JACQUELINE McKenzie leads a team of lawyers who specialise in immigration and civil rights cases at law firm Leigh Day. She was a member of the independent advisory group that delivered the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in March 2020, which led to an official apology from the then Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

In recent days McKenzie has been the subject of significant negative press coverage. On 9 August the following statement was released on behalf of all partners at Leigh Day.

Following the recent media coverage criticising and attacking one of our partners, Jacqueline McKenzie, and many other immigration lawyers we wanted to publicly state our complete support and admiration for the work that Jacqueline, her team, and many other lawyers around the country do to ensure that the law is applied accurately to their clients’ cases.

We understand that a briefing criticising Jacqueline was sent from Conservative Campaign Headquarters (formerly known as Conservative Central Office). This four-page briefing had many inaccuracies and was plainly sent with an agenda for Jacqueline to be singled out and targeted by the press.

It is shocking and shameful that in a democratic society such a document could be sent from any political party, not least the party in government. It is both irresponsible and extremely dangerous for anyone to be targeted this way, as we sadly saw in September 2020 when an immigration lawyer was attacked at his office by a man brandishing a knife, which reportedly followed comments by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The document centred on Jacqueline’s supposed links to the Labour party and her work on a multi sectoral group chaired by Baroness Doreen Lawrence to examine race disparities in the UK which she was invited to volunteer for. Omitted from the briefing was Jacqueline’s involvement on another group chaired by Priti Patel MP on the Windrush Scandal and the 90 per cent of her work which is focused on legal support for victims of the Windrush Scandal.

Jacqueline is a well-respected expert with decades of experience in her field of asylum and immigration law and it should not be a surprise that political parties may seek her expertise when working on policies.

Lawyers should not be criticised for doing their jobs. People are entitled to have legal representation when faced with removal from the country, or indeed being moved to accommodation which may be unsuitable. Many of the clients represented by Jacqueline’s team have been through trauma, torture or incredible hardship. In a civilised society they should be treated with compassion and understanding as well as having the law applied accurately and fairly to the individual circumstances of their case.

While the work we do as a firm is not always popular we strive to provide access to justice to all whether that is bereaved families who need help finding answers through the inquest process, those who have been seriously injured on our roads, employees who have been discriminated against by their employers and international communities who bear the brunt of multinational corporations wreaking havoc on their local environments. This commitment to access to justice for all extends to those seeking asylum in this country or who need support with their immigration status.

We are proud of the work we do and will not be cowed by a government whose strategy appears to be to attack and demonise lawyers, and the judiciary, merely for working to ensure the laws of this country are upheld.

On behalf of all partners at law firm Leigh Day.

* More information on Jacqueline McKenzie here.

* Source: Leigh Day