SRA will not have to pay Leigh Day’s multi-million pound legal bill, tribunal rules

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By Thomas Connelly on

Two partners and a junior solicitor were cleared of wrongdoing earlier this year

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will not have to pay Leigh Day’s multi-million pound legal bill following its exoneration on misconduct charges relating to claims it brought on behalf of Iraqis against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Delivering its decision this morning, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) made “no order for costs in the substantive hearing,” meaning the regulator and Leigh Day will pick up their own tabs.

In November, lawyers for Leigh Day applied to the tribunal to order the regulator to cover 60% of its legal costs, which are understood to currently stand at an eye-watering £7.8 million. With the SRA’s own hefty legal bill on top, it is said to be the most expensive disciplinary case in the SDT’s history.

The SRA declined to comment on today’s costs decision, but did confirm that it would appeal the tribunal’s original verdicts. A spokesperson for Leigh Day told Legal Cheek:

“We are disappointed, given the fact that over 250 charges against the firm and colleagues here were found unproved, we believed it was appropriate to seek some measure of the costs involved – paid both by ourselves and by our insurers — in defending ourselves. However, we respect the decision of the SDT in what was an unusual application.”

Earlier this summer, Leigh Day and three of its lawyers (partners Martyn Day and Sapana Malik, and junior solicitor Anna Crowther) were cleared of 19 charges of professional misconduct brought by the regulator.

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The allegations centred around the firm’s alleged failure to adequately verify claims made by Iraq clients of torture and murder against the Ministry of Defence during the Battle of Danny Boy near Basra in 2004.

Further allegations related to endorsements of torture and murder claims during a 2008 press conference, failing to take appropriate action when the word “bribe” appeared in several emails, engaging in financial arrangements with Phil Shiner’s Public Interest Lawyers, the late disclosure of an important document and the subsequent destruction of a translation of that document.

Eventually, the SDT — following a highly-publicised seven-week hearing — found that the SRA had failed to prove the allegations to a criminal standard, although one member of the three-person tribunal dissented on some verdicts.

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