A solicitor has been struck off for falsifying court documents to make a client think his application to extend his leave to remain in the UK had been made before the leave had expired.
Christopher Ka Ki Cheng was also found to have failed to progress 17 other immigration clients’ cases despite telling them that he was doing so.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said that “falsifying or confecting documents to mislead a client amounted to an egregious failure to adhere to a fundamental ethical standard of the profession”.
Mr Cheng worked at London and Essex law firm Farani Javid Taylor solicitors from 2010, qualifying in 2014 and becoming head of the China desk in the immigration department before leaving in 2017.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) began an investigation after a report from the firm and shortly afterwards from the Government Legal Department.
Mr Cheng misled client ‘AS’ – whose leave to remain expired on 20 July 2016 – that the application was made at the start of June, which in fact it was not made until mid-2016.
He further led AS to believe that he had made an application for judicial review challenging the secretary of state’s failure to deal with his application in a timely manner, and that that application had been progressed to a successful outcome.
He was found to have dishonestly “falsified and/or confected” emails, a certificate of service, a consent order, an application notice and a hearing notice.
None of the Government Legal Department, the Administrative Court Office and the Upper Tribunal had records of the documents allegedly created or approved by them.
In November 2016, a Home Office official attended AS’s workplace to say that his leave to remain had expired and he therefore had no right to work.
The firm then carried out an internal investigation into Mr Cheng’s conduct, and identified 17 client files where clients had been told that applications for further leave to remain had been made prior to the expiry of their visas expiry of the visa when in fact he had not even opened a file at that stage, let alone made the application.
Mr Cheng admitted that he had no defence to any of the allegations, expressed remorse and apologised for any adverse impact of his actions.
In deciding to strike him off, the tribunal said the motivation for Mr Cheng’s conduct was “to cover his tracks for failures to progress his clients’ matters”.
It added: “In the absence of evidence from the respondent, it was not possible to form a judgment on the motivation for his initial failures to make progress…
“The seriousness of the conduct was also aggravated by the fact that the clients were in a relatively vulnerable position with entitlement to live and work in the UK at stake.”
The tribunal ordered Mr Cheng to pay costs of £15,000, more than half the £32,000 sought by the SRA, as it considered this to be “excessive”.