High Court rejects bomb hoax barrister’s appeal

Olympics: Barrister sent bomb warning to defence secretary

The High Court has rejected an appeal from a barrister who was disbarred last year after being jailed for telling the government that the Olympic Games in London was at risk from terrorists with a nuclear bomb.

Mrs Justice Jefford said Michael Shrimpton could not “endlessly adduce further evidence” and use it to argue that the disciplinary tribunal which disbarred him should have “gone behind his conviction and considered all matters afresh”.

She went on: “The tribunal was entitled to consider that there was insufficient evidence for it to proceed to a full hearing in which Mr Shrimpton could put before them whatever evidence he wished and re-run whatever legal arguments he wished in order to seek to persuade them that he was innocent of the offences of which he had been convicted.”

The High Court heard that Mr Shrimpton was arrested in April 2012 after calling the private secretary to the secretary of state for defence and telling him that the barrister had received “information of a nuclear bomb threat” to the Olympic Games.

“That information was that one of four thermonuclear warheads retrieved from the Russian submarine, the Kursk, that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, with tragic loss of life, had been placed in a location in East London.”

Mr Shrimpton followed this up by calling a political agent of David Lidington MP, a foreign office minister at that time, and attempting to arrange “informal drinks at the London residence of the foreign secretary” at which the Russian government could verify intelligence about the nuclear warhead.

After Mr Shrimpton’s arrest for the bomb hoax, his property was searched and a laptop and a number of USB memory sticks seized.

The barrister was interviewed by police in December 2012 and “made aware of allegations that the police had found illegal images of children on one of the memory sticks seized”.

“The images appeared to have been deleted but fragments could still be recovered from parts of the memory which required specialist expertise to recover them.”

Mr Shrimpton was convicted of an offence contrary to section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 by a district judge in February 2014. He was given a three-year supervision order and put on the sex offender register for five years.

Later that year he was convicted by Aylesbury Crown Court of two offences of communicating false information with intent and handed a one-year jail sentence. He was immediately suspended by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Jefford J said Mr Shrimpton had since applied unsuccessfully to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to have his bomb hoax conviction referred to the Court of Appeal.

Delivering judgment in Shrimpton v Bar Standards Board [2019] EWHC 677 (Admin), Jefford J said the BSB accepted that the rules of natural justice applied to Bar disciplinary tribunals and “there was to be implied into the rules a qualification that a conviction was not conclusive evidence if exceptional circumstances were established”.

However the BSB argued that “they could not identify any issue arising from either of the offences that could be described as exceptional”.

Having heard submissions, a Bar disciplinary tribunal ruled in September 2018 that there was “no significant evidence” the former barrister could produce and no exceptional circumstances that would justify it hearing additional oral evidence from him “as he sought to go behind the criminal conviction”.

Jefford J said the tribunal had properly taken into account” that “something more than a re-run of the arguments and evidence at the trial would be required to amount to exceptional circumstances”.

She said Mr Shrimpton complained about the tribunal’s approach to expert evidence relating to his conviction relating to illegal images of children “without justification”.

Jefford J said: “This was now the fourth report produced after trial and appeal and there was still not clear and persuasive evidence that the disk that had been examined was not Mr Shrimpton’s disk or the memory stick (on which the images were found) not his memory stick.

“There is no reason why the tribunal ought in fairness to have offered the opportunity for yet further evidence to be adduced.”

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