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As you are aware, concern has been expressed regarding legacy investigations into actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have been asked to cascade the attached letter from the MOD and headlines below, which gives some detail on how the MOD is representing the interests of those involved and is attempting to ensure that lawyers, who may have acted unprofessionally or inappropriately, are being subjected to intense scrutiny.
Headlines from the case:
· 'By mid 2004, allegations had emerged that members of the Armed Forces had captured, tortured and murdered Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq in May 2004. Allegations remained over the soldiers for a decade.
· The Al-Sweady Inquiry established conclusively that the allegations were false and that the soldiers had acquitted themselves honourably.
· Following findings in the Al-Sweady Inquiry, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) recommended that lawyers involved should face a Disciplinary Tribunal for possible breaches of the Code of Conduct.
· The Tribunal has the power to impose unlimited fines on, or to strike off, any solicitor who is found to have breached the Code of Conduct.
· The Tribunal will commence in early 2017, details in the attached letter, and will be of interest to those involved or aware.
It is hoped that all who have been directly or indirectly affected by the investigations into the events of 2004 will take some comfort from the fact that the actions of the lawyers who, it is alleged, have contributed to manifestly false claims, are being subjected to intense and appropriate scrutiny.
Further updates will be cascaded on the outcomes of the Tribunal hearings.’
DIRECTOR OF JUDICIAL ENGAGEMENT POLICY
Directorate of Judicial Engagement Policy
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
1st Floor, Zone N
Brigadier Martyn Gamble 15 December 2016
Head Arms & Services
Solicitors Regulation Authority investigation refers allegations against Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day & Co to Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal
After discussion with Colonel Marcus Simson, I am writing to you to seek your assistance in sharing the following information with veterans through your Corps Colonel and Regimental Secretary links.
Following the findings of the Al-Sweady Inquiry, the Ministry of Defence submitted a file to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Earlier this year the SRA recommended that lawyers involved in the original allegations against members of the Armed Forces should face a Disciplinary Tribunal for possible breaches of the Code of Conduct. Last week one of the lawyers admitted many of the charges against him.
By mid-2004 allegations had emerged that members of our Armed Forces had captured, tortured and murdered Iraqi civilians following a gun battle in southern Iraq in May that year. Those allegations hung over those soldiers for a decade.
The Al-Sweady Inquiry established conclusively that the allegations were false and that the soldiers, subjected to co-ordinated ambushes by insurgents, had acquitted themselves honourably.
During the course of the Al-Sweady Inquiry, the Ministry of Defence became concerned about the conduct of some of the lawyers through whom these allegations had been brought and sustained. In early 2015, armed with the Inquiry’s findings, the MoD took the unprecedented step of submitting a file to the SRA, which had already announced that it was looking at the inquiry’s report. The Department’s submissions identified a number of apparent breaches of the SRA Code of Conduct and requested that they be investigated.
Of particular concern to the MoD was the fact that, although they must have known even before the Inquiry’s hearings began that the allegations were untrue, the lawyers representing the Iraqi Witnesses blocked the MoD’s application to spare many of the more than 200 soldiers from giving oral evidence, and withdrew the allegations only after the last soldier had testified. In doing so, they ignored the traumatic nature of the events, and the profound impact that reliving them would have on many of the soldiers, and especially those living with mental health problems.
The SRA investigation has culminated in the referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal of 24 allegations against solicitors from Public Interest Lawyers and 19 allegations against solicitors from Leigh Day & Co. The Tribunal has the power to impose unlimited fines on, or to strike off, any solicitor who is found to have breached the Code of Conduct.
Philip Shiner has now admitted 18 of these allegations, in whole or in part. He has accepted that it is likely that he will be struck off by the Tribunal, although it has not yet made any recommendation. However, this is not the end of the matter. The Tribunal will still hear the case against Mr Shiner – and particularly the allegations that he acted dishonestly (which he had not admitted) and failed to provide important information to the legal aid authorities, the High Court, and the Inquiry – at a three week hearing starting in January 2017. It will also hear one allegation against a second solicitor from Public Interest Lawyers at the same time. It will then hear the allegations against the firm Leigh Day & Co over six weeks starting in March 2017.
The MOD hopes that the soldiers who have been directly affected by the prolonged and public investigations into the events of May 2004 will take comfort from the fact that the actions of those lawyers who the MoD believes to have contributed to these manifestly false claims being brought are being subjected to intense scrutiny. There will be further updates on the outcome of the hearings.
If any of the soldiers affected have any questions or concerns, they should contact Colonel Marcus Simson, DACOS Personal Services in the APSG: