LEGAL CHARLATANS IN LONDON – Life abroad – Part 54
Posted on November 21st, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

Tag-In-Focus-2012_0.jpg‘Lawyer’ is a professional who advises and represents clients, either on a private basis or by working for a law firm. The term varies from most English speaking countries from lawyer to attorney and advocate.

In the United Kingdom lawyers are divided into two categories – Solicitors generally advise clients, draft contracts and represent them in lower courts; Barristers (Counsels) being court specialists receive instructions through their solicitors only.

A statute enacted in 1275 approved punishment for ‘professional lawyers guilty of deceit. In 1280, the Mayor’s Court of the City of London promulgated regulations introducing the right of entry procedures, including the administering of an oath.

Sri Lankan perspective

The Supreme Court in Ceylon was established by the British on April 18, 1801 under the Royal Charter of Justice (King George the 3rd) which was repealed by the Charter of 1833.

In 1972 Sri Lanka adopted a new Constitution which helped many students from countrywide schools to qualify and emerge as attorneys-at-Law. The change over to work in Sinhala and English language in Courts also made a transformation to the existed pattern of the legal structure and helped to a greater extent those budding lawyers to practice in either language.

A priceless sketch depicting the opening of Hultsdorp Law Centre by the British in Colombo 12, which was on display at a legendary Colombo exhibition in the 1950s, was taken to London. During High Commissioner S. K. Wickremasinghe’s tenure he got it restored, much to his admiration and adorned the dining room of the Sri Lanka High Commissioner’s residence at No.35 Avenue Road, NW London, up till very recently!

Revolution

In 1972 with the emergence of the JVP insurgency some of the attorneys at law, who appeared on behalf of alleged ‘insurgent-suspects’, claimed they were under ‘death threats’ when the government in power took every measure to wipe out the insurrection.

This situation automatically opened up an escape route for some lawyers to flee the country claiming they received ‘death threats’ for appearing on behalf of those ‘JVP’ youths in detention. In the midst, an insignificant number of the legal tribe made use of the situation for their own advantage to flee the country as ‘economic refugees’ seeking political asylum in the UK. To this a particular powerful foreign embassy based in Colombo assisted some Lankan lawyers by escorting them overtly up to the aeroplane at Bandaranaike International airport, making use of diplomatic immunity.

Once arrived in the UK they were able to apply for ‘political asylum’ with ‘convincing’ reports to support their claims. Unlike other refugee types, these allegedly ‘prosecuted’ legal personalities were allowed to engage in the same (legal) profession in the UK.

Refugee Council

The Refugee Council in the UK provided free advice and information to asylum seekers in their own language and helped to process and support entitlements. British Council Aid to Refugees (BCAR) and the Standing Conference on Refugees (SCOR) founded in 1951 merged in 1981 to form the British Refugee Council under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The Refugee Council extended a hand to those ‘lawyers who sought political asylum’ to open bureaus and supported them with office equipment etc. In addition new refugee seekers in their lists, from all over the world, were channelled to those lawyers to deal with fresh applicants to help them establish in England.

Procedure

When someone wanted to apply for asylum, particulars of the applicant had to be forwarded to the Home Office with any ‘concocted’ story to convince the officials. This was followed up by a simple process where applicant’s photographs and other requested details ( if any) had to be forwarded to the Home Office – in some instances with a visit to the Home Office by the applicant escorted by a representative of the Solicitor who was handling the case. Once a refugee seeker was allocated an official ‘Photo-ID Card’ he/she had access to free movement in the country as much as financial assistance by way of social security and accommodation. Refugee seekers were generally prohibited to engage in any work for payment or reward.

This simple process of correspondence between the Home Office and the refugee seeker could have been done easily by even an ‘A’ Level student, not necessarily by a Solicitor, until the issue became complex and ended up in an appeal court etc. For those newly arrived legal clan from the commonwealth countries such simple procedures opened the door to deal with refugee applications, even without being one hundred percent familiar with the knitty gritty of the complicated immigration laws in the country, as long as they had registered with the Law Society and all correspondence carried their official company seal.

Astonishingly there were some solicitors who managed to thrive in the business without being able to string a sentence in English in England, yet they managed (under their licence to practise) by employing those who were fluent in English; in complex issues they sought advice from eminent Sri Lankan Barristers. The processing of refugee applications also involved filling up of a form by the solicitor known as ‘The Green Form’ where the applicant had to declare that he/she was unable to afford legal charges for which the solicitor received a fat cheque from the Refugee Council at the end of each month for handling such cases.

Home Office had to process millions of such refugee applications from many countries under the agreement of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees which meant asylum seekers were able to live for years until their files came up for processing.

Clamping down

Once emerged a situation where some of the solicitors dealing with ‘Green Form’ modus operandi were abusing the system which brought out new regulations by the British government to plug several loop holes that were detected in the system. The reformation in the system created new procedures where each solicitor had to maintain accurate accounts which were diligently audited by officials with a fine tooth comb. This made many ‘immigrant lawyers’ to abandon the ship not being able to withstand the storm by conforming to such strict procedures.

In the midst, the UK Law Society struck off some names of lawyers from their Register after detecting various nefarious activities and frauds involved. Some Sri Lankan lawyers too got caught into this net.

Leopards never change spots

Some lawyers in such a predicament abandoned the UK altogether, few changed their profession completely and found other means of livelihood for survival and the odd one went to jail. Still there are certain elements (struck off from the Law Society Register) getting up to monkey pranks on the sly by pretending to be ‘retired’ but exposing as ‘Asses in the Lion’s Skin’ by offering ‘free legal advice’ to whoever, even family friends, which ultimately cost the recipient an arm and a leg.

During the writer’s recent visit to London he was able to witness one such ‘retired’ legal icon who offered ‘free legal advice’ to a friend with the promise of obtaining a second opinion from a legal luminary who was his colleague and an expert on immigration matters.

A few days later this ‘retired solicitor’ contacted his friend and requested an upfront payment of nearly ‚£3,000 to be paid to his wife’s bank account, stating it was the ‘Barrister’s request to have money forthright prior to any consultation’, which was done through a bank transfer!

However, finally in the absence of any consultation it appeared that the ‘expert immigration legal luminary’ to be only a ‘Ghost Barrister’, whilst the exorbitant payment made to his wife’s account remained a mystery!

It certainly was a preposterous act of hoodwinking a family friend (of all people) and a real case of extortion or cheating under false pretence when he decided to withdraw into a protective shell without responding to many requests made by his friend to show-cause as to where the money had ended up in the absence of any invoice or breakdown of charges for any work done by any legal officer.

It is highly illegal in the UK not to submit an invoice with a full breakdown of the services rendered and/or a receipt after accepting money on any professional work undertaken – in this case especially by a ‘legal officer’!

In certain Sri Lankan circles in London it is mentioned that however much the confident trickster tries to evade his preposterous tomfoolery soon he will be denuded if the client complains to the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority) in England, if his name is still in the Law Society Register; make a complaint to the police as an act of cheating where he has used his wife’s name as being ‘an unofficial Magistrate’ some time ago or finally in a ‘small claims court’ where he will have no room to move!

These type of acts only bring wholesale disgrace to the legal profession totally in the UK, ignominy to Sri Lanka and a damn disgrace to the English gentleman’s attire one adorns.

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One Response to “LEGAL CHARLATANS IN LONDON – Life abroad – Part 54”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DR. TILAK !! These things happen in Sri Lanka all the time. I had a labour case with a Group of Companies, and the Judge who came on the Bench was also a Director of the same Company. He put my case off for TWO YEARS, just to show his authority. He was the scum of a Judge. I wrote to PRESIDENT COURT OF APPEAL, HONOURABLE, JUSTICE SARATH SILVA, A VERY STRONG LETTER, AND IT WAS READ OUT OPENLY, AT HIS SOLICITATION CEREMONY, AND IT WENT INTO PUBLICATION IN MANY PAPERS. HE STATED THAT WHAT I HAVE STATED IN THE LETTER, IS SYMBOLIC OF ANXIETY, OF ALL THE LITIGANTS. THAT WAS MY COURT DAY TOO. HE SENT A NOTE TO THE NOW JUDGE HEARING MY CASE TO SEE THAT THE CASE FINISHES IN THREE MONTHS. IT HAPPENED. BLESSINGS OF THE NOBLE TRIPLE GEM, TO JUSTICE SARATH SILVA.

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