The Faculty of Advocates has spoken out against a renewed attack by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on supposedly "left-wing criminal justice lawyers", joining widespread criticism from all sections of the legal profession.
In an interview with LBC's Nick Ferrari, Mr Johnson attacked the Labour Party as having "consistently taken the side of left-wing criminal justice lawyers against the interests of the public".
In a statement, Faculty said the comments went hand in hand with recent pronouncements by the Home Secretary and appeared to be "part of a strategy to undermine the rule of law".
It continued: "It is essential to a fair system of justice that those charged with crime have legal representation. Without such representation, no conviction would be safe. For the Prime Minister to undermine that principle, with the aim of political posturing, is damaging to the rule of law.
"Lawyers represent their clients without associating themselves with the merits, or the politics, of their client’s position. They do so because that is their duty. The nature of this duty does not change whether the lawyer is prosecuting or defending a case. The Prime Minister knows this and yet sees fit to make political capital from a baseless mischaracterisation. In so doing, he risks damaging the system of criminal justice irreparably.
"Moreover, the current rhetoric around lawyers is irresponsible and risks serious consequences. Those in the criminal justice system – judges, prosecution and defence – have kept the legal system afloat in very difficult circumstances. For the Prime Minister and his Government to treat key workers in this manner is entirely unsatisfactory."
Among other reactions, Derek Sweeting QC, chair of the Bar Council for England & Wales, tweeted: "Sad to see unfounded 'left-wing criminal justice lawyer' comments from the Prime Minister. Criminal lawyers, designated key workers by the government, act independently, prosecuting on behalf of the public or defending members of the public – in the public interest."
Barrister Mary Aspinall-Miles added: "He clearly hasn’t met many criminal lawyers. To hold the state to account and in check is a principle upheld by all criminal lawyers of all political hues."