A solicitor whose firm ran a litany of immigration claims for judicial review with no prospect of success has been struck off.
Azfar Naseem Bajwa, principal of east London firm A Bajwa & Co, misled clients into thinking they had a prospect of success in cases which he knew were unarguable.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that information supplied by the Home Office highlighted that between August 2014 and July 2015, the firm submitted at least 14 cases which were certified as ‘totally without merit’.
Further inspections of the firm by the SRA showed that in a single year, 71 claims for judicial review were filed which were ultimately all refused: in 53 of these claims permission had been refused and of those 20 were totally without merit.
In a judgment published this week, the tribunal said: ‘These were not borderline cases where [Bajwa] had advised a moderate prospect of success and had then been unsuccessful after full legal argument at a hearing. The chances of success had been non-existent and [he] knew that.’
The tribunal heard that it was Home Office policy to defer removal directions when the subject made a claim for JR; delaying removal until a determination was made.
Because removal was therefore no longer ‘imminent’, the claimant would often be released from immigration detention, even when their claim was without merit.
Potential misconduct came to light in August 2015 when the chief operating officer of UK Visas and Immigration wrote to the SRA expressing concern about certain firms making a disproportionately high number of claims for JR.
The tribunal heard examples of JRs brought by Bajwa’s firm: in one case the upper tribunal judge described the application as ‘significantly out of time’ and the explanation ‘wholly insufficient’. In another claim a judge said the grounds advanced were ‘nothing short of fanciful’.
Bajwa said he had played down the chances of success to clients and recalled trying to dissuade one client from bringing a claim. But the SRA said he showed a ‘reckless disregard’ for professional obligations and it was no defence to say the claim form had been drafted by his father.
The tribunal described the way in which Bajwa gave evidence as ‘discursive, inconsistent and lacked credibility’, and added that the way in which he used the immigration system had a ‘clear potential to be abusive’.
The judgment added: ‘The filing of unarguable and abusive claims was part of a pattern designed to, in particular in relation to detention cases, secure a result for a client that could not otherwise have been legitimately achieved.’
Bajwa was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay £37,500 costs.