Legal Cheek

Full Leigh Day judgment revealed: Firm’s solicitors not ‘people who put financial advantage above professional duty’

But partner Martyn Day not ‘a credible, honest or convincing witness’, one tribunal member says

The full judgment in the Leigh Day disciplinary case, the most expensive hearing of its kind, has been revealed in all its 213-page glory.

The case concerned a range of professional misconduct charges brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), and argued in court by barristers from Fountain Court Chambers, 11 King’s Bench Walk and 39 Essex Chambers. The 19 charges focused on human rights outfit Leigh Day’s alleged failure to adequately verify claims made by Iraqi clients of torture and murder by British troops.

During the spring hearing, social media was awash with venom for respondents Martyn Day (a partner), Sapna Malik (a partner) and Anna Crowther (a junior lawyer).

However, the charges were denied and fiercely defended by the respondents’ legal team of Fountain Court barristers and Clyde & Co solicitors. And, after the longest hearing in Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) history, Leigh Day won.

News that the three-member tribunal had found the charges not proved and “therefore ordered that the allegations be dismissed” was revealed in the summer. Now, the full judgment in the case has been published.

The 155 paragraphs of the judgment provide clearer insight into what was going through the heads of the SDT panellists: Clifford Chance partner Simon Tinkler, commercial property specialist Richard Hegarty and the SDT’s lay vice-president Lucinda Barnett.

Overall, the three-member tribunal believed the respondents “actively investigated regulatory requirements, and tried to act in accordance with the rules” and spoke positively about Leigh Day. The judgment reads:

The tribunal rejected [the SRA’s] general contention that the respondents were the kind of people who put financial advantage above professional duty.

Specifically, Day was described as an “open” person whose explanations were “straightforward and credible”. Malik and Crowther were said to be “credible witnesses who considered their responses thoughtfully”.

However tribunal member Hegarty, the senior partner of a Peterborough firm, wasn’t so wholly positive. The judgment continues:

Hegarty did not find the first respondent [Day] to be a credible, honest or convincing witness. On numerous occasions he failed to give clear and succinct answers to straightforward questions… Hegarty would have expected the first respondent, as the senior partner, to accept some responsibility for his actions and those of his co-respondents but he took the stance that he did nothing wrong throughout the period in question.

Malik, he said, was “far more credible” and “was more prepared to accept that she did not always get it right”.

The SRA will now be reviewing the judgment and may issue an appeal to the High Court. As for the elephant in the room, a hearing to determine the costs, will be determined in due course.

Read the full judgment here:

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