The Solicitors Regulation Authority has rejected the idea that its prosecution of London human rights firm Leigh Day will open the floodgates to other similar prosecutions.
In his closing submission today, Timothy Dutton QC questioned the firm’s contention that the SRA was wrong to pursue charges relating to breaches of principle five of the code of conduct.
That principle, stating solicitors must provide a proper standard of service to clients, is included in allegations against the firm relating to the handling of claims against the government on behalf of Iraqis claiming to be the victims of abuse by British service personnel.
Dutton accused Leigh Day of ‘scaremongering’ by suggesting other solicitors may be accused of breaching the same principle and hauled before the tribunal.
‘No case comes before this tribunal unless it has gone through the process of establishing prospects of success and the public interest test,’ he said. ‘Cases that come before you are suitable because they cross the threshold of seriousness.’
He added that ‘The guidance supports the SRA’s position, which is that breaches, if they are many and isolated, may still be breaches of duty but may not result in disciplinary action.’
Dutton also used his closing submission to address issues relating to emails and letters exchanged between the government and the regulator in the lead-up to the decision to prosecute Leigh Day.
The firm suggested earlier in the hearing that the SRA had used the case to lobby government for regulatory reform and it enjoyed an ‘unhealthily cosy relationship’ with the Ministry of Defence.
Dutton said there was no lack of independence on the part of the SRA and said there was ‘more than a hint that the respondents are seeking to shoot the messenger’.
‘If ever there was a case where public authorities, parliament, government, MPs, departments of state should have been concerned this was it. You would expect there to be correspondence between such parties in a case of such public importance,’ said Dutton. ‘One may think that a constant refrain of attacking the regulator ill lies in the mouth of those who, if they have committed the wrongdoing we allege, have committed very serious breaches.’
Leigh Day and three of its solicitors all deny wrongdoing. The hearing, now in its sixth week, continues.