Solicitor Martyn Day says BBC executives 'sat on' Panorama programme makers to change findings on Iraq torture allegations
A TOP solicitor has claimed BBC executives "sat on" Panorama programme makers to change their findings on Iraq War murder and torture allegations.
Martyn Day said he had "many, many" meetings with the production team behind the BBC's Panorama: On Whose Orders? programme before it was aired in February 2008.
Giving evidence before the solicitors disciplinary tribunal, he said he had been under the impression they supported his belief that clients he was representing in damages claims against British Army were credible.
On February 22, just three days before the programme aired, Mr Day held a press conference during which he said he believed the allegations were "likely to be true".
He led a team of solicitors at the firm he co-founded, Leigh Day, in pursuing damages claims against the MoD over the alleged mistreatment and unlawful killing of captives at the British-run camp following the Battle of Danny Boy in May 2004.
The long-running Al-Sweady Inquiry later dismissed the allegations as "false".
Mr Day and Sapna Malik each face 16 misconduct charges, while fellow solicitor Anna Crowther faces four, including an allegation of destroying a key document, and the firm is charged with 11 counts.
All deny any wrongdoing.
Speaking of a discussion he had with the Panorama team before the press conference, Mr Day said: "This is broadly what we are thinking. We are going to hold a press conference - I would like to know if you are broadly of a similar mind because if not we will just carry on.
"I was clearly going to hold the press conference, come what may.
"The fact that Panorama was going to be supportive of what we had found was significant to me.
"It certainly gave me some support that a totally independent team were thinking very similar to what we were thinking in terms of evidence."
When Timothy Dutton QC, representing the Solicitors Regulation Authority (Sra), suggested the Panorama episode said the allegations of unlawful killing were "unproven", Mr Day said: "The programme itself yes, not the investigators."
He went on to say he believed it was "clear the powers that be within the BBC watered down" its conclusions.
"The fact that they, as independent people, were supporting what we were saying had a significant influence in my mind," he added.
"I was by no means trying to coordinate with them a joint view."
Chairman of the panel Simon Tinkler asked him to clarify his point and Mr Day answered that the allegations to be featured in the programme had appeared in a story in a national newspaper in the lead up to the press conference.
He said: "Panorama has to go to the MoD. What clearly seems to have happened was as soon as they did that, the MoD leaked that to one of the newspapers.
"That was very much what we were told the position was. That's what they were saying to us. That's what appeared in the newspapers before the press conference.
"It was totally clear that BBC executives sat on them and changed their findings.
"I can simply tell you what we were told, which was that they were sat on."
Mr Day said he was told this by a Panorama producer.