A group of prominent lawyers has signed a declaration vowing not to prosecute climate activists such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
It is feared that the decision of approximately 120 professionals will undermine the legal system.
Lawyers will refuse to act on behalf of clients who want to prosecute protesters involved in oil and gas demonstrations under the “Declaration of Conscience.”
Some of those suspected of involvement include Jolyon Maugham KC, founder of the Good Law Project, and Sir Geoffrey Bindham KC, chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights.
Fellow senior members of the legal profession have harshly criticised the move, claiming that the group is undermining the notion that everyone is entitled to fair legal representation.
Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland described the declaration as “very odd.”
“There are plenty of people lawyers represent who are deeply unpleasant and deeply unpopular, such as rapists and paedophiles,” he said.
“However, they have the right to a fair trial.” When lawyers begin to pick and choose, it undermines the legal profession’s independence.
“The importance of that independence is not about one’s individual views but the interests of justice, and I do think that’s a very odd approach to take, frankly, and not really consistent with the role of a lawyer.
“When you are a lawyer, you put your personal views aside… and you represent clients without fear or favour.
“This declaration doesn’t sit very well with that principle.”
In English law, the so-called cab rank rule requires a barrister to accept any case within their knowledge and expertise, provided they are free to do so.