Lawyers cleared of wrongdoing over Iraq War torture and murder claims

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Lawyers who pursued Iraq War torture and murder claims against the British Army have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Law firm Leigh Day, its co-founder Martyn Day and his colleagues Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther, faced a string of misconduct charges over their handling of the claims against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) alleging the mistreatment and unlawful killing of captives at Camp Abu Naji in Iraq following the Battle of Danny Boy in May 2004.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) prosecuted them following the end of the £31 million Al-Sweady Inquiry, which found the most serious claims of murder and torture were "entirely false" and the product of "deliberate lies".

An SDT panel found on Friday that none of the allegations levelled at the lawyers was proved.

Mr Day and Ms Malik were each cleared of 16 misconduct charges, while fellow solicitor Ms Crowther was cleared of four, including an allegation of destroying a key document, and the firm was exonerated of 11 counts.

They had denied any wrongdoing. 

The tribunal heard Leigh Day worked with now-disgraced solicitor Phil Shiner to represent Iraqi clients in parallel legal actions.

Mr Shiner was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) in February for dishonesty over his handling of war crimes allegations against the British Army.

He did not appear at his hearing and 22 misconduct charges were found proved in his absence.

Leigh Day's defence team, led by Patricia Robertson QC, accused the SRA of being "unprincipled" in attempting to use the Shiner judgment as a "short cut".

Following the 22-day hearing, SDT panel chairman Simon Tinkler said: "The tribunal has therefore found that none of the allegations made have been proved."

The panel said a formal judgment will be issued in August.

The tribunal heard Leigh Day had spent at least £7.5 million defending the allegations, with their team comprising two QCs from Fountain Court Chambers.

It is also thought to be one of the costliest prosecutions the SRA has pursued, expected to exceed the more than £475,000 spent in the Shiner case.

In a statement, Mr Day said: "We are pleased that the tribunal has cleared us of all the charges, and confirmed our view that we did not act improperly or dishonestly in these legal claims against the Ministry of Defence.

"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.

"I am very pleased that I and my colleagues can now get back to doing the work we love.

"We would like to thank our insurers and our fantastic legal team and counsel for all their hard work over the past couple of years, and during this hearing, and all those within the legal world and beyond who have given us such strong support."

An MoD spokesman said: "We have noted today's decision and are disappointed that, unlike in the case of Phil Shiner's Public Interest Lawyers, the tribunal has not agreed with the concerns we have raised.

"We will continue to both vigorously defend any opportunistic claims when we believe they are false or exaggerated, and to bring any evidence of wrongdoing to the attention of supervising bodies."

A spokesman for the SRA said: "We note the judgment handed down today. We need to wait and see the full detail and rationale behind the tribunal's decision. We will then consider the possibility of an appeal."