Revealed: Taxpayers foot £55million bill for lawyer blocking deportation flights of Channel migrants
- Duncan Lewis Solicitors legal aid work covers many areas including immigration
- Staff have been to Calais and offered support to refugees hoping to reach Britain
- It has forged a close relationship with charities that work among camps in France
A law firm whose immigration solicitors have prevented Channel migrants from being returned to France has pocketed £55 million in legal aid from the British taxpayer in just three years.
The staggering bonanza for Duncan Lewis Solicitors, whose legal aid work covers many areas of law including immigration, is revealed in figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday.
We can also reveal that the company’s staff have travelled to Calais and offered support to refugees hoping to reach Britain.
Duncan Lewis Solicitors – run by entrepreneur Amarpal Singh Gupta, who has been dubbed ‘Britain’s legal aid king’ – has forged a close relationship with charities that work among refugee camps on the French coast.
Staff have also boasted of mixing with senior Labour Party figures, including Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy.
Duncan Lewis Solicitors – run by entrepreneur Amarpal Singh Gupta (pictured), who has been dubbed ‘Britain’s legal aid king’ – has forged a close relationship with charities that work among refugee camps on the French coast
Police officers accompany an Afghan in handcuffs on a charter plane at Leipzig-Halle Airport in July 2019 after 45 rejected asylum seekers were deported on special flight to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul
Duncan Lewis has been involved in litigation that has frustrated efforts by the Home Office to return asylum seekers who crossed the Channel on dinghies to France.
Last week, just one migrant was removed on a £100,000 charter flight when last-minute court action by immigration and human rights lawyers to lodge appeals meant 29 other removals were blocked.
While there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, Duncan Lewis has earned a fortune from the taxpayer by representing clients who include an HIV-positive rapist called Victor Nkomo who attacked a woman in Britain.
Business has boomed to such a degree that Mr Gupta, 47, who set up the firm in 1998, knocked down his existing luxury home in North London and built a £2 million five-bedroom property in its place.
According to official figures, the firm received £17.6 million in civil legal aid in 2017, £15.8 million in 2018 and £11.3 million last year. A further £11 million was paid in criminal aid work.
Referring to the visits to Calais – some of which appear on the firm’s website – a source claimed that solicitors go to ‘assess the situation’ and provide support.
Critics say the visits put the firm in a prime position with Channel-crossing migrants who may need legal help to remain in the UK if they cross the Channel.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘It beggars belief that they are going all the way to Calais to only perform charitable work with refugees and not offering their services and advice so that they can get into the UK.
Critics say the visits put the firm in a prime position with Channel-crossing migrants who may need legal help to remain in the UK if they cross the Channel (file photo of migrants making the journey last month)
‘Maybe I’m being cynical, but it seems no accident that their business is so lucrative when they are making these trips.’
According to the source, charities working with refugees at camps at Calais and Dunkirk act as ‘go-betweens’ with the firm, referring migrants seeking representation to Duncan Lewis once they reach British shores.
In 2018, staff from the Luton branch of the law firm posted photos on the company website of a trip to Calais to work with an aid charity for two days.
Last year, the company – which employs 800 people – said it had been invited to the Calais camps to represent several migrants. Staff also provide ‘training videos’ about the law to Calais charities over Zoom. One charity source said: ‘We work with Duncan Lewis a lot.’
A spokesman for Duncan Lewis said: ‘Our role is to always act in our client’s best interests and ensure their legal issues are being dealt with in accordance with the law. Any payments received for undertaking this work is predominantly fixed-fee work and on remuneration rates set by the Government.’
He added that any trips to Calais by staff were to ‘gain an understanding of the conditions that asylum seekers are residing in’.