Attorney general Suella Braverman has said it was ‘absurd’ to suggest her tweet of support for Dominic Cummings was a ‘legal opinion’ during a debate in the Commons.
Braverman was responding to claims put forward by shadow solicitor general, Ellie Reeves, that she ‘undermined’ the rule of law and her role as attorney general by supporting Cummings’ lockdown-breaking trip to Durham from London.
‘It’s plain for any reasonable observer to see that there was no question whatsoever of my having provided any public legal view on the matter,’ Braverman replied. ‘And to suggest that that was somehow a legal opinion is simply absurd.
‘[Reeves] should know that I have no role whatsoever to play in the day to day decisions of individual cases. I respect and have full confidence in the operational independence of the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] and the police and I would gently encourage [Reeves] to share my support and share my confidence in them.’
The Brexiteer MP faced a litany of complaints when she posted a message saying Cummmings had been a ‘good parent’ when he drove to Durham to seek childcare support. She then wrote it was ‘wholly inappropriate to politicise’ his actions.
Labour has called on Braverman to apologise for the tweet, which they have called ‘wrong’.
‘The attorney general was wrong to be out making public statements about an individual case before even the police had made a public statement, and particularly given her role as superintendent of the Crown Prosecution Service,’ shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds previously told the BBC.
‘She shouldn’t have been commenting on an individual case in those circumstances. That is to misunderstand the role of the attorney general – to give unvarnished advice to government without fear or favour – and at the bare minimum she should apologise for that.’
Labour’s comments were echoed by other legal professionals. Philippe Sands QC, a professor of international law at University College London, told the Guardian: ‘The absolute integrity of an attorney general is the prerequisite for a functioning democracy.’
‘She’s the adviser to the prime minister on matters of law and she therefore needs to be absolutely scrupulous to maintain an independent position on legal matters.
He added: ‘There’s a conflict between her position constitutionally providing independent advice to the prime minister and her role as an MP tweeting political support. She can do one or the other; she can’t do both.’