Profession reacts to appointment of new lord chancellor and justice minister
Some expressed concern as to whether the lord chancellor was qualified for the role
There has been a mixed reaction from the legal profession to the news Brandon Lewis MP has been appointed as lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice.
Julian Hayes, senior partner at Berris Law, expressed concern at the appointment. “The appointment of Brandon Lewis as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor is a disappointing one”, said Hayes.
“Not only does he not fulfil the qualifications to hold the Lord Chancellor post, he strongly advocated for the Government to break international law whilst supporting the Internal Markets Bill.
“It would appear that his appointment has been made principally because of his support for Liz Truss. Whilst he qualified as a barrister, he is in fact a career politician and has no track record of ever working within the justice system. Anyone who holds this post should have the necessary experience and have worked within the justice system at some point”.
Hayes said he was “concerned as to his fitness to hold such a position”, but that hoped Lewis would prove his reservations wrong. He added: “We can only hope that he engages with the criminal bar to resolve the barristers’ dispute and that he works with Lord Bellamy to ensure that the recommendations and demands are met and that mechanisms are put in place to ensure the sustainability of the system for the future.”
The Law Society said the crisis in the justice system should be “lighting up the new justice minister’s inbox”.
Law Society vice president Lubna Shuja commented: “Justice and fair play are hallmarks of Britain and traditionally a source of pride for the country. But today they are less recognisable features of our national landscape”.
“Backlogs in the courts mean people are waiting years for their day in court, their lives in limbo. The new minister has an opportunity to re-energise the system and restore people’s faith in British justice.
“A vibrant legal aid system is the only way to ensure everyone is treated equally before the law. But after decades of underfunding and cuts people cannot get the legal aid they need to resolve life-changing legal problems.
Shuja shared the Law Society’s view on what the minister’s priorities should be. “The new minister should begin by making sure anyone who cannot afford legal help is eligible for state-funded expert advice – the cost-of-living crisis makes this change to the means test more urgent than ever.
“Civil and criminal legal aid solicitors are being forced to close their doors because government rates have been stagnant for more than two decades. The minister should set rates of pay at the level needed to make the system viable so these vital public servants can continue to serve the country properly renumerated for their expertise and hard work”.
Professor Chris Bones, Chair of CILEX, welcomed Lewis’s appointment: “CILEX welcomes the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and we look forward to continuing the positive working relationship developed under his predecessors.
Bones said he hoped Lewis would complete the work begun to secure changes that will improve diversity and social mobility across the legal profession. He said: “In particular, we want to see the promised removal of the barriers to allow trial ready CILEX Lawyers to aid the court backlog by working as Crown Prosecutors, the removal of the final barriers to judicial appointments for lawyers from diverse backgrounds and the successful passage of the private members bill to address the anomalies in certifying powers of attorney”.