By James Simons-
A fresh look report containing 49 recommendations of dodgy immigration solicitors is to be considered by a new administrative justice body chaired by the senior president of tribunals, Sir Ernestr Ryder. The recommendation arose after an immigration solicitor told a client an advocate’s fee was five times higher than it really was, and pocketed the difference in an ‘appalling case’ highlighted by a member of human rights organisation Justice’s working party on immigration and appeals.
The solicitors alleged to be dodgy cannot be named until facts are presented and verified to the administrative body that will assess the report and allegations in detail.
The report states that the working party member’s experience is ‘an extreme but far from isolated example’. Legitimate immigration advice can be obtained from a solicitor accredited by the Law Society or an adviser accredited by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner(OISC), but many desperate clients seek advice and custom from solicitors recommended to them by mutual friends, or by solicitors they find through search engines like google.
The authors of the report explored several proposals to improve the quality of advice and representation. The idea of additional qualifications or exams was rejected. ‘We were loath to add additional accreditation burdens for good practitioners and we also recognised that it is not necessarily a lack of legal knowledge and experience which leads to the launch of meritless claims. However, we were surprised to learn that the OISC standard of accreditation is not equivalent to the Law Society’s Immigration and Asylum Accreditation Standards. We could see no immediate justification for that,’ the report states.
The immigration and asylum chambers are being urged to collect information where practitioners have provided a poor quality service, and where claims are certified as totally without merit. HM Courts & Tribunals Service is also being urged to investigate the possibility of enabling clients to check nearby advisers and qualifications.
Unveiled at London firm Kingsley Napley on Monday evening, proposed reforms have been made to the the Administrative Justice Council, which will advise the lord chancellor and suggest reforms, will hold its first full council meeting this month. Ryder said he proposed to refer the working party’s report to the council ‘to try and help ensure all the recommendations are followed up’.