Two partners and a junior solicitor faced charges including pursuing false claims against British troops
Leigh Day has today been cleared of all disciplinary charges brought against the firm and its lawyers, including allegations it pursued false torture and murder claims made by Iraqis against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The London-based human rights specialist and three of its lawyers (partners Martyn Day and Sapna Malik, and junior solicitor Anna Crowther) faced 19 charges of professional misconduct brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
The charges focused on Leigh Day’s alleged failure to adequately verify claims made by Iraqi clients of torture and murder by British troops during the Battle of Danny Boy near Basra in 2004.
Additional allegations included endorsements of torture and murder claims during a 2008 press conference, engaging in financial arrangements with Phil Shiner’s Public Interest Lawyers, failing to take appropriate action when the word “bribe” appeared in several emails, late disclosure of an important document and the subsequent destruction of a translation of that document.
Following a seven-week Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing, Leigh Day and all three of its accused solicitors have been cleared of all charges.
According to the Law Society Gazette, the SDT found that Malik — who left today’s hearing in tears — had very little to do with the 2008 press conference, while Day’s backing of the claims was above board given the context of the time.
Having spent a week mulling over its decision, the SDT also cleared Leigh Day of wrongdoing in relation to its financial dealings with defunct Public Interest Lawyers. Shiner — the disgraced director of the human rights outfit — was struck off earlier this year after being found guilty on five counts of dishonesty. The tribunal today made it clear that Leigh Day was under no duty to report Shiner to the regulator.
Continuing, the tribunal said the SRA had failed to show that Day or Malik were aware of any improper payments in relation to the “bribe” emails.
The SDT also ruled that the firm was under no duty to disclose the ‘the OMS list’ — the key document which allegedly showed the firm’s clients weren’t civilians but were linked to a radical group — prior to 2013, when requested to do so by the Al-Sweady Inquiry.
Finally, with regards the destruction of a translation of this document — carried out by junior lawyer Crowther — the SDT acknowledged that while it was a mistake, it wasn’t sufficiently serious to amount to professional misconduct.
A relieved Day said in a statement:
We are pleased that the tribunal has cleared us of all the charges, and confirmed our view that we did not act improperly or dishonestly in these legal claims against the Ministry of Defence. For nearly 40 years I have battled on behalf of the ordinary man and woman in this country and abroad to ensure they get access to justice not least when they face the might of British multinationals or government. I am very pleased that I and my colleagues can now get back to doing the work we love.
This SDT hearing is the longest of its kind and is expected to be the most expensive too. Each parties’ costs is likely to run to seven figures. A decision on costs will be made at the end of the year.
Legal Cheek understands that issue of costs, which are expected to be very high given the record breaking length of the hearing, will be decided at a later date.