Lawyers are helping a child sex grooming gang avoid attempts to deport them by obstructing the courts and “weakening the rule of law”, Britain’s most senior immigration judge has warned.
Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey accused taxpayer funded lawyers representing the gang of treating the immigration tribunal, which will decide whether they should be allowed to remain in Britain, with “sustained and marked disrespect”.
The case has raised fears that convicted criminals are adopting a strategy of timewasting and obstructing the courts in an attempt to put off any possible deportation from the UK as long as possible.
The judge said there had been “multiple recent examples of similar conduct and misconduct” and has urged Government legal officials to mount an investigation into such cases.
MPs have accused lawyers of making money by “gaming the system” and using delaying tactics to spin out cases. It is a tenet of our western system, certainly the English Common Law (and I have no reason to suppose different of the Napoleonic code) that no matter how foul the crime a defendant has a right to a fair trial, and part of that is a competent and honest defence lawyer. This sort of caper isn’t honest.
The gang from Rochdale are appealing against a decision by then then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to strip them of British citizenship as the first step to deporting them.
The four men, led by ringleader Shabir Ahmed, 63, were convicted in 2012 of preying on girls as young as 13 in Rochdale, plying them with drink and drugs before they were “passed around” for sex.
As well as appealing against deportation Ahmed appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming his convictions for child sex offences were a conspiracy by police and members of the jury to “scapegoat” Muslims. He lost the claim.
Three other men convicted of child sex offences in the same case, Abdul Aziz, Adil Khan and Qari Abdul Rauf, are also appealing against being stripped of citizenship by the Home Secretary.
Their solicitors, Nottingham-based firm Burton and Burton, are funded at taxpayer’s expense through the Legal Aid Fund, with their fees likely to be an estimated £50 to £70 an hour – which could add thousands of pounds over the course of the case..
In some of the strongest criticism delivered by a judge, Justice McCloskey, President of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, said: “The conduct of these appeals has been cavalier and unprofessional. The rule of law has been weakened in consequence.”
Rajiv Sharma, the barrister who represented Ahmed, is a protege of one of Britain’s most famous campaigning lawyers, Michael Mansfield QC, and operates from chambers at the heart of Britain’s legal establishment in central London. Barrister for the other three men was Zainul Jafferji, who specialises in human rights, personal immigration, commercial immigration and asylum law.
Mr Justice McCloskey described the circumstances which had forced him to adjourn the case last December as “frankly shameful”.He also criticised Government lawyers representing the home secretary, saying that they had only produced a skeleton argument at the “eleventh hour” and only after repeated requests from tribunal staff. Don’t get me started on the infiltration of the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service…
Justice McCloskey threatened to refer lawyers handling the Rochdale gang’s appeals to their professional bodies for disciplinary action, saying their behaviour could be regarded as being in contempt of court.
Mohammed Mahruf, senior partner at Burton & Burton Solicitors, the Nottingham firm representing Khan, Rauf and Aziz on a legal aid basis, also refused to comment “while proceedings are on-going”.
The Government Legal Department said the Treasury Solicitor had apologised to Mr Justice McCloskey for any delays caused by the Home Office’s lawyers to the cases.