Knife attack on law firm ‘inspired by Priti Patel’s activist lawyer remarks’

Priti Patel looks on ahead of a minute’s silence inside the atrium at Scotland Yard in London on 25 September 2020 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Priti Patel looks on ahead of a minute’s silence inside the atrium at Scotland Yard in London on 25 September 2020 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A “violent, racist attack” in which a man entered a law firm in London armed with a knife was inspired by a speech given by Priti Patel, lawyers have claimed.

On 7 September, a 28-year-old man entered the office of a law firm whose identity has been withheld, armed with a knife. He was subsequently charged with assault, racially aggravated public disorder, possession of, and making threats with, a bladed article in a public place and making threats to kill.

Days earlier, the home secretary had complained about “activist lawyers” who were working to delay the removal of failed asylum seekers.

She wrote on 3 September: “Today we removed people who came here via small boat.

“They had previously claimed asylum elsewhere and had no legal right to be in the UK.

“Removals continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers, but I will not let up until this route is unviable.”

Her comments were criticised at the time as having undermined the legal system.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said lawyers should not be political targets simply for carrying out their work.

“Irresponsible, misleading communications from the Government, around the job that lawyers do in the public interest, are extremely damaging to our society,” she said.

“Legal professionals who apply the law and follow Parliament’s express intention, are not ‘activists’.

“We strongly condemn the use of divisive and deceptive language that undermines the rule of law and those working to uphold it.”

Ms Patel has since doubled down on her criticism of parts of the legal profession, attacking “do-gooders” and “lefty lawyers” in a speech to the Conservative conference on 6 October.

Now, in a letter seen by The Observer, the law firm targeted in the knife attack has said “responsibility and accountability…lies squarely at the feet of Priti Patel”.

The company, which has not been named for security reasons, has appealed to the Law Society to raise the issue with the government to “ensure that public attacks on the legal profession are prevented from this point forth”.

According to the Sunday paper, the letter said: “It must be ensured that no further lives are endangered as a result of her untruthful and deliberately inflammatory rhetoric. Put simply, this must stop now, before innocent lives are taken and other irreparable damage is done to those who work in this field.

“This must involve all previous statements made by Priti Patel being publicly retracted, and an apology or acknowledgment that such action to date has been inappropriate. Urgent reassurance is required from the government that this will not be repeated. The position as it stands is untenable, dangerous, and cannot be allowed to persist.”

The Independent contacted the Home Office for comment.

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