First disbarred, now in jail – “charlatan” barrister imprisoned for legal advice offences

Immigration cases: multiple instances of misconduct

A barrister who continued to offer immigration law advice after being disbarred has been jailed and branded a “charlatan” by the sentencing judge for taking advantage of “vulnerable and often desperate people”.

Michael Wainwright, 33, of Ruislip pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to eight offences of providing unregulated immigration advice between May 2013 and June 2016.

Last week, he was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation to the victims of £2,858.

In late 2014, Mr Wainwright was disbarred for lying about submitting an immigration application on behalf of a client’s mother-in-law.

It also emerged at a Bar disciplinary tribunal that he was not qualified to act as a public access barrister.

Following his disbarment Mr Wainwright formed a legal services company Crested Associates Ltd. Though immigration is not one of the reserved activities, it is uniquely a regulated legal activity, meaning that those who are not solicitors or barristers need to be approved by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).

In committing the offences, Mr Wainwright was found to have:

  • conducted cases when not entitled to do so;
  • contacted detainees facing deportation at immigration removal centres and promising to lodge judicial reviews or make bail applications on their behalf;
  • failed to make applications to the Home Office or the immigration tribunals for which he had been instructed and paid by the applicants;
  • lodged judicial reviews and applications before the Upper Tribunal and at the High Court;
  • made applications before tribunals as the ‘applicant in person’ and sought fee remissions;
  • appeared in person as a representative before immigration tribunals when no longer qualified to do so; and
  • made false claims as to his status before the immigration tribunals or claiming to act as a McKenzie Friend.

Sentencing him, His Honour Judge Hehir said: “Your conduct represents a flagrant disregard for not only the standards of profession you used to be a part of, but also the Bar Standards Board and also the criminal courts and their orders too.

“The facts of the eight offences have been very fully opened to me. They reveal that you persistently and in a sophisticated fashion, held yourself out to vulnerable and often desperate people.

“The prohibition is there for good reason. Whether or not those who seek help for immigration advice or services have a good case, or are entitled to be in the UK is neither here nor there. They and their families are highly vulnerable and often desperate.

“Charlatans like you take advantage take of their difficulty and desperation and by doing so you can only harm their interests. You were deliberately taking advantage of these people.

Deputy Immigration Services Commissioner Dr Ian Leigh said: “These are serious offences that are aggravated by a knowing disregard of the statutory regime, and I am pleased with the outcome in this case.”

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