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Law centre solicitor who charged immigration and asylum clients agrees to striking off


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A law centre solicitor who took money from clients seeking help with immigration and asylum problems has accepted his striking off the role of solicitors.

Andrew John Puddicombe was employed by Gloucester Law Centre until November 2015, when management discovered that for three years he had been “charging clients on a privately paying basis, without GLC’s authority or knowledge, for immigration and asylum work carried out in the name of GLC”, according to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal judgment published today.

The law centre was a charity that did not charge for services. Puddicombe took payments of between £50 and £200, mainly from existing law centre clients who were not eligible for legal aid. The work was carried out “on GLC’s premises and using GLC’s name, materials, including letterhead paper and resources”. In this way, he made £8,400, all of which was eventually handed over to the law centre after his discovery and dismissal for gross misconduct.

The solicitor, who had been in practice for over two decades, said in mitigation that he had not acted dishonestly and that clients were aware of the (uninsured) basis on which he was acting. Those clients, Puddicombe argued, would have been eligible for legal aid before the LASPO changes in 2012: “there was therefore a genuine need amongst the clients for the work done”.

He nevertheless accepted that striking off was the appropriate penalty and agreed to pay £5,000 in costs. The tribunal endorsed this agreed outcome between Puddicombe and the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Anne Whitworth of the Gloucester Law Centre told Free Movement: “as is clear from the report of the Tribunal, the misconduct occurred entirely covertly, against Law Centre and regulatory rules and when I discovered what was happening I took immediate action to put an end to it by suspending then dismissing him and reporting him to the SRA”.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.