Exclusive: The Lib Dems Have Urged The Attorney General To Intervene Over Priti Patel’s "Activist Lawyer" Tweet
Priti Patel said she hoped to make it "unviable" for asylum seekers to cross the Channel (PA)
The Liberal Democrats have written to cabinet ministers urging them to condemn the home secretary Priti Patel for claiming “activist lawyers” were preventing the removal of migrants in the Channel.
The home secretary attracted criticism on Thursday after she posted on Twitter that the government had removed people who had arrived in the UK in small boats and had no “legal right” to be in the country.
She added that the removal of the migrants was being “frustrated by activist lawyers” and that she hoped to make the route “unviable” in the future.
Her comments came a week after the Home Office attracted criticism for posting a video in which it claimed that current rules on deporting asylum seekers are “open to abuse… allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns.”
Wera Hobhouse, justice spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, has now written to justice secretary Robert Buckland and attorney general Suella Braverman urging them to condemn such language as “completely inappropriate”.
She added that such comments have “a corrosive effect on the rule of law”, adding that asylum seekers should “have the chance to argue for their rights in court”.
The letter continued: “For a Cabinet Minister to describe lawyers who are simply doing their jobs – jobs that are vital to uphold the rule of law in our country – as “activists” is outrageous and unacceptable.
“Will you make this clear to the Home Secretary and all members of the Government, and ask that they refrain from using any language intended to undermine our justice system?”
Commenting on the letter, Ms Hobhouse said: “The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those who need it, but this Conservative Government is determined to turn its back on refugees.
“With half of refusals overturned on appeal, it's clear that too many people are wrongly denied asylum. It's vital that asylum seekers have the chance to argue for their rights in court, with proper legal representation.
“Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for vulnerable people fleeing war or persecution and will oppose these attacks on the rule of law and those who uphold it.”
The comments by Ms Patel and the Home Office also attracted criticism from the Bar Council, who condemned them for using “divisive and deceptive language”.
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said last week: “Irresponsible, misleading communications from the Government, around the job that lawyers do in the public interest, are extremely damaging to our society.
“Legal professionals who apply the law and follow Parliament’s express intention, are not “activists”. They are merely doing their jobs, enabling people to exercise their statutory rights and defend themselves against those in power. Without those lawyers, our system would crumble.”
“The justice system provides a vital check and balance and should not be attacked for the sake of political point-scoring by the Government.
“We strongly condemn the use of divisive and deceptive language that undermines the rule of law and those working to uphold it.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general declined to comment but said a reply would be issued to the letter in due course.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.