Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Legal Aid Agency cancels a notable contract

Updated 15th August:

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has cancelled its legal aid contract with Public Interest Lawyers (PIL).  The LAA considers that PIL has breached contractual requirements and reached this opinion "after a thorough review of information provided by PIL, following the investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) into the firm."  See the LAA's announcement.  

The Telegraph 2nd August 2016 - 'Ambulance chasing' law firm that hounded British troops over false claims of Iraq abuse banned from public funding

The Telegraph 3rd August 2016 - Top lawyer facing criminal inquiry where it is said that the Legal Aid Agency is to pass a dossier to the National Crime Agency.   The article also states that a National Crime Agency spokesman said: “We do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations or the receipt of specific intelligence. Where we receive intelligence we look at it and assess whether it is appropriate for us to take action or refer on to other agencies.”

Mr Phil Shiner - Head of Strategic Litigation at Public Interest Lawyers (International) - is facing disciplinary proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and see The Telegraph 23rd June 2016 where it is reported that Mr Shiner was said to believe he is the subject of a “personal vendetta” by the Government.

Government Ministers have certainly expressed irritation about proceedings being brought in relation to Iraq and in January David Cameron wanted a "crackdown" on "spurious" legal claims - BBC News 22nd January and the earlier posts of 6th January, 24th January.

In January, Leigh Day, a firm of solicitors who had conducted Iraq-related claims - was referred by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to the SDT - SRA Statement 6th January

In April, the SRA issued this Statement which merely comments: "We have now decided to refer a second law firm to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal."

An important part of the background is the Al Sweady Inquiry held under the chairmanship of Sir Thayne Forbes.  The Inquiry's Executive Summary document extends to 95 pages.  Paragraphs 735 to 741 state very concisely the Inquiry's conclusions.  

The Inquiry had to investigate allegations of the most serious nature including murder and torture [para 731].  The Inquiry concluded that the conduct of various individual soldiers and some of the procedures being followed by the British military in 2004 fell below the high standards normally to be expected of the British Army [735].  However, the vast majority of the allegations made, including all of the most serious allegations, were wholly and entirely without merit or justification and witnesses lied to the inquiry [737].  Sir Thayne commented at para 741:  "British soldiers responded to a deadly ambush with exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism."

Update 15th August:

Public Interest Lawyers is to close - Law Society Gazette 15th August.

No comments:

Post a Comment