Lawyers have been cleared of any wrongdoing over their pursuit of torture and murder claims against British troops in the Iraq War which were later dismissed as false.
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”.
But a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) panel found on Friday that none of the allegations levelled at the lawyers were 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 on 11 counts.
Leigh Day, a large firm specialising in human rights and personal injury, were said by the SRA to have spent at least £7.5 million defending the case.
The defence team, led by two Fountain Court Chambers QCs Patricia Robertson and Paul Gott, had argued the charges were brought in a “highly-charged political context”, referring to a speech Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon gave to MPs at the conclusion of the public inquiry.
Sir Michael had demanded action be taken against both Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), run by Phil Shiner, and that they apologise for what he called a “shameful attempt to use our legal system to impugn our armed forces”.
The tribunal heard Leigh Day worked with now-disgraced solicitor Mr Shiner to represent Iraqi clients in parallel legal actions.
Mr Shiner was struck off by the SDT in February for dishonesty over his handling of war crimes allegations against the Army. He did not appear at his hearing and 22 misconduct charges were found proved in his absence.
Mr Day said: “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.”
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.”