The High Court has warned immigration solicitors they face referral to their regulator if they make ‘abusive’ judicial review applications.
Dealing with four separate cases, the president of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir Brian Leveson reminded firms of the warning given by his predecessor, Sir John Thomas, now the lord chief justice.
Pledging to name and shame solicitors who lodge groundless applications, Thomas said last year in R ex parte Hamid v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3070 (Admin) that ‘meritless applications by people who face removal or deportation are an intolerable waste of public money, a great strain on the resources of this court and an abuse of a service this court offers’.
He warned: ‘The court therefore intends to take the most vigorous action against any legal representatives who fail to comply with its rules. If people persist in failing to follow the procedural requirements, they must realise that this court will not hesitate to refer those concerned to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.’
Leveson signalled his intent to take the same hard-line approach as his predecessor, telling firms what to expect if they waste the court’s time.
Initially, he said a firm may be given an opportunity to address failings and report back to the court on its progress. If they fail to seize that opportunity and find themselves before the court a second or third time, he said it is likely the court will report the matter to the SRA.
Leveson said: ‘In these days of austerity, the court simply cannot afford to spend unnecessary time on processing abusive applications. Still less is it a proper use of the time of out-of-hours and overnight judges, hard pressed at the very best of times, to deal with such applications.
‘All those who practice in this field ought to be warned, because the most serious failings will not necessarily lead to this stepped approach, but may lead directly to the reference to the SRA’
He added: ‘These courts are not assembled because of our wish to embarrass or otherwise impugn solicitors whose work is conscientious, thorough and in accordance with the highest keepings of the profession. We are however, determined to ensure that the overly frequent abusive applications in this field of law cease and we will take whatever steps are necessary to do so.’
None of the firms were referred to the regulator, even though two of them had been summoned before to the court previously to explain failings. All firms gave undertakings to take corrective actions and must inform the court of their progress in six weeks.
Read the full judgment.