Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) confirmed yesterday that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has decided to refer it to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over the Al-Sweady inquiry.
It followed the SRA’s announcement in the morning that it had referred an unnamed firm to the tribunal, having earlier this year named Leigh Day as the first.
In December 2014, the inquiry cleared British soldiers of the most serious allegations of unlawful killing of Iraqi nationals after a firefight during the Iraq war in 2004, but found there had been some mistreatment of detainees.
The following month, defence secretary Michael Fallon told Parliament: “The Iraqi detainees, their accomplices and their lawyers must bear the brunt of the criticism for the protracted nature and £31m cost of this unnecessary public inquiry.” He also said the SRA was investigating Leigh Day and PIL as a result.
Yesterday’s SRA statement said: “Our investigation has involved the review of a huge amount of complex and detailed evidence contained in hundreds of thousands of documents. We recognise the need to deal with these matters as quickly as possible and we have engaged leading counsel to oversee this work.
“We have now decided to refer a second law firm to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It is for the tribunal to decide if there is a case to answer and we anticipate giving it the necessary information to do so in the coming weeks…
“It is important to make it clear that these are presently only allegations; they are unproven at this point. We should also make it clear that we would not normally confirm such a decision unless the tribunal agreed that there was a case to answer. It is only because others have put this information in the public domain that we have confirmed we will make a referral.”
The details of the allegations remain unknown at the moment, and the SRA said that if the tribunal accepted the case, it would set a date for a hearing. It would only be at the hearing that the full details of the regulator’s case would be made public.
Though the SRA did not name PIL, it was clear from previous statements that it was the Birmingham and London firm.
PIL released its response at the end of the day: “As the SRA themselves have said today, it is important to make it clear that these are presently only allegations, they are unproven at this point. All allegations are denied and will be robustly defended. PIL has fully co-operated with the ongoing SRA investigation, and will continue to do so.
“It would be inappropriate for PIL to comment further at this point as the investigation remains ongoing.”