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Angus MP slammed for mocking critical lawyer with laughing-face emojis

Dave Doogan MP
Dave Doogan MP

Angus MP Dave Doogan has been told to apologise for a “tone deaf” response to a Fife solicitor’s verdict on Scotland’s under-pressure justice system.

Lyndsey Barber, who works in criminal defence, posted a long clip online about the difficult decision to quit her “dream job” because of mental health struggles over a shortage of staff.

She attempted to attract the attention of Justice Secretary Keith Brown online.

But Mr Doogan responded to criticism and concerns about the state of the system with a string of laughing face emojis in a Twitter post, telling Ms Barber to “catch yourself on”.

The comments were raised on Tuesday in Holyrood with demands for an apology.

Senior QC Roddy Dunlop – Dean of the Faculty of Advocates – said it was “unimpressive and disappointing”.

‘Soul-destroying’

In her video, viewed over 3,800 times within days, Ms Barber says her job is now “soul destroying”.

She highlights how few see the impact the day-to-day work has on lawyers.

Ms Barber also highlighted the approximately £15,000 pay gap between newly-qualified defence solicitors and newly-qualified solicitors working for the Crown Office.

On the back of her video, the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association said the justice system is “in imminent danger of collapse” because of how the Scottish Government funds legal aid lawyers.

Calls for SNP to respond to criticisms

Ms Barber had tried to grab the attention of senior government figures.

Responding to a comment on by the justice secretary online on a separate topic linked to independence, she claimed: “Hard to self-determine when you’ll have no judicial system.

“Lord of the flies more like.”

Afterwards Ms Barber also said she had emailed and called Mr Brown at his constituency and his parliament office, and joked she would look at booking a sky-writer to get her message across to him.

Mr Doogan responded with “No judicial system!!?? Catch yourself on” and six laughing face emojis.

‘Deeply unimpressive and disappointing’

His comment prompted a backlash from others within the Scottish legal system.

Roddy Dunlop QC, dean of the faculty of advocates, said: “So far as I can see, this is one of [very] few responses from the SNP on the widespread concerns raised by Lyndsey re current problems with criminal justice in Scotland.

“With great respect, Mr Doogan, it is a deeply unimpressive and disappointing response.”

Commenter W James Smith also said: “Had big Dave and his laughing emojis actually researched [Lyndsey Barber] he might have discovered that this crisis is having a huge impact on mental and physical health.

“We are no longer capable of doing the work without severely damaging ourselves.”

Calls for justice secretary to talk

Ms Barber will leave her job as a defence lawyer in mid-July to take up a job working remotely in commercial and finance law in Geneva, but still wants to speak to the justice secretary before that.

She said: “I am not asking for much, just five minutes of his time.

“I want lawyers to be spoken to and paid appropriately because the wage for our jobs is not commensurate.

“We need more pay, more support and more engagement, but the government is literally refusing to engage with us.

“I don’t know what needs to happen for him to talk.

“We can’t retain staff because people are jumping ship for more money elsewhere.

“This is something I wanted to do all my life but I am not wasting 15 years of my life in a profession that is dying.

“I regret giving as much of myself over to it, it has affected so much of my life.”

Calls for Doogan to apologise

The Conservatives are now calling for Mr Doogan to remove his tweet and apologise for his “tone deaf” comments.

Liam Kerr, Conservative MSP for the North East, said: “It speaks volumes that Keith Brown has remained silent about the courtrooms crisis his party is presiding over – he knows he hasn’t got any defence.

“But Dave Doogan’s coat is on a shoogly peg indeed.

Liam Kerr, MSP for the North East

“In Angus, the SNP closed Arbroath Sheriff Court and centralised jury trials to Dundee.

“At the very least he should retract his tone deaf and insulting comments to this lawyer, who should be getting support from his government at Holyrood.

“He should also apologise immediately to those who are bearing the brunt of Scots justice at the cost of their own health.

“Even better if he talks to Mr Brown about legal aid rates that have been largely static for 20 years.”

Mr Doogan has been approached for comment.

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