Leigh Day: Firm’s ‘recipe for carelessness’ over file handling

first_imgHuman rights lawyer Martyn Day allowed his firm to create a ‘recipe for carelessness’ that resulted in a key document going unnoticed for years and allowed a £23m inquiry to proceed, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard today. Timothy Dutton QC, representing the SRA, said that Day’s firm Leigh Day had failed to disclose a list of detainees which might have halted the costly Al-Sweady Inquiry into allegations of torture and unlawful killing by British soldiers. Martyn DaySenior partner, Leigh DayDutton suggested that Day knew in his ‘heart of hearts’ that he was in breach of his duties as a solicitor and was angry when the document and its significance were discovered in 2013 because he knew they would have halted the claims years before.‘You knew this should have been disclosed much earlier,’ said Dutton. ‘Your systems should have ensured that you and your colleagues knew what documents you had.’The tribunal heard the document was passed to the firm in 2004 but was put away in a plastic folder and given an ‘anodyne’ label. The document, the so-called OMS list, was a list in Arabic of detainees from the Battle of Danny Boy in the Iraq War, which showed clients of Day were members of the insurgent militia and were not farmers as they had claimed.Day admitted he was ‘disappointed’ the document and its significance were not picked up earlier but insisted there was other evidence to support the claims.‘In retrospect now, looking at it in the cold light of day and trying to absorb everything, it is clear there was still very significant evidence supporting the cases we brought,’ he said. ‘If I had spotted the list in 2007 undoubtedly I would have taken that to the detainees and asked for their view.’The tribunal heard Day sent a series of emails to partners and other staff members after the omission was discovered, discussing putting full disclosure of the error on the firm’s website.In the emails Day told colleagues it was ‘poor on our part’ and it was going to lead to the ‘most mighty trouble’ from the Ministry of Defence. The emails appeared to suggest the document would have been fatally damaging to the case, but Day told the tribunal he now considered this opinion to be ‘nonsense’ which was ‘not a well thought reaction’.He denied he should have been more hands-on in reviewing what documents were held and said this was a job left to paralegals and similarly-qualified staff in most law firms.‘The mistake I made was not spotting there had been this significant nuance of change in how the case was moving,’ he said. ‘I was not conducting a page-by-page review of every single document. I would be surprised if the senior person in most firms would do that.’Dutton said Day had personally failed to maintain trust and confidence in the profession through the failure to ensure the document was disclosed before public money was spent on the inquiry.Day responded: ‘For me I love being a solicitor, it is a privilege to be a solicitor and felt absolutely at the time, as I have said on many occasions, we did not feel we did as well as we should have done in terms of spotting this document.’He continued: ‘We have recognised we did not do as well as we should, but mistakes are regularly made and it was not so bad, as we feel, to be subject to a disciplinary process.’Leigh Day and three solicitors, Day, Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther, all deny wrongdoing. The hearing continues.last_img

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