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Experienced immigration solicitors disciplined over abusive litigation
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Experienced immigration solicitors disciplined over abusive litigation

A solicitor has been suspended from practice for 18 months, and his brother heavily fined, in the latest disciplinary ruling over tactical judicial reviews designed to frustrate deportations.

Malik Mohammed Saleem and Malik Mohammed Nazeer, of London firm Malik & Malik, were sanctioned by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal following a hearing in November. Each had over 20 years’ experience as a solicitor.

Malik & Malik had submitted 35 judicial review cases between April 2014 and July 2015 that were certified as totally without merit, according to the Home Office. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which brought the case, alleged that bringing meritless claims was a tactic designed to “prevent a claimant from being removed until their claim for JR was determined”.

The tribunal was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that both solicitors had, among other things,

facilitated the abuse of litigation by bringing or facilitating judicial review claims on behalf of clients… in circumstances where they knew or should have known that the claim was not properly arguable and its true purpose was to thwart and/or delay lawful removal and/or procure release from lawful detention.

Malik Mohammed Saleem, as the partner in charge of the immigration department and “the more culpable of the two”, was also found to have recklessly failed to warn two clients that any claims they brought would be “bound to fail and/or out of time”, and to have been “manifestly incompetent” in one case.

Not all the regulator’s allegations were proven, and the tribunal found that the “misconduct arose from an overzealous desire to help clients that he perceived to be vulnerable”. Saleem was “clearly knowledgeable in this area of law and had adduced positive character references in mitigation”. But he “had put unarguable points before the court and in doing so had wasted his clients’ money and court time”. The result was an 18-month suspension, as well as various conditions and restrictions on his practice once the suspension ends.

Nazeer’s misconduct was mitigated by the fact that he “had trusted his brother albeit he had turned a blind eye to how his brother was running the department and the deficiencies therein”. The sanction in his case was a £20,000 fine and identical practice restrictions. This followed a £5,000 fine imposed in 2012 in relation to applications for professional indemnity insurance.

The firm had been hauled over the coals by judges in three Hamid hearings over the years. In the third, R (Patel) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 264 (Admin), Sir Brian Leveson said that “it is almost inconceivable that Malik & Malik will survive a further referral to a Hamid court”.

The regulator was awarded its costs, fixed at over £52,000.

 

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