An experienced immigration solicitor who brought dozens of useless removal appeals before the court has been fined £60,000.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal opted to penalise Syed Wasif Ali and impose an indefinite ban on him making any further judicial review applications.
The tribunal said Ali, admitted in 2007 and formerly with north-west London firm Harrow Solicitors, acted recklessly by making claims that bore the hallmarks of being an abuse and clogged up the immigration system.
Ali had been summoned to a so-called Hamid hearing before Mr Justice Lane in June 2018 after he brought 36 immigration judicial review claims in the space of 13 months. Of these, 11 were totally without merit and nine were not admitted as they were out of time.
The solicitor would make an immigration application for migrants who faced being removed to their countries of origin, and at the same time usually apply for a fee waiver. The SRA submitted these applications were hopeless and badly drafted, almost always making reference to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom from detention), even though no clients faced the threat of detention. Ali would often make subsequent applications on the same grounds.
Lane J said the cases examined displayed ‘a number of disturbing features’ and it became clear from the first judicial review decision that Ali’s approach was ‘fundamentally misconceived’.
Before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the SRA submitted that Ali was an experienced immigration practitioner who made legal challenges when they had no prospect of succeeding and served only to burden the Home Office with responding to meritless applications. His claims reiterated the ‘same generic, irrelevant, poorly drafted submissions’ contained in pre-action protocol letters.
The tribunal heard Ali had apologised unreservedly for his mistakes and said he had immediately stopped filing further judicial reviews until he had addressed the points raised by the judge.
He now admitted misconduct except for recklessness and wanted to make a ‘clean breast’ of matter. The cases that were subject of these proceedings amounted to 1.4% of those cases he handled in his career and were attributed to ‘incompetence’ rather than knowingly taking a risk.