Government to build cases to prosecute rogue immigration lawyers
We are stepping up action to support regulatory action and prosecution of unscrupulous lawyers, with a new dedicated taskforce and tougher sentences
A government clampdown on crooked lawyers who coach illegal migrants to lie will see a dedicated taskforce work with industry bodies and law enforcement to build stronger evidence bases to support prosecutions.
The vast majority of lawyers act with professionalism and integrity but, as recent media reports have demonstrated, a small minority have been helping illegal migrants stay in the UK by encouraging them to make false claims.
The Professional Enablers Taskforce is bringing together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system.
The taskforce has been up and carrying out preliminary work over the past few months, working with partners to tackle immigration abuse in the legal sector by improving how intelligence and information is shared by regulators. Today marks its official launch.
Law enforcement are also working to bring fresh prosecutions against corrupt immigration lawyers who could face up to life in prison for assisting illegal migrants to remain in the country by deception.
Today the Home Secretary is chairing a roundtable meeting with the Lord Chancellor, Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to reiterate the government’s drive to bring prosecutions against crooked immigration lawyers.
The taskforce has also developed a new training package for frontline staff who work in the immigration system to help them identify and report suspect activity so they can support law enforcement to prosecute crooked immigration lawyers.
Working with industry bodies, the taskforce will disrupt the business models of firms that are enabling abuse of the immigration system. Their work is aimed at supporting enforcement action against corrupt lawyers by building stronger evidence and improving intelligence sharing, which is then passed on to industry bodies to investigate and bring to law enforcement for prosecution if necessary.
Referrals to law enforcement have also been made where criminal activity is suspected. For example, the taskforce has uncovered a case in which an immigration firm is linked to one of the most wanted human traffickers, which has now been referred to the police.
Last week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority – a legal industry watchdog – suspended 3 legal firms who were caught offering to submit fake asylum claims for migrants.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
"Crooked immigration lawyers must be rooted out and brought to justice. While the majority of lawyers act with integrity – we know that some are lying to help illegal migrants game the system. It is not right or fair on those who play by the rules.
"The British people want us to put an end to illegal migration – I am determined to crack down on these immoral lawyers and Stop the Boats."
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk KC said:
"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.
"This government is committed to stopping the boats – that means breaking the business model of criminal gangs and holding to account unscrupulous lawyers who aid and abet them by abusing the legal system."
Lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means could be prosecuted under the Immigration Act 1971, Section 25, for ‘Assisting unlawful immigration to the UK’ and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
Tackling the minority of lawyers who exploit the immigration system is a focus across government. Last week, the independent Legal Services Board announced it was consulting on increasing the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s fining powers and exploring other ways to enhance regulators’ powers to ensure rogue legal professionals are punished.
The Professional Enablers Taskforce is currently focusing on abuse in the legal sector, however there are plans to expand to other ‘professional enablers’ – such as doctors, accountants and employers – who use their expertise to facilitate illegal migration.