Recent press revelations have highlighted instances of immigration lawyers giving out misleading legal advice to migrants looking for help with immigration matters. The revelations have triggered a series of urgent remedial actions from both legal regulators and government bodies.
Immediately following the reports of wrong-doing, a number of regulated firms and individuals under the remit of associated regulators have been subject to disciplinary actions and sanctions.
The SRA has closed down three of the law firms named in the report and are also launching an investigation into the immigration law sector and renewed its call for unlimited fining powers. This follows a recent call from the Legal Services Board (LSB) requesting the government increase the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) fining powers beyond the current £25,000 limit.
CILEx Regulation has also taken appropriate action following an individual, subject to the Code of Conduct*, being identified under the press report. CILEX Regulation will also be carrying out assurance that all immigration advice is being provided in a regulated manner in accordance with the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999.
The UK government officially announced the launch of a new task force at the beginning of August. The Professional Enablers Taskforce, aiming to bring together regulatory bodies, law enforcement and other government departments to prosecute immigration lawyers who encourage or assist with false claims.
Lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means could be prosecuted under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971, for ‘assisting unlawful immigration to the UK’. They could face a sentence of up to life imprisonment (increased from a maximum of 14 years in last year’s Nationality and Borders Act).
The taskforce has a number of priorities, including increased enforcement action against these lawyers (such as increased fining powers) as well as “improving how intelligence and information is shared by regulators”.
Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk added: “The accuracy and honesty of legal advice underpins the integrity of our world-leading legal system, so those who undermine it by encouraging deception must be held to account.”
*All members of the CILEX regulated community must adhere to the CILEX Code of Conduct and in particular the guidance for Authorisation to conduct Reserved and Regulated Legal Services.
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