The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed it will this month publish a statement on costs relating to the failed prosecution of human rights firm Leigh Day.
In response to a freedom of information request for a breakdown of costs, the SRA said it would not comply on the basis that it planned to publish this information 'shortly'.
But the regulator has once again refused to publish details of correspondence between itself and the Ministry of Defence concerning allegations made against the firm.
Leigh Day and three of its solicitors were cleared in the summer of 2017 over allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of claims by Iraqi civilians against the Ministry of Defence. Following the ruling after an unprecedented seven-week hearing, the SRA appealed the decision, but its challenge was thrown out in October by the High Court.
The SRA has previously been reluctant to divulge the costs it had incurred in either the tribunal or the subsequent appeal, with chief executive Paul Philip declining last month to reveal any figures. It has been established the parties must each pay their respective costs from the tribunal, but it is likely that the SRA will have to pay all the costs of the appeal.
The SRA stated in its response that it will also this month publish ‘key correspondence’ which was exchanged in the course of investigating and prosecuting Leigh Day – but this is unlikely to include exchanges with the Ministry of Defence.
The regulator states that as the Ministry of Defence was the complainant in the case, publishing correspondence would discourage other complainants from making reports. ‘We need to consider the effect that publicly releasing complainants’ information would have upon other individuals, particularly vulnerable individuals,’ states the response. ‘As a complainant, this is a matter for them should they wish to release investigation material publicly.’
The SRA goes on to say that some of the information requested consists of policy-related discussions about matters such as the powers of the SRA and the processes followed by the tribunal. The response adds that disclosure of this kind of information ‘is likely to prejudice the free and frank exchange of views between the SRA and external bodies such as the MoJ or MoD'.