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Warning to immigration lawyers: don’t use family court documents without permission


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Whether you read Twitter, the Times or the Law Society Gazette, you might have heard of the happy-ending case of Nasrullah Mursalin. Mr Mursalin was a paralegal at Gull Law Chambers Limited. In July, he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for breaching family court rules after he sent papers from family proceedings to an Immigration and Asylum First-Tier Tribunal. But thankfully for Mr Mursalin’s legal career, the Court of Appeal quashed his sentence on 3 September: Re Nasrullah Mursalin [2019] EWCA Civ 1559.

The reason we’re highlighting this case on Free Movement is because it comes as a useful reminder to immigration practitioners that they should not use family court documents relating to children in immigration matters. By using these documents without the family court’s permission, immigration practitioners might be committing contempt of court, which, as Mr Mursalin will tell you, carries potentially very severe consequences.

In this case, the immigration tribunal judge who received the family court documents decided to refer the incident to the family judge so that they may “consider the position and whether contempt proceedings are appropriate or not”.

Sure enough, the family judge agreed, telling Mr Mursalin:

I find that you have breached the Family Court Rules by supplying documents without the court’s permission or in accordance with any existing protocols which would permit you to disclose the said documents to those who are not involved or otherwise party to these proceedings. This is a serious breach of the Family Procedure Rules and the general family rules, and only weeks ago I gave a publicised judgment about the specialism that is required for those who undertake family work and appear in these courts, and, in the circumstances, I find that you have breached it, and it falls to me to pass a sentence. This breach is so serious that in my judgment it can only attract a custodial sentence, and in those circumstances, having taken into account all that you have said and bearing in mind all that has been said by Mr Gull, who is also taking responsibility as your supervisor and the principal lawyer in Gull Law Chambers Limited, I sentence you to a time of imprisonment for six months but suspend that for the same period of six months, and it will be dismissed at the end of that if no other matters have occurred in the intervening period.

The judge also directed the principal lawyer, Mr Gull, to report himself to the Law Society and make them aware of the breaches that had occurred.

Although the sentence was ultimately quashed, mainly because of procedural errors in the contempt proceedings, immigration lawyers should consider themselves warned!

There is a more comprehensive explainer by Colin on disclosure of family court documents in immigration proceedings, which we’re hoping to update shortly. 

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Nath Gbikpi

Nath Gbikpi

Nath is an immigration lawyer at Leigh Day Solicitors and a Visiting Fellow in Practice at the London School of Economics.