(The Guardian newspaper)The human rights lawyer Phil Shiner may have to repay up to £3.2m of public money used to fund his pursuit of false allegations against British troops in Iraq, a court has been told.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which is hearing professional misconduct charges against Shiner, is due to deliver its verdict on 24 allegations against him on Thursday.
The Middlesex University law professor, who has been garlanded with awards by the Law Society and civil rights groups such as Liberty, failed to appear at the hearing to defend his record. The tribunal directed that the case should proceed in his absence.
The prosecution led by barrister Andrew Tabachnik, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, was told Shiner could face demands for the repayment of £3.2m his firm had received mainly in legal aid funding.
Shiner has already admitted eight counts of acting without integrity and one of acting recklessly but he denies acting dishonestly or misleading the courts.
He is said to be in a fragile state of health and suffering from stress although the prosecution has argued that recent email exchanges demonstrate he is in a fit state to plead. Shiner, who lives in Birmingham, has acknowledged he is likely to be professionally disqualified for his misconduct.
He has admitted paying a middleman in Iraq, Mazin Younis, to find those who survived or witnessed the ”Battle of Danny Boy” in 2004, in which members of a militia, the Mahdi army, ambushed a British patrol.
Shiner claimed the incident involved innocent Iraqi civilians being captured, tortured and executed by British soldiers. He compared the alleged atrocity to the massacre carried out by US troops at My Lai during the Vietnam war.
The al-Sweady inquiry in 2014, which cost £25m, eventually demonstrated that his claims were “wholly baseless”.
The trial has been told that Younis subsequently told an employee of Shiner’s now-defunct firm, Public Interest Lawyers Limited (PIL), that clients were obtained by knocking on doors and that people had been paid. That type of inducement to obtain statements was alleged to been used in other Iraqi cases, too.
Estimates of how much legal aid money was paid out from public funds for the Danny Boy-related judicial review challenge, public inquiry and compensation claims have ranged as high as £5m.
Both PIL and Younis are said to have each been paid £1.6m by another law firm, Leigh Day, which is facing, but denies, different misconduct charges.