Bomb hoax barrister fails to overturn law firm ban

London Olympics: Barrister communicated false information

A barrister jailed in 2014 for a bomb hoax at the London Olympics has failed in his attempt to overturn an order imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that banned him from working for law firms.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), which handled Michael Shrimpton’s appeal, rejected the barrister’s argument that the SRA’s chief adjudicator was wrong to deny him an oral hearing.

The tribunal said it considered the “sole purpose for an oral hearing” would be for Mr Shrimpton to try and demonstrate that his criminal convictions, both for the bomb hoax and an earlier one relating to indecent photographs of children, were wrong.

The SDT said the chief adjudicator had not demonstrated “actual or apparent bias” in refusing the oral hearing or “rigidity of thinking or pre-determination”, as Mr Shrimpton claimed. Nor were there any “exceptional circumstances” that justified going behind the convictions.

Mr Shrimpton argued that an order depriving an employee of a solicitor’s firm of his or her livelihood had “penal effect, regardless of intent”.

Saying the order was a regulatory control, the tribunal noted that it did not prevent Mr Shrimpton from working or remove his ability to earn a livelihood.

The barrister was convicted in 2014 at East Berkshire Magistrates’ Court of an offence under section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978.

The tribunal said 40 indecent images of children had been downloaded from the internet and stored on an encrypted memory stick, found during a search of Mr Shrimpton’s house.

He was sentenced to a three-year supervision order and a five-year sexual offences prevention order.

The barrister was arrested in April 2012 after calling the private secretary to the secretary of state for defence and saying he had received “information of a nuclear bomb threat” to the Olympic Games.

He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court in 2015 for two counts of communicating false information with intent.

Mr Shrimpton responded by applying for permission to appeal against the bomb hoax conviction to the Court of Appeal, which was rejected, and applying to the Criminal Cases Review Commission over the indecent photographs of children, which also failed.

An application to the European Court of Human Rights over the indecent images was refused.

Mr Shrimpton was disbarred in 2018 and appealed unsuccessfully to the High Court. The following year the SRA imposed a section 43 order, which means he cannot work for a regulated firm without its permission.

The SRA’s chief adjudicator found that Mr Shrimpton’s misconduct was serious and involved dishonesty. It was also a risk to the public because he denied he committed the offences.

The SDT rejected all of the challenges made by Mr Shrimpton to the chief adjudicator’s ruling.

The tribunal said it was not required to consider “fresh evidence” that may have emerged since the convictions and could rely on them as proof of the facts.

Mr Shrimpton argued that his indecent images conviction became spent by March 2019 and the bomb hoax conviction by February this year. The tribunal found the SRA was entitled to admit evidence of spent convictions if justice could not otherwise be done.

It ruled that the circumstances in which the barrister came to be convicted of both convictions were not exceptional in a way that allowed the SRA to go behind them.

Mr Shrimpton said he had not been dishonest over the Olympics, since “there was a device present that had been recovered by the Americans” and “he believed the intelligence to be credible”.

However, the SDT said that for the jury to have convicted Mr Shrimpton, “it must have found that he knew or believed the information he communicated to have been false”.

The barrister’s application to the SDT for a review of the section 43 order was rejected and he was ordered to pay costs of £8,200.

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