Last week’s Queen’s speech included new criminal sentences for those assisting organised crime syndicates. In the pre-speech publicity, it was clear the authors had ‘professionals’ – accountants and lawyers who help clients do illegal things – in their sights.
Should such legislation not just get a big thumbs up? A look at SDT decisions reveals a profession that comes down hard on misdeeds.
Maybe one should just smile indulgently at such simple political window dressing, knowing that wrongdoing of this sort is hardly a matter that is tolerated in law as it is – and is entirely separate from an assault on lawyer-client privilege.
In fact, the professions mentioned in the same breath as this proposed legislation should mind it very much. It comes in the context of what can feel like an ‘agenda’ on the part of government to undermine the role, independence and standing of the legal profession.
Lest that sound too pompous, consider the picture government has painted of the legal profession since 2010. This has been of lawyers intent on – variously – aiding terrorists, stalling economic growth, fuelling unwanted immigration and indulging the work-shy. Lawyers are depicted as profiting from family misery and impeding the police.
It is a narrative that is thoroughly corrosive and policy-makers should be called out on it.