A LEGAL firm accused of hounding British troops for money yesterday claimed they had to “cause pain” for their clients.
Legal outfit Leigh Day and three of their lawyers face 20 misconduct charges over their role in a collapsed £31m five year long war crimes inquiry.
Despite holding a list which proved their clients were members of a murderous militia which ambushed British troops they insisted the Iraqis were innocent victims of horror war crimes.
Opening their defence at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday Patricia Robertson QC, said: “Now of course that process must have been distressing to the soldiers who were the subject of it.
“And especially so because many of them were traumatised already from their experiences in Iraq, experiences many of us are lucky never to have to go through.
“But sometimes as lawyers we do have to cause pain too as we pursue our clients’ claims.”
She argued the MoD had settled more than 300 compensation claims made by Iraqis who alleged they had been abused by British troops.
That business generated some £9.5m for Leigh Day, the tribunal has already heard.
But Leigh Day’s barrister argued the firm had “no agenda” in bringing claims and allegations against them related to just eight out of 900 cases.
Partners Martyn Day and Sapna Malik deny 19 misconduct charges while fellow solicitor Anna Crowther also denies one allegation of misconduct.
The lawyers are accused of failing to disclose some of its Iraqi clients were members of the Mahdi Army militia group, which had ambushed British troops.
The OMS - Shia militia group Office of the Martyr Al Sadr – detainee List had been in their possession from 2004 onwards and undermined their clients’ claims they were innocent bystanders, it was said.
But the list was not a “silver bullet”, but merely a piece in the jigsaw making up the evidence, it was claimed.
Robertson, added: “It is important to emphasise at the outset that no one here is fired up by an agenda to do down the army.”
Despite “doing our best”, lawyers “don’t always prove to be right”, she said.
Ms Robertson claimed there were allegations at the time “crying out for an investigation that just had never happened, leaving bereaved families without answers”.
The Al Sweady Inquiry into allegations British troops murdered, tortured and mutilated Iraqi farmers and students found their claims were lies.
Ms Robertson added: “But of course, as we know, after an inquiry lasting five years – and you may ask yourself why it would last five years if it was so patently obvious that there was nothing to this - after five years the most serious allegations were rejected.”
Referring to the evidence their clients were in the Mahdi Army, she said: “The OMS list played no more than a supporting role. This was one piece of the jigsaw.
“The OMS list was not a silver bullet.”
The tribunal continues.