David Cameron is behaving in a childish and disgraceful manner by attacking law firms representing victims of alleged abuse and unlawful killing by British soldiers, according to some of Britain’s most respected lawyers.
The criticism of the Prime Minister comes after he said on 22 January:
Mr Cameron added:
He has tasked the National Security Council with devising a plan to “stamp out this industry” including cracking down on 'no win, no fee' schemes, and further restrictions on legal aid – with claimants needing to have lived in Britain for a year.
And the Prime Minister has pledged to take
But Professor Michael Mansfield QC described the comments as setting “a very dangerous precedent” and told The Independent: “It’s for the courts to decide whether there’s a spurious claim or not.”
Mr Cameron’s remarks are the latest in a series of attacks made by the Government against law firms Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers (Pil) in recent weeks. The companies, whose clients include Iraqi victims of alleged abuses, have been dubbed “ambulance-chasers” by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
More than 1,500 cases of unlawful killing and abuse have been passed to the Iraq Historic Allegations Team established by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and the International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary examination of war crime allegations against British forces in Iraq.
Earlier this month Leigh Day was referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, after the MoD complained about the firm, and Pil, to the Solicitors Regulation Authority last year. The allegations, denied by the two companies, include touting for Iraqi clients.
And Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Mercer, the British Army’s top legal adviser in Iraq in 2003, said:
Concerns over the abuse of prisoners by British soldiers in Iraq were raised within the military more than a decade ago, added Lt-Col Mercer, named the 2011/12 Human Rights Lawyer of the Year by Liberty.
To date, the MoD has paid out £20 million to settle more than 300 claims relating to the conduct of British forces in Iraq. This
Lt-Col Mercer, who left the army in 2011, said:
Lieutenant-Colonel says British soldiers tortured Iraqis during war
British soldiers 'could face prosecution for Iraq crimes'
In a statement on 22 January, a spokesperson for Leigh Day said:
And a spokesperson for Pil commented: “There is no evidential basis of there being “spurious claims” and the Prime Minister’s comments are wholly unfounded.” They added: “It seems to us that the British Prime Minister wants to create a scenario where the Armed Forces are above the law.” The spokesperson described the “political pressures” being brought against lawyers as exposing “a Government that is willing to undermine the application of the rule of law itself.”