A Birmingham solicitor who lost out on a family legal aid contract after her online application was hacked has won a legal challenge to the Legal Services Commission’s refusal to reconsider her application.
The High Court heard that Rifat Mushtaq, owner of Mushtaq & Co, had correctly completed a tender via the LSC’s e-tendering system on 17 October last year, but that her submission had been ‘hacked’ and altered.
The hacker deleted the details of the firm’s office in Birmingham, which meant that the tender did not comply with the LSC’s contract requirements.
Mushtaq applied for a judicial review after the LSC refused to give her a contract, even after she had given the commission evidence that the account had been hacked.
Mr Justice Bean provisionally indicated that he found in favour of Mushtaq and the LSC accepted that its decision should be quashed. It has agreed to reconsider her tender.
Mushtaq was represented by a Labour former legal aid minister, David Lock QC (pictured), from Birmingham’s No5 Chambers.
Speaking after the case Mushtaq said: ‘Thankfully common sense has prevailed. I knew my account had been hacked, but the LSC refused to believe me.
‘It took specialist computer experts to show that the changes had been made from computers that were in no way connected with my firm and even then the LSC dug its heels in and refused to review my tender.’
An LSC spokesman said the commission has an obligation to treat every bidder equally, but added: ‘In this instance, the LSC and the claimant recognised that the extraordinary and unusual facts amounted to fraud and the claim was concluded on that basis.’
Criminal enquiries into the hacking are pending.