A man who appeared before Coventry County Court pretending to be a solicitor – and won his case – has been handed a suspended prison term after being prosecuted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Naveed Rai, 48, pleaded guilty at Gloucester Crown Court to acting as a solicitor when unqualified, carrying on a reserved legal activity when not qualified or entitled to do so, and wilfully pretending that he was entitled to carry on a reserved legal activity by accepting service of an amended claim form when he was not entitled to do so.
He was jailed for 15 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £15,000 towards court costs and a victim surcharge of £140, as well as undertake 200 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Ian Lawrie QC told him that he had avoided custody “by the narrowest of margins”.
According to a local newspaper report, prosecutor Catherine Lloyd said it was the second time Mr Rai had posed as a solicitor, having been jailed for it in 2013.
Here, he attended Coventry County Court on 2 May 2018 arguing for a debt recovery order to be set aside. Ms Lloyd said that he maintained throughout the hearing that he was a solicitor and that the defendant was his client.
“At the close of the hearing, there was a discussion about the service of documents to Rai and he told the court he would provide details of where to send the material. The judgment was subsequently set aside.
“There is no evidence that Rai was paid directly by Mr Mohammed [the defendant]. However, at the close of the hearing Rai made an amended claim application for £750 plus VAT for his services from the court.
“The district judge then quizzed Rai about which firm he was representing, and he responded by saying ‘The Legal Service’s Group’. The hearing was then adjourned.”
Court officials raised suspicions about Mr Rai and the next hearing was attended by SRA officials, who interviewed him.
He said his company was involved in legal services around motor claims and that he was only acting for the defendant as a family friend. He also told the regulator that he had never held himself out as a solicitor.
Dominic Thomas, defending, was quoted as saying that his only real mitigation was that “the inevitable custodial sentence could be suspended for the benefit of his family and his new business of commercial car leasing, which employs several people”.
He said Mr Rai helped Mr Mohammed because the defendant could not afford a lawyer and was in poor health.
Mr Thomas said: “There is no suggestion that his company, Legal Services Ltd, offered the services provided by solicitors. This company is no longer active and will be dissolved at the conclusion of these proceedings.”
Judge Ian Lawrie QC responded: “He has not learnt his lesson. He was convicted of committing a fraudulent act and jailed, yet he continued to commit another dishonest act.”
He told Mr Rai that he had betrayed the integrity of the justice system. “You deserve to go to prison. You merit custody as the threshold has been crossed. You are reluctant to learn lessons. You are a fraudster.
“However, your advocate has persuaded me that I should suspend your 15-month prison sentence for two years because of the effect your incarceration would have on others, even though I don’t believe there is a real prospect of rehabilitation.
“Intrinsically, I think you are a dishonest man which is why I am ordering that all other charges from September 2017, that were not continued with today will lie on file, meaning they could be resurrected if you commit another fraudulent act.”
Photo: Philafrenzy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45676211