Iraq Torture Case Lawyer Denies Breaching Professional Code Of Conduct

Iraq Torture Case Lawyer Denies Breaching Professional Code Of Conduct

A top lawyer accused of improperly pursuing torture and murder claims against British soldiers in Iraq denies he breached his professional code of conduct.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has heard that law firm Leigh Day and solicitors Martyn Day, Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther had evidence their clients, who were making the allegations, were members of a "murderous" Iraqi Shia militia group and not innocent civilians.

Despite this it is alleged they continued to bring cases against Iraq War veterans.

During a press conference on February 22 2008, Mr Day and now disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner outlined accusations of the torture and execution of up to 20 Iraqi civilians and the torture of nine others at nearby Camp Abu Naji.

The central London tribunal has heard the pair "endorsed" the claims even though there were suggestions the men could have been members of the militant Shia insurgent group the Mahdi Army.

The £31 million Al-Sweady public inquiry later dismissed the claims as "false".

Timothy Dutton QC, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), said the press conference had been planned by both men weeks in advance.

On Monday he suggested to Mr Day, a practising solicitor for nearly 40 years, he had "lost sight" of his professional responsibilities when he made the claims public.

Mr Dutton said: "A risk you took at the press conference was to see an agenda as being to get the issue of what happened at Danny Boy and its aftermath at Camp Abu Naji into the world's media, because you thought that was the best strategy and you actually lost sight of those other duties that cause you to keep that kind of strategy in balance."

Mr Day maintains the solicitors' code of conduct was "ingrained within me".

He added: "It (the code) was always in my mind, will always be in my mind should I remain a solicitor, that these are the six core duties that we have to try and ensure that we always maintain the integrity of what we do."

Mr Dutton put it to Mr Day: "If properly read, what you said at that press conference was you endorsing your client's claim, then it follows of necessity that they were accusing the Army of a cover-up."

Mr Day replied: "On the balance of the evidence that we had seen at that stage, we thought it was more likely to be true than not, but that it was important to have a public inquiry to get to the bottom of it."

The tribunal has heard how the accusations of murder and torture made against British troops who had fought in the 2004 Battle of Danny Boy were "false" and should not have been "advanced in the public domain".

Mr Day, Ms Malik and the law firm face 19 charges, while Ms Crowther faces one allegation of destroying a handwritten English translation of the detainee list.

Mr Day said he was first in touch with Mr Shiner, who was struck off in February for dishonestly pursuing torture and murder claims against British troops, in the 1990s.

Describing him, Mr Day said: "He was never an easy man and he would take offence at the slightest of things."

Mr Day recalled a time in 2006 when relations between the two had gone "slightly sour" but said he could not remember why.

He said he respected him as a professional.

"In his work, my impression was always that he was a first-class lawyer. The difficulty was on a personal level," he told the tribunal.

It is alleged that Mr Day failed to ensure that a copy of the OMS Detainee List was provided by their clients to the Al-Sweady Inquiry.

Asked about the list - which stands for Office of the Martyr Al Sadr, a Shia militia group associated with the Mahdi Army fighting during the Iraq War - Mr Dutton suggested: "Even on your definition of what you felt you should have done - that is if you had known of the OMS list, it should have been disclosed.

"I suggest to you that is obvious from those emails that you and your colleagues did know, firstly that you had documents that had not been provided to Phil (Shiner), that much was known."

Mr Day replied: "I was surprised to find in August 2013 that this particular sequence had not rung any bells with me in terms of what was going on at the time."

He added that as a result of this, the firm had learned lessons about having documents where they could be precisely located.

Mr Day will continue giving evidence on Tuesday from 10.15am.

Before You Go