By Ashley Young And Sammie Jones-
Conservative MP, Johnny Mercer dramatically confronted the eminent senior partner of human rights firm Leigh Day at the Commons today. He accused him directly of dishonesty and being deluded over his handling of claims against the Ministry of Defence . Martyn Day was accused of dishonesty in the House Of Commons where he appeared as a witness over the statute of limitation for forces veterans.
Originally cleared of misconduct in 2017 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in relation to the Al-Sweady claims, Day has been on a high when it comes to fending off legal challenges against him. He triumphed in the High Court after the Solicitors Regulation Authority tried to appeal the tribunal’s decision last year. That triumph has done little to clear Day of suspicion and guilt in the minds of many close to the case who still find him wanting in terms of his handling of it.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority had resisted sustained efforts by the Law Society and The Eye Of Media.Com, and a few other publications to fully disclose information about its involvement in the investigation, until it made a complete U turn from its previous insistence to keep the details private. SRA chief executive Paul Philip had previously seemed determined to keep this private.
Today, Day suggested that a statute of limitations could be used to prevent the prosecution of military veterans for less serious historical offences, as he appeared before the Commons defence select committee. Martyn Day called for independent investigators – rather than the Royal Military Police (RMP) to look into serious allegations of abuse did not spare him from scathing allegations of deceit and delusion from Mercer, whose job was to cross examine him thoroughly.
When Day’s role in gathering and issuing claims against the MoD on behalf of individuals who claimed to be civilians but turned out to be members of an Iraqi militia army was brought up, Mercer laid into him. He accused him of being ‘dishonest throughout this process’. Day challenged the MP to repeat the accusation outside parliament, to which Mercer replied: ‘No problem whatsoever. You have known for a long time that the individuals in the Al-Sweady case were part of the Mahdi Army, that documentation [which showed it] was found in your possession.
‘My problem is that you come here and make these allegations, that the British went into Basra and all hell broke loose and suddenly no-one cared about human rights and everyone was very disappointed, and it is a complete work of fiction.’Fighting broke out after members of the Mahdi Army Shia militia ambushed a UK military patrol. It was alleged that some Iraqis were allegedly captured and taken back to a British base where they were tortured and murdered. A £3.1m al-Sweady inquiry concluded the claims to be false in 2014. It also stated that iraqi claimants were far from innocent, but members of the Mahdi Army’.
London Lawyer: Martyn Day Image: Leigh Day.Co.Uk
Day explained that his firm had sued the MoD rather than individual soldiers. He pointed out that around 330 claims against the government in relation to Iraq had been successful, with more than 600 still being processed.
Day expressed no remorse for soldiers, when he was asked by Mercer if he felt remorse or regret about the situation faced by soldiers accused of wrongdoing.
Day said: ‘I am proud of the system that we represent and the rule of law, and the rule of law means that at times soldiers will have to come and give evidence. That is tough for them as it is for anybody else.’
Mercer responded: ‘It was entirely the product of deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility. You are deluded Martyn, you are absolutely deluded. In a point blank accusation against Day, Mercer said he exploited the English justice system and the difficult scenarios that arise during warfare. ‘I don’t blame you for it because you are making money out of it. The reason you don’t go after individual soldiers I would suggest is simply because there is no money in it for you.’
Day confirmed that a whopping £11m was generated in fees and disbursements from the government in relation to claims generated from the Iraq conflict. He said neither he nor any member of his firm (except for one individual) had been to Iraq to monitor first-hand the activities of third parties on the ground who were paid a referral fee for each claim they brought in. When asked if he would apologise for the lives ‘ruined’ by the adversarial process of litigation, Day said: ‘I am not going to apologise for the rule of law.’
Leigh Day was questioned hard about his motives in representing foreign litigants against his own people. Asked if he has an agenda against the armed forces, Day replied: ‘No, not at all. I totally support the British Army… that is why it is so important we learn the lessons to make sure they do not make the big mistakes that they made this time round… I am clear that rather than us being able to have a proper debate about the rights and wrongs of what has happened in Iraq, one is surrounded by so much murkiness that it is so hard to get at the actual truth.’