When, in June 2013, it was announced that victims of British torture and maltreatment during the Mau Mau uprising would receive compensation from the British government there was widespread rejoicing in Kenya. Some 5228 people would share around £20 million.
But now it appears that the firm that won the ruling is facing a challenge. Leigh Day is accused of having ‘inflated its bill.’
The Daily Telegraph reports that: “Leigh Day is now facing legal action in the Kenyan courts over claims that a number of the torture victims it represented were fictitious, that it charged exorbitant fees and failed to pay out the compensation settlement in full.”
The paper continues: “The Law Society of Kenya claims Leigh Day’s fee of £6.6 million is out of proportion to the compensation settlement reached for the former victims of British torture.”
Leigh Day strenuously denies the allegation. Dan Leader said in an interview with me: “There is not a shred of truth to any of the allegations.”
He accuses senior members of the Law Society of Kenya of having an interest in the issue. Dan Leader says they employed 20 lawyers in Kenya sifting through some 15,000 claims before they made their claim against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO]. “It was an extraordinarily rigorous and transparent process,” he said. “All were paid within weeks of the case being settled.”
But there were, of course, some within the 15,000 who were unhappy about not being included in the settlement. They are now apparently represented by the Law Society, which is taking a claim against Leigh Day and their partners in Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
This is not the first time the Law Society of Kenya has tried to participate in the Mau Mau case. The last attempt was dismissed by the Nairobi High Court in September this year.
This is Africa
Other cases which Leigh Day have taken in Africa have resulted in other (African) law firms attempting to muscle in on the claims.
When Leigh Day took on the giant oil transportation multinational, Trafigura, over an oil-spill in Ivory Coast, much the same thing happened.
It took vigorous action by the London based law firm to fend off Claude Gohourou, the ex-President of an NGO, CNVDT, and to pay the victims of the toxic waste.
In a current case with the oil multinational, Shell, Leigh Day has just managed to ensure that their clients are not ‘poached’ by another company.
Fending off other law firms and ensuring that the victims are paid directly and in full is today just part and parcel of the hazards Leigh Day faces in its African cases.
The firm remains at the forefront of attempts to hold governments and mulitinationals accountable for their actions in Africa. They are, truly, the shock-troops of the world’s poor and dispossessed.