Office’s failure to disclose the governing criteria which asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda, and the argued plans were unlawful and contravene the Refugee Convention.

Separately, the charity Freedom From Torture has demanded disclosure of underlying policy documents and says it could launch a judicial review claim.

It is seeking information on the policy, risk assessments and documents related to cooperation between the governments of the UK and Rwanda.

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The prime minister and home secretary have made several public attacks on lawyers since 2020, frequently on issues relating to immigration and asylum.

In November, the Lord Chief Justice said all lawyers were subject to the law, professional obligations and codes of conduct.

“Lawyers act on instructions from their clients,” he added. “That is what I did, that is what every lawyer does, and everyone is entitled to have their case argued, their case presented.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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