A TOP lawyer has said he is taking “urgent security advice” after claiming to have been explicitly targeted by Rishi Sunak’s prime ministerial campaign.

The former chancellor, seen as the underdog in the race against Liz Truss to enter No 10, sent out a press release over the weekend pledging to crack down on “lawfare” should he become the next Tory leader.

In the release, Sunak’s team made explicit reference to Good Law Project and its head barrister Jo Maugham, accusing them of “wasting time and money” by challenging government policy in the courts.

A statement from the Tory leadership hopeful, issued with the release, said: “I have the greatest respect for our judiciary and the rule of law in this country, which is why I want to call time on politically motivated cases being brought before our courts.

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“Like millions, in 2016 I voted for our parliament to take back control. But it’s increasingly clear an entire lawfare industry is seeking to stand in the way of Parliament and the government delivering change.

“Repeated vexatious judicial reviews by political campaigners are clogging up the courts, costing us a fortune and acting as a drag on the Government delivering for the public. So if I’m Prime Minister, I’ll call time on campaigners politicising our courts.”

After the release was sent out, Maugham wrote on Twitter: “Rishi Sunak has put out a press release, naming me (and no one else) *10* times. So, yes, they are explicitly targeting their critics. And who knows where this goes?”

“There is an easier, traditional, more democratic, way not to be taken to court so often. Show some respect for the law. And don't treat the public finances as your private slush fund.”

There was an outpouring of support for Maugham on social media, with Labour’s John McDonnell writing: “This is dangerous stuff from the Tories. People don’t have to agree with the cases @JolyonMaugham pursues. I actually think he & his colleagues provide us with an invaluable public service but to threaten to target & thus seek to fetter what they do is a threat to all our rights.”

Maugham added to his original post on Monday: “Thank you to those who felt able to offer their support yesterday. Having reflected we are now taking urgent advice on personal security.”

The Tories have been criticised for attacking lawyers amid the court cases scrutinising their conduct. In October 2020, members of the profession accused Priti Patel of inspiring a far-right attack on a law firm with her attacks on "lefty" and "activist" lawyers.

Outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson further claimed the entire criminal justice system was “being hamstrung by lefty human rights lawyers”.

In May 2022, as arguments around immigration ramped up again, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, I Stephanie Boyce, said it was “misleading and dangerous for the prime minister to name-call lawyers who are doing their job and upholding the rule of law”.

“Attacks like this, from the highest politician in the land, undermine the rule of law and can have real-life consequences,” she went on, specifically referencing the Rwanda cases.

The Tory government has faced repeated legal battles over its plan to deport people seeking asylum to Rwanda. Despite having already spent £120 million on the policy, the Tories are still awaiting the results of court hearings due in the coming months to find out whether it is legal.

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Elsewhere, Johnson’s (above) prorogation of parliament in 2019 was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court, as was Michael Gove’s involvement in the awarding of a Covid contract to a market research firm – which he reportedly asked to conduct polling on the Union.

Among other such cases which it deemed a waste of time and a politicisation of the courts, Sunak’s press release highlighted the case of the Tory government’s “VIP lane” for PPE procurement.

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It said: “Maugham’s Good Law Project tried to sue the government for speedy procurement of PPE during the pandemic. Maugham crowdfunded £437,399 to challenge the creation of a High Priority Lane for PPE providers. The High Court found that it was ‘highly likely that … the contracts would have been awarded’ regardless of the Priority Lane.”

However, the court also ruled that the creation of the VIP lane, which saw contracts handed to companies with links to Tory ministers and peers, was illegal.

Furthermore, in the fall-out it was also revealed that the UK Government had been shady in its release of information about the VIP lane, with suggestions that information about as much as £1 billion of public cash had been withheld.

The Sunak campaign was approached for comment.