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Barrister Sent to Prison Following Final Trial in £1.8 Million Legal Aid Scam

A number of individuals have been found guilty of crimes related to an investigation into the excessive payment of legal fees to attorneys.

A barrister who also served as an immigration tribunal judge part-time has been sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency in a scheme that cost taxpayers £1.8 million.

Rasib Ghaffar, 54, was the last defendant to be convicted in a series of fraudulent activities involving solicitors, barristers, and judges falsifying records to inflate their fees.

One of the main instigators, legal clerk Gazi Khan, 55, received a five-year prison term last year after attempting three frauds that could have totaled £12 million in losses to the public.

Ghaffar’s conviction was related to offenses from a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court in 2011 where he attempted to claim over £1.8 million but only received £469,477.

After Ghaffar’s guilty verdict in February, Judge Philip Bartle referred to the scam as “absolutely outrageous” and a dishonest endeavor to defraud the public.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) indicated that the fraud involved fraudulent cost claims for acquitted defendants in criminal cases at crown courts.

Several other legal professionals involved in the legal aid scam were acquitted, but the CPS and Metropolitan Police cooperated to bring those responsible for the fraud to justice.

The CPS is now seeking to recover the missing funds through confiscation proceedings.

In February, the National Audit Office reported that annual spending on legal aid in England and Wales amounted to £1.8 billion in 2022/23. However, there has been a significant reduction in legal aid spending since 2012/13.

The government plans to reform the legal aid means test, which has not been updated since 2009, with the reformed system expected to be implemented by 2026.

Despite the challenges, the Law Society emphasizes the importance of updating the means test to ensure that legal aid remains accessible to those in need.

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