Justicewatch: Shiner accepts career is over

Shiner: Mail claims scalp
Phil Shiner’s legal career appeared to come to an end yesterday. The Daily Mail, who has been after the lawyer since 2004 when it described him as ‘poison-tongued and publicity-grubbing’, was quick to claim the scalp. ‘The admission was a major vindication for the Daily Mail, which exposed how Mr Shiner paid an agent thousands of pounds to encourage Iraqis to make abuse claims against British troops,’ it said. ‘Tank-chasing lawyer Phil Shiner admits using a fixer to smear Brit troops and trying to cover it up,’ was the headline in The Sun.

The beleaguered lawyer admitted fully or in part 18 out of 24 charges brought against him by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, according to the Law Society’s Gazette. ‘Shiner contacted the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the eve of today’s case management hearing to say he admitted some allegations but denied dishonesty,’ it said.

The Daily Telegraph reported how Shiner wrote to the SDT that he ‘accepted’ he will now be struck off; as well as admitting to paying a tout more than £25,000 in referral fees; and ‘covering his tracks by doctoring evidence’.

The Conservative MP Jonny Mercer, who is holding a Parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of British troops accused of historic abuse, told the paper: ‘This man’s lack of integrity has been allowed to almost completely redefine how this country conducts military operations.’

‘Phil Shiner made the lives of soldiers a misery by pursuing false allegations of torture and murder,’ defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon told the Mail. ‘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.’

The SRA spent £476,795 on the case. The Gazette reported that Shiner’s representative said her client was ‘in ill-health and likely to be unrepresented when the contested allegations come to trial on 30 January, as her retainer is about to end’.

You can read Fiona Bawdon’s profile for LegalVoice of the controversial human rights lawyer here.

Liz Truss: minister for barking
There was some hilarity in the House of Commons during justice questions as a result of a claim by Liz Truss in the House of Commons that patrol dogs were being deployed in the war on drones flying contraband into prisons. ‘I was at HMP Pentonville last week,’ she told MPs. ‘They’ve now got patrol dogs who are now barking which helps deter drones. We are using all kinds of solutions to deal with contraband coming into our prisons.’ One Labour MP was reported to have quipped: ‘It’s the Minister who’s barking.’

As reported on LegalVoice, her colleague the justice minister Sam Gyimah had previously revealed to parliament he was looking at recruiting eagles in the attempt to intercept unlawful drones. The idea left bird watcher Bill Oddie bemused. (‘Why on earth would an eagle attack a drone anyway?’ he asked the Mail – as reported here).

The minister’s comments gave newspapers an opportunity to dust down her greatest hits – for example, her 2014 conference speech (‘In December I’ll be in Beijing opening up pork markets… ’) and her exhortation for all children to ‘learn the proper names for animals and trees’ which prompted the following tweet.

The Guardian featured the ‘gaffe-prone’ the justice secretary in its Pass Notes column (Do barking dogs scare drug drones, or is it just another Liz Truss gaffe?).

Awards for failure
Private Eye again reported on the Legal Aid Agency’s ‘pisspoor’ new digital billing system which continued to ‘crash, malfunction and frustrate solicitors trying to secure aid for their clients’. ‘So bad is it that the LAA’s members-only website now carries fixes for the latest problems and its twitter feed issues regular apologies and updates,’ the Eye said. None of this has prevented the LAA’s so-called ‘digital capability’ team from winning a civil service award for ‘transforming’ the agency. Congratulations.

Bleak situation
Half of all immigrants held in detention centres in the UK do not have any legal representation as a result of legal aid cuts, the Independent reported. ‘Cuts in legal aid have reduced the estimated number receiving legal help from 80% to 50%, meaning that thousands of people waiting to find out if they will be granted the right to remain in the UK are doing so without any legal help at all,’ it said. According to a report from Bail for Immigration Detainees, the April 2013 LASPO cuts meant that one in five have never received any legal assistance at all.

‘The situation described by detainees underlines the bleak situation that people being held in immigration detention face – made pointlessly and unjustly worse by the Government’s ill-conceived cuts to legal aid.’
John Hopgood, Bail for Immigration Detainees

Around half of the 30,000 people who are detained every year are released without being deported. ‘That so many people are forced to go through that without access to the legal help they need is unacceptable – and at odds with the British value of the rule of law,’ said Hopgood. ‘The only way to right this wrong is to ensure that legal aid is automatically available to the people who need it the most.’

Above and beyond
It’s not often you hear regulators praising the work of immigration firms but the Solicitors Regulation Authority has been singing their praises after finding a ‘broadly positive’ picture of the sector. ‘Given the potential vulnerability of asylum seekers, it is important that we make sure they are receiving a high standard of legal services,’ the group’s chief executive Paul Philip said in the Law Society’s Gazette. ‘We found that generally solicitors are meeting the expected standards. It was also encouraging to see many examples of firms going above and beyond to meet their client’s needs.’ Not every regulator has been so positive – see here.


About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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