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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Hafiz & Haque Solicitors, R (On the Application Of) v Legal Ombudsman  EWHC 1539 (Admin) (11 April 2014)
Cite as:  EWHC 1539 (Admin)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF HAFIZ & HAQUE SOLICITORS
Computer-Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
WordWave International Limited
A Merrill Communications Company
165 Fleet Street London EC4A 2DY
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7404 1424
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
Mr P Saini (instructed by Hafiz & Haque Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Claimant
Mr A Wagner (instructed by the Legal Ombudsman) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
The Interested Party did not appear and was not represented
Crown Copyright ©
"She was told that she would be interviewed first for screening purposes. We explained her in detail that in screening interview UK Border Agency will essential took her basic details in order to establish her identity to proceeds with her claim for asylum and humanitarian protection. She is explained that she will be given an opportunity during the substantive interview to explain all of her circumstances in order to support her claim. She is explained that substantive interview is difference from the screening interview.
It is agreed with Miss Qureshi that we will accompany her during her asylum interview(s). However, she is explained that although the screening interview is more likely a basic interview, viz., just to obtain her basic details. We may accompany her for this interview, whereas we will accompany her at her substantive interview."
"As a matter of public policy the Law Society and fair practice requires us to inform clients to the likely cost of acting on their behalf. We will charge you on an hourly basis @ £150 per hour. It is pertinent to mention that the total fee agreed in this case is £2,800 (excluding VAT if applicable) and you have paid £800. You are requested to please deposit the balance amount at your earliest. The above referred fee includes, fee for giving you legal advice regarding your claim, your attendance to our office and accompanying you for your asylum interview(s) as and when required. We can confirm that we have agreed, in the above referred fee, to represent you before the Appellate Tribunal should your claim refused by the UK Border Agency and it will also include our fee to instruct counsel to represent you before the Appellate Tribunal. Please note that counsel's fee is not included in the above mentioned agreed fee."
"Called Miss Qureshi and informed her that we are in receipt of a letter dated 10/11/2011 confirming your appointment for screening interview at Lunar House, Croydon on 13/11/2011. Miss Qureshi explained the procedure of screening interview. She is explained that on 13/11/11 UKBA will ask her basic details regarding her ID, her travel to UK and reasons of claim for asylum. She is explained that they will arrange a substantive interview. [The next line is illegible]. She is explained that her claim is decided on basis of her information and documentary evidence that she will provide to UKBA in support of her asylum claim. She is explained that we will accompany her during her substantive interview because screening interviews is an initial assessment conducted by the UKBA in order to establish her ID, proof of address, her travel history et cetera. We will not be of any assistance during the screening interview".
"The file record shows that you were accompanied by a qualified and experienced solicitor for your screening interview on 13/11/2011 with your full accord. It is our practice that we do not agree and or commit any individual person's name in advance to accompany the client during their screening interview as it depends on times, dates and availability of persons at the date scheduled time. However, as per agreement to accompany you during the screening interview, we indeed allocated a qualified solicitor who did accompany you during the interview. We are of the view that your point has no merits on its own as solicitor hardly can do anything during interview and screening interview materially or is such a way to affect the contents of interview at all or materially. Hence your allegation is denied in its entirety".
"a. Following Miss Qureshi's instructions, our office contacted UK Border Agecny on 9/11/2011 in order to book a screening interview for Miss Qureshi. Kindly refer to enclosed attendance note for the confirmation of the same.
b. A letter dated 10 November 2011 received from the UK Border Agency confirming Miss Qureshi's screening interview on 13/11/2011 as was agreed with the client. She was contacted shortly to discuss the process of screening interview.
c. On 10/11/2011 Miss Qureshi was contacted over the telephone; she was explained about the screening interview, kindly refer to the enclosed attendance note for confirmation of the same.
d. We would like to take this opportunity to correct a mistake we have in our letter to her of 29/5/2012. The date of 13/11/2011 (the screening interview) should be read as 16/11/2011, when we attended with the client but was allowed by the Home Office on the grounds that she did not require legal representation on the matter they would conduct in interview. Kindly note that Ms. Qureshi's was accompanied by a qualified and experienced solicitor for her appointment on 16/11/2011 and for her substantive interview on 28/11/2011 which can be confirmed in the Statement of Evidence Form (SEF) dated 28/11/2011, we are enclosing only first page of that statement in order to confirm that Ms Qureshi's was duly accompanied and represented by our office during the substantive interview."
"It is paramount to mention here asylum claim(s) are always determined in the light of claimant's statement(s) during the asylum interview and the documentary evidence provided in support of his/her statement(s). Kindly note that during our meeting with Ms. Qureshi on 7/11/2011 she was explained in detail about the procedure during the screening as well as substantive interview for her claim for asylum and humanitarian protection. It is further submitted that Ms. Qureshi was made clear that she need to state clear all of her factual circumstances before the interviewing officer in order to support her asylum claim. Copy of the Client care letter dated 14/11/2011 and attendance note of 7/11/2011 is enclosed for the confirmation of the same".
"Complaint: Miss Qureshi about your firm. You have now seen and commented on my colleague, (Inaudible name)'s, report dated 27 August 2012 on the complaint about the service you provided Miss Qureshi. Since it is not possible to reach agreement on the basis of that report, the case has been passed to me for a formal decision. I have read the case papers and reviewed the evidence in the file. I have also considered carefully the responses to the report I have received from you and from the complainant. Having done so, I have decided that the conclusions of the report are a generally reasonable summary of the position, subject to what I say below. I have decided on the evidence provided that the firm generally provided Miss Qureshi with a reasonable level of service. The firm agreed that they would carry out the work for her on a fixed fee basis and have not sought to charge fees exceeding the sum agreed. I am also satisfied that they attended two screening interviews with Miss Qureshi. There is however no evidence to show that they attended on 13 November 2011, a matter I deal with below. I am also satisfied that the firm took Miss Qureshi's personal circumstances into consideration during the retainer and gave her ample opportunity to raise any issues with the evidence that was being provided to the Home Office. Whilst I am satisfied that the firm attended both the interviews on 16 and 28 November 2011, I can see no evidence which supports the contention that they attended at the first interview on 13 November. It was clearly envisaged that the firm would be attending the interview with Miss Qureshi, as they attended on 16 and 28 November. The firm originally asserted that they had attend on 13 November but then later corrected this assertion, saying that Miss Qureshi did not need representation on 13 November 2011. They have provided no evidence that they explained this to Miss Qureshi or why they now think representation was not required. I have seen Miss Qureshi's comments and agree that it would have been worrying and confusing to learn at such a late stage that her lawyer was not going to be attending. I am also of the view that it is reasonable to assume that representation was included in the fee the firm was charging. In the circumstances I have decided that it would be fair for the firm to reduce its charges by £300 for not attending at the hearing(?) and to pay Miss Qureshi the sum of £100 for the impact it has had on her. I am not satisfied that there was any further detriment caused by their non-attendance and therefore do not consider a further remedy is warranted."
"A complaint is to be determined under the ombudsman scheme by reference to what is, in the opinion of the ombudsman making the determination, fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case."
"These provisions illustrate two important aspects of the scheme:
(1) It is intended to resolve complaints swiftly and informally. In order to achieve this, the Ombudsman will often have to do the best he can on limited material and without hearing detailed evidence. To assist in these objectives, he can rely on evidence which would not be admissible in court, and may draw adverse inferences from failure to provide information or documents.
(2) In resolving complaints by reference to the statutory criterion of what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances, the Ombudsman is afforded a considerable latitude of discretion. The test is what 'in his opinion' is fair and reasonable. He is not bound by the Approved Regulator's code of conduct, although he must take account of it. He may apply his own standards of what he considers to have been good practice at the time."