A solicitor who persistently tried to undermine the immigration system and brought ‘tenuous and hopeless’ judicial reviews in the hope of winning favour with his clients has been struck off the roll.
Vay Sui Ip, a partner at Manchester-based Sandbrook Solicitors, was told that – although he had thought he was doing right by his clients - only a strike off could protect the profession. He was ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
In 2015, the firm appeared before the upper tribunal in Manchester Civil Justice Centre after it was suspected of deploying a strategy of seeking last-minute interim relief in deportation cases and failing to issue proceedings in the hope that clients would fall ‘below the radar’.
Commenting on cases in which Sandbrook and Ip had been involved, Mr Justice Green, who referred the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said the firm was prepared to advance cases on virtually any ground ‘however tenuous or hopeless’.
Dishonesty had not been alleged in the SRA charges and the tribunal noted that no client trust had been breached, In fact Ip’s clients spoke favourably of him on social networks, it was claimed.
The tribunal said Ip had been motivated by a desire to help others and keep up a good reputation in his community but that at the same he breached the trust that the court placed in him. ‘The tribunal found that the respondent had engaged in a systematic course of conduct designed to undermine the immigration system. The respondent’s conduct could not be characterised as being an error on just one or two occasions,’ the judgment found.
It added: ‘A solicitor dealing with court proceedings was in a position of trust, as the court relied on that solicitor to be candid and to deal with proceedings properly. The respondent had breached that trust.’
The tribunal said a strike off would act as a deterrent to other members of the profession who were tempted to make erroneous court applications.
The tribunal also noted a potential problem with the immigration system in that a person in the UK unlawfully who makes representations in a leave to remain application can not be deported until those submissions had been considered by the Home Office. It said where late submissions were made there may not be a proper opportunity to consider whether or not these were new submissions, or simply a repetition of earlier matters.
If an injunction was subsequently granted a client would generally be released from detention giving them the opportunity to abscond.