The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed it is investigating a firm accused by a judge of ‘shameful’ behaviour during a delayed immigration tribunal involving convicted child abusers.
Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, president of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, said Nottingham-based Burton & Burton had showed the tribunal ‘sustained and marked disrespect’ in a critical judgment last month.
The firm had acted in a deportation appeal involving men convicted in 2012 of a string of offences, including rape, involving girls as young as 13 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
The town’s MP Simon Danczuk, who spoke out in the wake of the judgment against the firm, subsequently complained about their conduct to the SRA and published the regulator’s response this week.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip revealed that the organisation has asked to meet the judge to establish the scope of his concerns and whether he has examples of similar conduct by other firms or practitioners.
‘The comments made by Mr Justice McCloskey are of real concern and we have started investigating this,’ said Philip. ‘We have a range of powers to deal with fitness to practise issues and what may be appropriate will depend on the seriousness of our findings.’
McCloskey said the lawyers for the convicted four men had failed to submit the necessary papers to the court and had repeatedly asked for adjournments.
Danczuk said: ‘I have a number of concerns regarding the conduct of this firm of solicitors, who have made repeated requests for adjournments, generating fees in the process.
‘By unnecessarily dragging out the trial, they have allowed the perpetrators of these crimes to remain in the UK.’
The comments from McCloskey were not the first time he has been critical of a law firm: in January the immigration judge said one firm had ‘blackmailed’ the Upper Tribunal into adjourning a hearing and he accused lawyers of wasting the tribunal’s time.
Burton & Burton has been approached for comment.