FOR the children of the Waitrose estates which gather at the edge of cities the call to “be a lawyer” comes earlier and earlier each year. It’s the social equivalent of the greenhouse gas effect.

Perhaps we could call it the The Hothouse Gas effect. Whatever, the effects can be just as catastrophic. The period of a child’s innocence, already menaced by the psychotic caprices of modern parenting, becomes each year shorter and shorter.

You must be a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant and, whoosh, there goes their childhood to be replaced by an early introduction to career economics; property markets and country clubs and all at a time when they should still be chasing pigeons.

My childhood ended at 11 years old when a kindly teacher informed my mum and dad that within their first-born son lay the makings of a callow Einstein. This was purely on the basis of one solitary test where I had shone.

Within weeks the Enid Blyton books had disappeared and been replaced by one of those shiny, leather-bound assemblages offered in The Readers Digest with a lofty title like The Parchment Series or The Eponym Collection.

I, too, was told about the extraordinary purchasing power of lawyers and their wondrous influence on society. I was advised to “get three As and two Bs in your Highers and after that you’re home and hosed”.

All that was required of me to reach this Xanadu was to sacrifice a few years of alfresco drinking and chasing the favours of unattainable girls.

Only very rarely did the designation ‘lawyer’ feature in conversations about helping vulnerable people or keeping governments honest. The entire purpose of pursuing a career in the law was to make a lorry-load of money and join an exclusive golf club.

If an aspirational working-class family produced a lawyer from its midst: Babychams and Valpolicella ensued. This was sweet compensation for decades of self-denial and social discrimination.

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The concept of human rights lawyers was an abstruse one. Why would you waste the opportunity to become very rich helping billionaires and corporations hide their assets or corrupt governments conceal their dishonesty by choosing instead to take the side of those they cast aside? When Boris Johnson felt moved this week to denounce “lefty human rights lawyers” he was merely articulating the exasperation of his class and those who fluff around them seeking preferment.

Johnson made his dog-whistle during his speech at the Tories’ virtual conference. This was designed to provoke the fury of the mob in the same way that Nigel Farage had done by commandeering racism during the Brexit campaign.

The problem with lefty lawyers is that there aren’t enough of them. Yet, those few who do choose to deploy their expertise to give a voice to the voiceless continue to menace the dreams of avarice of rich men and governments. This is why Mr Johnson reviles them so.

One of the defining literary and scholarly works of modern Scotland is Andy Wightman’s The Poor Had No Lawyers. It demands to be read if you want to reach an understanding of why Scotland cannot be considered a fair society while prevailing patterns of land ownership persist in our most beautiful places. Its title alone hints at how powerful and corrupt people used their riches in the 17th and 18th centuries to bend the law to their will in stealing the land their descendants now own.

The poor still have none but a handful of lawyers; nor do migrants; the elderly and those imprisoned through police corruption and judicial – how can I put this – predisposition. There is a reason why a ridiculously disproportionate number of our top judges were educated in Scotland’s and the UK’s most exclusive fee-paying factories. After the 1984/85 Miners Strike both these instruments of the state came together to ensure that striking miners were either jailed outright or handed sanctions sufficient to destroy their chances of ever working again.

Then there’s Sheku Bayou, who died five years ago in police custody in circumstances that have yet to be adequately explained. News Corp, owners of the now defunct News of The World spent untold millions defending their miscreants over phone-hacking. In Scotland it took the human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar 18 years to secure a conviction in the Surjit Singh Chokar case and all on a pro-bono basis.

And there’s Katie Allan or William Lindsay who both killed themselves at Polmont Young Offenders Institution, described by Ms Allan’s family as “a suicide school for inmates”. Our system of justice simply disposed of them and only began to listen after it was too late. The Lockerbie Appeal, supported by British families and the relatives of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, took six years to secure.

From the ordeal of the Ay family in Dungavel and the poor mum of Emma Caldwell still fighting for justice for the murder of her beautiful daughter. 

The apparatus of the state is seen at its most vengeful if the police get it wrong and acquiescent judges look the other way. On these occasions – more numerous than the state would have us believe – only the sheer, cussed persistence of human rights lawyers secure anything resembling justice.

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In the course of this pandemic the UK Government has handed billions of pounds to companies for PPE equipment, many of them extraordinarily ill-qualified to do so or who enjoy ‘connections’ with the Johnson/Cummings cartel. In due course there will be inquiries north and south of the border on aspects of both governments’ response to coronavirus. It will be a Klondyke for the UK’s corporate law sector and the millions they rake in will be money well spent.

Here’s a prediction: not one minister; not a single politician, adviser or civil servant will be disciplined for the chaos of track and trace, the horrors in our care homes and the corrupt greed in the UK’s buoyant PPE market. 

Those who cashed in or have questions to answer will have battalions of lawyers; the families of those who suffered and died will have few. This political toe-rag of a Prime Minister, though, still thinks that’s a few too many.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.