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

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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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9 Comments

Phillip Phagharty-Whetpance

Unfair!

Like my life after being cursed with an unfortunate name!

(1)(3)

Just Anonymous

I’m not acquainted with the detail of this case.

However, given that Leigh Day were acquitted of all charges (pending the appeal), I find the decision that they are not to be entitled to any costs at all a most surprising one.

(14)(4)

Scep Tick

It is trite law that making the prosecution pay the defence costs in every failed prosecution would have a chilling effect on prosecutions. Perhaps if LD did not want to pay £7m in costs it should not have accused British troops of war crimes when it had evidence that they had not.

Be that as it may, the SDT has a criminal standard of proof. Do you think the profession should pay for prosecutions where the result is “we think you’re bent, but not certain, so will let you off”?

(17)(9)

Insider

It would not have been politically expedient to follow the English Rule on costs in this case.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Since when have costs of regulatory proceedings followed the event?

(2)(0)

Just Anonymous

They don’t, and I did not mean to imply otherwise (although I think I inadvertently did).

The additional reason underpinning my thinking above (which I did not explicitly state) is that this is a case where both sides have spend eye-watering sums respectively prosecuting and defending their cases.

Can it be right that a solicitors firm be forced to spend literally millions of pounds defending itself against career destroying allegations; exonerate itself on every single charge; and then be forced to pick up the entire bill itself?

Forcing the firm to shoulder the bill when the costs are at a more normal level is fair enough. But for these specific sums, I don’t consider that reasonable or fair at all.

(7)(2)

Scep Tick

It doesn’t cost much to tell the truth.

(0)(3)

Robert Campbell

If they didn’t know their clients were lying, and they didn’t know Shiner was lying, and they approved bribes and mysteriously shredded a document that undermined their own case, they got off lightly with just ‘costs’.

I do not support violence or torture against anyone, but these people besmirched hundreds of soldiers based on rumours, innuendo, paid liars, their own egos and political motivations. They have never apologised to the soldiers who’s lives and careers they have destroyed.

(6)(6)

Fiat Justitia

You perhaps missed the recent news reports about the successful claims of prisoner mistreatment by British troops.

(6)(4)

Comments are closed.

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