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SDT clears Leigh Day and three of its lawyers in high-profile Iraqi claims misconduct prosecution

The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has today (9 June) cleared Leigh Day and three of its lawyers accused of professional misconduct relating to allegedly pursuing false damages claims of torture and murder made by Iraqi civilians against British troops in Iraq.

The three partners, co-founder Martyn Day, partner Sapna Malik and assistant solicitor Anna Crowther, alongside the firm at large, were found not guilty of all 20 allegations against them and their handling of claims brought against the Ministry of Defence.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) brought proceedings against the lawyers before the SDT last April. The allegations arose after the close of the £31m Al-Sweady public inquiry into allegations of unlawful killing and ill treatment of Iraqi nationals by British troops in Iraq in 2004.

The SDT held regular case management hearings and then an open court hearing which took place between 24 April and 2 June this year, before three panel members. The SDT will publish its full reasons for its findings that the allegations were unfounded in 12 weeks.

It will not disclose documents on the case but the public can apply to the SDT to obtain a recording of the hearing.

Martyn Day said that he was pleased that the result confirms the view that Leigh Day ‘did not act improperly or dishonestly in these legal claims against the Ministry of Justice’.

‘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,’ Day said in a statement.

‘I am very pleased that I and my colleagues can now get back to doing the work we love,’ he added.

Kinsley Napley partner Iain Miller who specialises in regulatory issues for the legal sector, said he does not see a ‘lasting impact’ on Leigh Day’s business arising from the SDT proceedings.

‘Whether those in political circles will be satisfied by today’s result is a different story,’ he emphasised.

‘It will be interesting to see if this strengthens the hand of those calling to hand more disciplinary powers to the SRA,’ he said.

Fergal Cathie, the Clyde & Co partner who acted for Leigh Day in the case, told Legal Business,that ‘one of the fundamental issues in the case concerned the role of lawyers in the administration of justice; essentially whether it is for lawyers to judge whether their clients are telling the truth, or whether this is something for the courts to decide.’

The case is the longest trial ever heard before the disciplinary tribunal, lasting seven weeks in total, with more than 200 individual allegations against the individuals and the firm. Legal Business understands that pleas ran over 100 pages.

The SDT is responsible for determining allegations of misconduct against solicitors and law firms.

Timothy Dutton QC and Nick Daly of Fountain Court Chambers represented the SRA, instructed by partner Paolo Sidoli of Russell-Cooke Solicitors.

Patricia Robertson QC and Paul Gott QC of Fountain represented Leigh Day, as instructed by partner Fergal Cathie of Clyde & Co.