Top human rights lawyer faces being struck off for bringing war crimes claims against British troops

Phil Shiner has admitted to a string of misconduct charges

Scott d'Arcy
Friday 09 December 2016 07:18
Phil Shiner has admitted nine allegations of acting without integrity
Phil Shiner has admitted nine allegations of acting without integrity

Controversial human rights lawyer Phil Shiner should apologise to the Iraq War veterans he pursued over war crimes after he admitted a string of misconduct charges, the Defence Secretary has said.

A disciplinary tribunal heard Mr Shiner, a solicitor who worked for the now-defunct Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), accepts he will be stuck off following an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) watchdog.

He has admitted nine allegations of acting without integrity, including that he made "unsolicited direct approaches" to potential clients through a fixer, understood to be Abu Jamal, and three others.

He also agreed to pay Jamal, named only as "Z" in SRA papers, thousands of pounds for referrals, which is prohibited.

As a team leader at PIL, Mr Shiner authorised and procured payments and fee-sharing agreements with the agent between 2007 and 2010.

One of those payments was for £25,000 on 30 March 2009, which he admitted but denied it had related to a publicly-funded case as the SRA allege.

Mr Shiner admitted a further nine charges in part, accepting he acted without integrity but denying he did so dishonestly.

Among them, he admitted acting recklessly by claiming at a press conference in February 2008 that the British Army had unlawfully killed, tortured and mistreated Iraqi civilians at the Battle of Danny Boy during the Iraq War.

And he offered "sweeteners" in the way of payment to a fixer to change evidence on how he had identified clients to go before the Al-Sweady Inquiry.

But Mr Shiner denies six allegations, including that he misled the £31 million inquiry by failing to make full disclosures and also the Legal Services Commission over legal aid grants.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that his lawyer had submitted a letter making the admissions on the eve of a case management hearing on Thursday.

Mr Shiner last month dropped a bid to have the case heard in private and for him to remain anonymous.

Andrew Tabachnik, putting the case for the SRA, said: "Even on the basis of his own admissions, Professor Shiner accepts this tribunal must strike him off at the end of this case."

Sir Michael Fallon said: "Phil Shiner made the lives of soldiers a misery by pursuing false allegations of torture and murder. It was on behalf of those soldiers that we complained about Mr Shiner's actions and finally he has admitted he was reckless and acted without integrity.

"He should now apologise to the soldiers whose reputations he attempted to traduce."

Mr Shiner now faces a three-week trial, including a week for the panel to read more than 2,500 pages of evidence, in January.

Mr Tabachnik said Mr Shiner was yet to outline his defence to those charges he denies or admitted in part, saying: "In particular, those relating to dealing with one particular individual who it's now accepted sweeteners were offered in order for evidence to be changed."

The case is already thought to be one of the most expensive brought by the SRA, with costs already reaching more than £475,000 before the trial.

Mr Shiner came to public attention when he represented the Iraqi family of Baha Mousa, who was beaten to death by British soldiers.

He has launched many other high-profile legal actions against the Ministry of Defence relating to alleged human rights abuses involving UK armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His firm PIL brought forward the majority of allegations (2,470) that were to be considered by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat).

PIL closed down in August this year after being stripped of legal aid funding for breaching contractual requirements.

The firm was criticised in 2014 by the long-running inquiry for making allegations of war crimes based on "deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility" after the battle on May 14 2004 near Al Amarah in southern Iraq.

Mr Shiner admitted failing to keep Al-Sweady clients properly informed of the progress of the inquiry, in particular the "declining prospects" of their claims of executions at Camp Abu Naji.

His former colleague at PIL, John Dickinson, denies the same, single charge and will also appear before the tribunal next month.

The tribunal heard both men, who did not attend the hearing, face being unrepresented at the trial because of their financial situations.

Jayne Willetts, acting for Mr Shiner, said: "The tribunal has before it a respondent who is in ill health, who will in all likelihood be unrepresented at the date of the hearing. My own retainer does not extend to that date.

"The tribunal needs to be aware of the risks of preventing the first respondent from preparing his case, for the purpose of a fair hearing.

"There is a background here of inequality of resources. The SRA has left no avenue unexplored in its pursuit of this case, regardless of cost."

Press Association

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