The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has referred Leigh Day to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) over allegations the firm shredded a document integral to the £31m public inquiry into the treatment of Iraqi detainees.
It emerged the SRA launched an investigation into the human rights firm in 2014 following news the document had been destroyed one day before it was due to be handed over to officials of the Al-Sweady Inquiry.
It is understood the document showed the detainees at the centre of the row were members of an armed insurgency militia and not farmers or students, which they had claimed to be. Leigh Day acted for the nine Iraqi former detainees involved.
The inquiry into their treatment has since cost £31m including an estimated £5m in legal fees.
The inquiry eventually concluded allegations of mistreatment by the British military were the product of “deliberate and calculated lies”.
The SDT will now consider whether or not to hear the allegations levied against Leigh Day.
A statement by SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: “We have been looking into the serious issues arising from the inquiry report since its publication in December 2014.
“These are serious allegations and there is a clear public interest in resolving this matter as quickly as possible. Therefore we have referred Leigh Day, and a number of individual solicitors, to the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It is now for the tribunal to decide to hear the allegations and decide what course of action to take.”
In a statement Leigh Day said: “Leigh Day strongly denies allegations made against it by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to the work it has conducted on behalf of hundreds of Iraqis who claimed that they had been abused or unlawfully detained by British forces during or in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
“Leigh Day believes the decision to refer the firm to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is premature as it has not been given a proper opportunity to respond to these allegations.”
The SRA added it would be making a decision on allegations surrounding Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, which was also involved in the Al-Sweady Inquiry, “in the near future”.