UK

Iraq War: Lawyer admits misconduct over Army abuse claims

Phil Shiner Image copyright PA
Image caption Phil Shiner led the legal team at Public Interest Lawyers

A human rights lawyer who brought murder and torture claims against UK troops has admitted misconduct charges.

Phil Shiner, from the now-defunct law firm Public Interest Lawyers, faces being struck off after paying thousands of pounds to a fixer to find clients, a disciplinary tribunal heard.

He admitted he also acted recklessly by publicly claiming UK troops unlawfully killed, tortured and mistreated Iraqis.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon called on Mr Shiner to apologise.

The disciplinary tribunal heard Mr Shiner admitted nine allegations of acting without integrity, including making "unsolicited direct approaches" to potential clients through a fixer.

It heard he paid thousands of pounds to a man - referred to in court papers as "Z", but who is understood to be called Abu Jamal - for the client referrals, which is prohibited.

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

Fixer "Z"

One allegation concerned his claims at a press conference in February 2008, when he said British troops had killed and tortured Iraqi civilians at the 2004 so-called "Battle of Danny Boy", in southern Iraq.

The tribunal heard Mr Shiner accepted he acted recklessly in saying Iraqis were taken alive and later murdered after the gun-fight.

The aftermath of the battle became a central point of the Al-Sweady public inquiry.

The five-year investigation, which cost £31m, ruled in 2014 that allegations of murder and torture made against British soldiers by Iraqi detainees were "deliberate lies".

Mr Shiner admitted failing to keep clients properly informed during the inquiry - but denied the claims he made were dishonest.

He also denied a further six allegations, including misleading the inquiry and the Legal Services Commission over legal aid grants.

His former colleague at PIL, John Dickinson, denied a single charge of failing to keep clients properly informed during the Al-Sweady inquiry.

The pair will face a three-week trial in January.

Image copyright MOD

Putting the case against Mr Shiner, Andrew Tabachnik, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said: "Even on the basis of his own admissions, Professor Shiner accepts this tribunal must strike him off at the end of this case."

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

Mr Tabachnik said Mr Shiner was yet to outline his defence to the charges he has denied or only admitted in part.

Jayne Willetts, acting for Mr Shiner, said he was in "ill health" and would "in all likelihood" be unrepresented at the date of the hearing.

'False allegations'

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

He 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, more than 2,000 cases, that were to be considered by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat).

The firm closed down in August this year after being stripped of legal aid funding for breaching contractual requirements and was criticised by the Al-Sweady Inquiry for making allegations of war crimes based on "deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility".

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Mr Shiner had made the lives of soldiers "a misery by pursuing false allegations of torture and murder".

He said: "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 Ministry of Defence has spent more than £100m on Iraq-related claims since 2004.

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