Shiner faces two-year wait for trial on cold-calling fraud charges

Shiner: Liquidators investigating possible claims

Disgraced human rights lawyer Phil Shiner will have to wait nearly two years for his trial on four allegations of fraud, the Crown Court said on Friday.

The trial date for Mr Shiner, who was struck off in 2017, was set for 2 September 2024 by His Honour Judge Gregory Perrins at Southwark Crown Court. He pleaded not guilty.

The charges relate to applications for legal aid made in 2007 without disclosing to the Legal Aid Agency that his firm, Public Interest Lawyers, had engaged in cold calling clients in Iraq and paying referral fees.

A further charge is that, in 2015, he provided an “untrue and misleading” response to a question about cold calling from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The charges relate to the fall-out from the al-Sweady inquiry, set up to examine claims that British troops in Iraq had massacred civilians in the so-called Battle of Danny Boy in 2004.

The inquiry, which cost £31m, cleared soldiers of the most serious allegations of unlawful killing, but found there had been some mistreatment of detainees.

There was a huge political backlash against the solicitors involved, but while the SRA’s prosecution of Leigh Day and three of its lawyers failed, Mr Shiner was struck off after 22 charges of professional misconduct, including dishonesty and lack of integrity, were upheld against him.

The charges included authorising unsolicited direct approaches to potential clients arising out of the Battle of Danny Boy, paying prohibited referral fees to, and approving an improper fee-sharing arrangement with, a middleman and later bribing him to change his evidence on how the clients had been identified.

The one-time Law Society solicitor of the year was also found to have misled the SRA, failed to comply with his duty of candour to the court and of full and frank disclosure to the Legal Aid Agency.

He petitioned for bankruptcy the following month, declaring that he had no money to pay his creditors following the closure of Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers the previous year after its legal aid contracts were pulled.

Less than a year later, the bankruptcy restrictions were extended by five years over his efforts to deny paying creditors by gifting nearly £500,000 of assets to his family before declaring himself bankrupt.

The most recent report from the firm’s joint liquidators, to 17 October 2021, said it was unclear whether they would be able to make any payments to creditors, who are owed £6.3m.

The liquidators said they had identified “a number of claims” following a review of the company’s affairs, which they were continuing to investigate.

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