Phil Shiner was prepared to do whatever it took to secure clients and high-profile cases, along with the “reputational and financial reward” that came with them, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal concluded in deciding to strike him off as a solicitor last month .
The full 78-page ruling, which was published yesterday, also revealed that the Solicitors Regulation Authority is seeking more than £700,000 in costs from him – although as Mr Shiner was recently declared bankrupt, this is likely to fall upon the profession.
The tribunal upheld 22 charges of professional misconduct, including dishonesty and lack of integrity, against the one-time head of Birmingham law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which shut down last year after its legal aid contracts were pulled.
They related mainly to claims he brought against the Ministry of Defence over alleged abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers.
Mr Shiner, who was not did not attend and was not represented at the hearing, did not advance any direct mitigation, but had put medical information and character witnesses before the tribunal. In a letter from his then solicitor in December last year, he had invited the tribunal to strike him off.
The SDT concluded: “His motivation had been to secure clients and high-profile cases, which brought with it reputational and financial reward. In order to ensure that nothing got in the way of that, [he] had been willing to disregard his professional obligations, in some cases dishonestly…
“While [he] was not responsible for the fact that the clients had lied in the first place, his serious disregard for his professional obligations had meant that the consequences of those lies were suffered by soldiers for several years.”
The tribunal quoted Colonel James Coote, who had described the process as “thoroughly unpleasant and demeaning” and said it had led to the return of some of the symptoms of ill-health that he had suffered upon his return from Iraq.
The SDT also castigated Mr Shiner for seeking to conceal his wrongdoing “through the construction of elaborate strategies to mislead the SRA”.
Though he had made admissions to some of the allegations, “he had not demonstrated insight into his wrongdoing beyond that”.
At the same time, the admissions were “to his credit”, while he had previously had a clean record and the character references “spoke well” of him.
Nonetheless, the misconduct was at “the highest level and the only appropriate sanction was a strike-off”. The SDT said: “The protection of the public and of the reputation of the profession demanded nothing less.”
The SRA applied for costs of £723,000 – likely to be the highest ever sought at the tribunal. The tribunal ordered a detailed assessment, and interim costs of £250,000. “[Mr Shiner] appeared to have assets but had not responded to the [SRA’s] request for further details,” it said. “There was therefore no basis on which to reduce the interim payment.”
Mr Shiner now has 21 days to appeal.