Fraud squad swooped on Chambers Solicitors in July and arrested two; meanwhile, New York-based former Tory MP reveals she’s had a Gorgeous George letter
The law firm at the centre of the George Galloway Twitter libel row was raided by police last summer, it has emerged.
Officers from the West Yorkshire Police’s economic crime unit swooped on the high street immigration law specialist practice, Chambers Solicitors, in July, making two arrests.
At the time of the raid, detective sergeant Gary Ferris of the West Yorkshire force’s economic crime unit said:
“Warrants were executed to a solicitors’ office in connection with investigations into alleged fraud. Two people have been arrested and are in custody. This is an ongoing investigation”.
The force today would only say that those two people had been released on police bail. Chambers Solicitors’ senior partner Mohammed Ayub told Legal Cheek this afternoon that he had no comment on the police investigation.
The revelation falls against the backdrop of an increasing row over the firm’s behaviour while acting for the local Respect Party MP.
Ayub alleged to Legal Cheek that one of the lawyers acting for defendants is conflicted in the current libel litigation, maintaining that top media lawyer Mark Lewis acted for the MP in the phone hacking saga involving the News of the World.
But Lewis, a partner at London firm Seddons, adamantly refuted the suggestion, saying:
“There is no merit to such an allegation”.
According to Lewis, in relation to the News Group Newspapers litigation, another London firm represented Galloway.
Lewis acknowledged that the controversial Respect Party MP “approached me at my old firm, Taylor Hampton, to represent him in a hacking claim against the Mirror. I forwarded that to Taylor Hampton who might or might not be acting (I do not know whether he has evidence to justify bringing a claim)”.
In addition to that scrap, the first celebrity name cropped up in the saga. Former Conservative MP Louise Mensch tweeted a few hours ago:
“I can confirm I have received a letter before action from Alias Yousaf of Chambers Solicitors, to which my lawyers have replied.”
She did not reveal which firm is acting for her.
I can confirm I have received a letter before action from Alias Yousaf of Chambers Solicitors, to which my lawyers have replied.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) March 4, 2015
Earlier today, we reported how solicitors acting for Twitter users receiving letters before action alleging defamation from the high street firm have referred the practice to the Solicitors Regulation Authority over its behaviour in the matter.
Chambers Solicitors has claimed that costs of £5,000 in relation to each letter were justifiably incurred as it tracked down individual Twitter users. However, the main complaint against the firm is that it hit each prospective defendant with that cost figure, despite the letters appearing to be boilerplate claims.
Indeed, a report in the current issue of Private Eye maintained the letters were riddled with inaccuracies; for example, a version of the letter sent to a male charity worker began “Dear Miss …”
SRA executive director Robert Loughlin told Legal Cheek today:
“Now that we are aware of the matter, we will be looking to obtain all necessary information before deciding on the appropriate course of action.”
Senior partner Ayub responded by saying the firm would co-operate fully with any request for information from the regulator. However, he would not comment on any other element of the saga.
There have been better times for Ayub and his firm. Back in July 2009 he was The Times newspaper’s “lawyer of the week”.
The accolade came as he had acted for one of the three men subject to a control order in a landmark House of Lords ruling that controlled persons must be given sufficient disclosure of the case against them to meet the requirements of a fair trial under the Human Rights Act.
George Galloway’s high street firm faces rough ride as media law big guns back twitterati in libel row [Legal Cheek]