UK & Europe
Global law firm Clyde & Co has successfully defended law firm Leigh Day in the high profile appeal, brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, against the findings made by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) last year, in which serious allegations of professional misconduct were dismissed.
In a headline grabbing case law firm Leigh Day and three of its lawyers were prosecuted by the regulator in respect of numerous allegations of professional misconduct relating to the pursuit of human rights claims against the British Army, brought in the aftermath of the Iraq War.
The original trial, in which Clyde & Co also acted, had been the longest in the history of the SDT and resulted in the dismissal of all allegations.
Several of the SDT's findings were appealed by the SRA, but the High Court has unanimously upheld the original ruling and dismissed the appeal. The judgment states: "Dissatisfaction on the part of the SRA with the outcome of the very protracted hearing before the Tribunal below cannot of itself ground a successful appeal… …There is, overall, no proper basis on which the appellate court, on established principles, can legitimately interfere with the assessment of the evidence and the evaluative judgment of the Tribunal on any of the allegations which are the subject of this appeal".
The SRA has been ordered to pay our clients' costs of the appeal.
Fergal Cathie, lead partner for Clyde & Co, comments: "The original trial was significant in that it became the highest profile and longest running trial in the history of the SDT. The issues were many and complex, but there was a pervasive theme in the background, concerning the role of lawyers in the administration of justice - fundamentally whether it should be for lawyers to judge where the truth lies, or whether this is something solely for the courts to decide".
The Clyde & Co team was led by partner Fergal Cathie and supported by senior associate Jonathan Lawrence and associate David Milner. Counsel were Patricia Robertson QC and Paul Gott QC of Fountain Court Chambers. The team also worked closely with a team of lawyers from Leigh Day, who provided huge support.
Clyde & Co’s Professional and Financial Disputes group comprises over 150 lawyers in the UK. It acts for a large number of professional organisations, handling a broad range of professional disciplinary and regulatory work. The team has an unrivalled breadth of regulatory expertise, which covers the legal, accountancy, property, insurance, financial services and medical/healthcare sectors. The firm acts for many of the largest professional services firms on matters which are often business-critical.
Law firm Leigh Day and three of its lawyers initially appeared before the SDT in April 2017 accused of professional misconduct arising out of their representation of Iraqi individuals who had made allegations of torture and unlawful killing against the British army, arising out of events in the Iraq War in 2004.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry - a long-running public inquiry which considered allegations of mistreatment and unlawful killing - investigated and published its report in December 2014. This found that all of the most serious allegations made against British soldiers were without foundation.
Following an investigation, the SRA commenced disciplinary proceedings against Leigh Day and the individual lawyers in April 2016. More than 200 individual allegations of misconduct were made. It was alleged, among other things, that the respondents had breached their professional duties in making and maintaining allegations when it was improper to do so.
The case, which was heard in April 2017, was the longest ever heard before the SDT, lasting seven weeks.
The SDT dismissed every one of the allegations. The SRA sought to challenge the SDT's decision on a number of grounds, all of which have been dismissed.