Statement

Al-Sweady Inquiry

We have noted with concern the findings of the Al-Sweady Inquiry and the issues raised in the Ministerial Statement by Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence on 17 December 2014, which raised concerns about two law firms involved in litigation or the inquiry.

The Minister said: "The Iraqi detainees, their accomplices and their lawyers must bear the brunt of the criticism for the protracted nature and £31 million cost of this unnecessary public inquiry. The falsity of the overwhelming majority of their allegations, the extraordinarily late disclosure of a document showing the nine detainees to have been insurgents and the delay by their lawyers in withdrawing the allegations of torture and murder have prompted the Solicitors Regulation Authority to investigate possible breaches of professional standards. The authority is expected to complete its investigation into the two firms responsible, Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day and Co, early next year.

"Had the Legal Services Commission been aware in 2008 of this document it would have refused legal aid for the judicial review that took place then. That would have spared the service personnel a further six years of uncertainty and anxiety. It would have spared the relatives of the deceased a further six years of false hope, and it would have saved the British taxpayer a very high bill."

We have been investigating aspects of this matter during 2014, although the falsity of the allegations was established in the findings of the inquiry published on 17 December 2014. We will be urgently concluding existing strands of investigation and reviewing the other concerns raised in the Ministerial Statement.

The following comment by Sir Tony Baldry in Parliament in response to the Ministerial Statement has also been noted and we will review the evidence: “The question of "how the firms of solicitors got their clients?". There are suggestions that they were paying agents to go around Iraq to drum up business, often not knowing who their clients were. This seems to me to be yet another issue that needs to be properly investigated by the SRA.”

 
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