An immigration firm has been referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority after judges said it had engaged in ‘a systematic course of conduct designed to undermine the immigration process’.
Manchester firm Sandbrook Solicitors appeared before the upper tribunal in Manchester Civil Justice Centre after the firm was suspected of deploying a strategy of seeking last-minute interim relief in deportation cases and then failing to issue proceedings in the hope that clients would fall ‘below the radar’.
Once granted relief, clients would be released from detention and in many cases abscond, the ruling said.
Mr Justice Green said the firm’s conduct suggested a ‘deliberate disregard for the professional duties owed to the court’ which ‘strikes at the very heart of the system of immigration control’.
Commenting on five cases in which Sandbrook had been involved, Green said they showed the firm was prepared to advance cases on virtually any ground ‘however tenuous or hopeless’, simply to enable applications for interim relief.
Once relief was granted, the firm would fail to pursue a substantive claim for judicial review, and in one instance tried to persuade the tribunal that a claim for review was ‘academic’. Green described this as ‘a most disquieting aspect’ of the case.
He also noted that the firm had repeatedly failed to respond to requests from tribunal officials, which he feared was a ‘further component of a strategy to lie low and hope that a case will go away in the future’.
Green said the tribunal had made no findings of fact, but had referred the firm and its solicitors to the SRA.
In a statement to the Gazette, Sandbrook said: ‘We are aware of the referral by Mr Justice Green of a small number of immigration matters in which we were referred to the SRA for review.
‘Whilst it would be inappropriate for us to comment in detail at this stage while the SRA review is ongoing, we are confident that, in due course, once the same has been completed, we will be found to have acted appropriately and in accordance with our professional obligations at all times.’