SDT kickstarts misconduct hearing into Leigh Day Iraq war claims

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Leigh Day co-founder Martyn Day is one of three lawyers facing allegations of misconduct before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), as the seven-week hearing begins today.

The allegations have been made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in relation to “the endorsement” of allegations that “the British Army had unlawfully killed, tortured and mistreated Iraqi civilians.”

Day is one of three Leigh Day lawyers facing 19 charges before the SDT, along with partner Sapna Malik and solicitor Anna Jennifer Crowther.

Leigh Day was first instructed in 2007 by a number of Iraqi citizens who sought compensation from the Ministry of Defence.

They alleged they were unlawfully detained, injured or killed by British forces in Iraq in a 2004 incident known as the “battle of Danny Boy”.

The Al-Sweady inquiry was launched in 2009 to analyse the claims, concluding five years later that the “allegations of torture and murder are untrue and that all of the 28 dead were killed in fighting with British forces”.

Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers were the subject of criticism by defence secretary Michael Fallon in 2014 following the publication of a report into allegations that British forces tortured and executed Iraqi citizens.

The charges against the Leigh Day lawyers were brought by the SRA at the end of 2015 and published last summer.

Russell Cooke partner Paulo Sidoli is representing the regulator, with charges including “failures” to provide copies of documents to the Al-Sweady inquiry and “maintaining allegations of unlawful killing”.

The SRA also alleges that Leigh Day entered into an “improper fee sharing arrangement” with an individual and “approved the payment of a prohibited referral fee of £25,000”.

The hearing will last for seven-weeks and will end in early June.

This morning, Leigh Day said: “We contest all the allegations made against us and will be defending ourselves vigorously at the Tribunal hearing which begins on Monday 24th April 2017.”

It added: “We believe that it is essential for our democracy that lawyers can bring claims before our Courts, whether on behalf of service personnel or civilians, against the Ministry of Defence or any other Government entity.

Some of them may succeed (indeed, so far, the Ministry of Defence has settled over 300 of these claims, including where Iraqis died whilst under the custody or control of our Army) and some may fail.

That does not detract from the principle that lawyers should be able to bring cases before our Courts without fear of recrimination or reprisals.

We are a firm of over 400 professionals who remain committed to assisting individuals seeking to uphold their rights through our wide range of specialist legal teams.”

Last year, The Lawyer reported that Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) would also be called before the SDT over its role as advisers to an Iraq War inquiry.

The post SDT kickstarts misconduct hearing into Leigh Day Iraq war claims appeared first on The Lawyer | Legal News and Jobs | Advancing the business of law.

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