The fate of human rights firm Leigh Day and three of its lawyers is due to be decided this week, as the longest-ever hearing of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal edges towards a conclusion.
The tribunal is due to rule whether any of 20 allegations made against the firm, senior partner Martyn Day and solicitors Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther are proven. They deny all charges against them. The decision will come during the seventh week of the hearing.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority closed its submissions with an accusation that the defendants had ‘orchestrated’ their case and revised their responses in reaction to allegations of impropriety over the handling of Iraqi claims against the Ministry of Defence.
Patricia Robertson QC, defending, cited a list of distinguished lawyers willing to vouch for the respondents’ character and dismissed the idea that they had acted in breach of SRA rules.
The charges include allegations of unlawful payments, recklessness over the conduct of a press conference, late disclosure of a key document – and destruction of its translation – and not acting on suspicions that payments to Iraqis were bribes.
The SRA’s case is that nothing was done to investigate whether payments were bribes despite both Malik and Crowther using the specific term in separate emails, and Day receiving an email containing the word.
Robertson questioned why solicitors of such repute and experience would risk everything for the sake of no more than 10 cases.
‘You are being invited to buy into the notion that people would put a lifetime of ethical behaviour on the line – and their ability to continue to practise their profession – in order to hang on to that handful of clients,’ said Robertson. ‘It just doesn’t make sense.’
Timothy Dutton QC, prosecuting, said the misconduct dated back to 2008 when Day jointly held a press conference alleging torture and unlawful killing by British soldiers.
He said Day went too far by endorsing the ‘sensationalised’ allegations. ‘The idea that a press conference is an adjunct to litigation [and] something that will put pressure on your opponent is frankly disturbing,’ added Dutton.