Immigration solicitor’s complaints about Daily Mail sting rejected

Daily Mail: Public interest

One of the immigration solicitors caught up in a Daily Mail sting last summer has failed in his complaint about it to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

Its complaints committee rejected his arguments that the two articles that named him were inaccurate and that the use of undercover reporters and recording was unjustified.

Rashid Khan’s south-west London firm Rashid & Rashid was closed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, along with two other firms, as a result of the articles and the political fall-out from them.

The second article said that two reporters – “one posing as the illegal migrant [from India], the other as his UK-based uncle” – had attended a meeting with Mr Rashid at his firm. It went on to report that he had agreed to “help file an asylum claim to the Home Office for a cost of £4,000”.

The solicitor told IPSO that he had not charged £4,000 to make fake asylum claims – rather, he charged clients £1,000 to prepare legitimate asylum claims – and, among other complaints, that the articles misrepresented the advice that he had given to the undercover reporters.

He argued too that the level of subterfuge employed by the newspaper was unjustified.

The Daily Mail told the IPSO complaints committee that the investigation began after it received confidential information from a source, alleging that a number of solicitors’ firms were facilitating false asylum claims.

“The source, whom the publication believed to be credible, also had knowledge of a government intelligence report which listed 40 solicitors’ firms believed to be involved in a range of ‘abuses’ of the asylum system. The source had identified the complainant’s firm as one of these organisations.”

IPSO said there was a “clear public interest” in verifying the claims made and said the newspaper had shown that it considered whether engaging in subterfuge would serve, and be proportionate to, this public interest.

Given the nature of the claim, “the committee was satisfied that the newspaper could not have obtained this information without engaging in subterfuge”.

This included using a hidden camera, which “both enabled the publication to keep a record of the interaction – a crucial part of ensuring that matters are correctly reported, and which is of vital importance when reporting on matters in the public interest – and the publication of limited portions of the video served to illustrate a matter of public interest to the article’s readers”.

The committee dismissed the complaints about accuracy as well. It was, for example, “not inaccurate to report that the complainant had told the reporter to ‘make up something’ for the immigration authorities and to ‘lie to the Home Office’”.

The paper was not wrong to report that Mr Rashid had agreed to “help file an asylum claim to the Home Office for a cost of £4,000”.

The committee said: “The separate translations [from Punjabi] provided by both parties demonstrated that the complainant had told the undercover reporters that the application would cost £4,000 and the text of the second article reflected the complainant’s position that £1,000 of this would be his own costs, and the remaining £3,000 would be application fees by the Home Office.”

The committee heard that the Mail approached Mr Rashid for comment 15 days before it published the articles, setting out that it would allege that he was in breach of the SRA code of conduct.

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