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Iraq torture case: Leigh Day cleared of ALL misconduct following longest solicitor disciplinary tribunal in history

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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.

18 Comments

Anonymous

What a relief !!! I was really worried about this.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

Nice to see the SRA putting our membership fees to such good use.

I suspect they won’t be worried about a budget blackhole though – costs payment from Lord Harley should hit the accounts any day now.

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Christopher Robertson

Delighted to see this witch hunt come to an end.

Both Michael Fallon and David Cameron sought to pillory the individual lawyers named in the case as well as the firm. To do this they took recourse to libellous language and played up, quite deliberately, a popular press ‘tank chasing’ stereotype to try and destroy the lawyers concerned.

(9)(10)

Anonymous

The only witch hunt was Leigh Day accusing British troops of war crimes. They then destroyed the evidence which would have disproved that. But apparently that’s all OK.

(29)(9)

Vapido

What an enormous waste of costs by the SRA. Still, the SRA isn’t answerable to anyone, so it won’t care. Needless to say, the Gazette is not allowing any comments.

Note that the SDT’s press release says that the SDT won’t be releasing any documents about the case. Why not? The SDT calls itself transparent, but where is the transparency in a blanket refusal to refuse documents deployed during a trial which took place in public?

(12)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t think this firm’s reputation has been enhanced during this aquatic affair.

And as for the solicitor that shredded the list…well.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

Make sure you read and understand the facts before making comments.

(8)(5)

Alan Blacker

Dobule standards

(6)(0)

Pro Edgeo

The SRA should have filed medical evidence asking for the trial to be heard in Rochdale. By the Privy Arbital Court. Its case was clearly so unhealthy that it needed reasonable adjustments.

(3)(0)

Major C

Malik left in tears: I’m sure she will be over it by this evening.

There are hundreds of soldiers that have been accused of being murderers and torturers for nearly 15 years by this outfit and they still have not so much offered an apology.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

The firm has always pursued the MOD and not individual soldiers. The huge number of claims settled by the MOD would suggest that some of those accusations were true…

(8)(12)

John Hirst.

So going after the MOD would have no effect on individual soldiers. That is effectively what you’re saying. That is nonsense. Also, settlements out of court were not offered by individual soldiers, but by bureaucrats and Lawyers. Your suggestion is even more nonsense. Mind you without the paperwork to read we’ll never know. Why are you being anonymous, you write as if you know this firm well.

(11)(6)

Mark Donnithorne

Not obliged to report wrong doing. Not obliged to hand over evidence to an inquiry. The term whitewash comes to mind.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

What’s interesting is that one of the solicitors members of the SDT (which consists of two solicitors and a layperson) was in favour of convicting on some of the charges, but the others were in favour of acquittal. I don’t think the SDT usually expresses its views on this sort of majority basis: it usually presents its decisions as unanimous, even if one member of the panel disagreed. So, it will be interesting to see whether the SDT’s full judgment includes some sort of dissenting judgment (or dissenting reasoning) from one of the members.

(9)(1)

Lügenbaron Von Munchausen

It took Leigh Day £7 million to defend this. Who is going to pay for that?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Their insurers I imagine, minus Leigh Day’s excess. And their premium will most likely rise for next policy year. Expensive situation to end up in.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Legal matters are generally far too expensive and as Dylan said, “money doesn’t talk, it swears”. The holes in this case are more numerous than the ones in the roads around where I live, which are many. The behaviour of the legal profession is missing proper scrutiny in any way that you look at it. Where is the wisdom and where is integrity? Talk about everyone protecting their own self-interest. Appalling behaviour all around.

(0)(0)

enem é vestibular yahoo

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