What fun eh, what fun!

One of the country’s leading human-rights lawyers faces a criminal inquiry into claims Iraqi civilians ​were bribed ​to bring abuse claims against British soldiers, The Telegraph can reveal.

Phil Shiner is accused by legal regulators of ​knowing about the bribes which were allegedly disguised as expenses and then submitted as legal aid claims funded by the taxpayer.

The alleged scam works this way. Find random Iraqi. Give them money. They then bring complaint against British troops. File legal aid claim for “translation” and “expenses” to recoup bribe. Get paid nice legal aid daily rate to bring case against government. Possibly, take percentage of award for abuse.

Profit.

42 thoughts on “What fun eh, what fun!”

  1. Almost nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing Shiner do time. No idea if it will come to that, but it’s a beautiful idea. The only thing which would give me more pleasure is if he shares a cell with a couple of ex mob psychos.

  2. @ Andrew M
    Iraqis bribed to give witness statements; format of witness statements designed to suggest Britons started firefight when they were responding to an unprovoked attack; witnesses who appeared in court subsequently proven to have lied in order to get ££££ from Ministry of Defence for “torture” that never occurred.

  3. It’s always been hard to discern the difference between lawyers & criminals. Apart from lawyers tending to use better tailors whilst criminals favour the off-the-peg market.

  4. OT: but London knife attack “not necessarily terrorism but mental health issue”.

    I have no inside info, but SOAS is a few seconds walk from Russel Square, and when I was there in the mid nineties it was a pretty radicalised student community even then….

  5. Get paid nice legal aid daily rate

    What I don’t understand, from reading various legal blogs, is how PIL and their ilk get “nice legal aid” rates. The usual complaint is that legal aid rates are barely worth turning up for.

  6. SE,
    Legal Aid may or may not be worthwhile, but if you already know everything about the case, and your client (because you’ve invented them), that has to be cost-efficient.

  7. Plus does this now open the door for veterans to sue him and his organisation? Some sort of class action suit?

  8. SE, ‘legal aid’ is a mixed bag. Criminal defence and prosecution is shockingly awful. But there are other areas of public funding which are still very generous, which haven’t attracted the beady eye of the Treasury either because they’re considered politically sacrosanct – extradition for example, where British government funded lawyers represent, in effect, foreign governments (you’ll be pleased to hear) – or because the public doesn’t know they exist, so doesn’t make a fuss about them – regulatory shake-downs, for instance. I don’t know what the rates would have been for the work PIL was doing.

  9. “The usual complaint is that legal aid rates are barely worth turning up for.”

    Ha, ha, ha, lawyers say this and you believe them? The rules are at http://tinyurl.com/hrj7amd and they are a gorgeous array of double talk. A bent lawyer can slide between the 107 pages worth of fine sounding words and phrases with ease.

    The man no doubt also had Iraqi help in making a large paper file full of ‘research’, ‘notes’, ‘interviews’ and endless blah di blah.

    When Shiner dies after x years on this earth and turns up on the banks of the river Styx, Charon will note that his time records clearly show he is 3x years old.

  10. My point seems to have gone over your head, Fred Z.

    The ones who are complaining are those doing publicly-funded criminal work and (I think, to some extent) work in the family courts.

    Different kettle of f.

  11. The man no doubt also had Iraqi help in making a large paper file full of ‘research’, ‘notes’, ‘interviews’ and endless blah di blah.

    I think the majority (if not all) of the Shiner cases were simply “made up”. As noted above, as an approach to research, this does rather simplify the problem.

  12. My sister is a crime barrister and recorder – when she does prosecution work it’s not at all unknown for her to get a massive and horribly put-together file drop on her at 4pm, so she works literally all night on it (might get some kip at 5am ish), drives to court (no expenses), sits around all day, and then has the trial disappear into the ether (def not appeared, witnesses not turned up etc) and that’s the last she ever hears of it because the next time it’s listed she’s in another court somewhere else in the country and someone else picks it up. All her work, wasted. Happens time and time again. It would drive me nuts.

    And she earns nothing (and the prep work has to be done again by someone else). She sat me down once and went through the figures – if she has a good run (defendants and witnesses and interpreters turn up and trials proceed) she does OK, though I wouldn’t work how she does for the money she earns. If she has a more normal run of cases dropping out and things not going ahead she earns, pro rata, minimum wage. No exes, no paid holiday, all that self-employed stuff too. She loves the cut and thrust and enjoys the job, but it’s not what it was financially. She’s 20+ years’ call, and has been told on the not-so QT to apply for silk, but she’s not interested. Too much work, not enough wedge. Hence the move into judging.

    My brother in law is a well-known and respected crime silk and he earns a fair whack, BUT the hours he puts in are phenomenal. I mean, *breathtaking* – eighty hours a week is fairly common. He has files 100,000 pages long – sometimes longer – full of telephone record and cell site bullshit. It really is not an easy job. Not many of them make very old bones.

    Crime silks at the top of their game, aged 60-ish, who bought their London houses 30 years ago, when they were £200-300k and not £2-3 million, are doing fine. And in civil law, as My Learned Friend Mr Lud says, it is a very different matter. They’re minted. And partners in the good solicitors’ firms ditto.

  13. ‘I think the majority (if not all) of the Shiner cases were simply “made up”. As noted above, as an approach to research, this does rather simplify the problem.’

    Careful, SE!

  14. Daft question, maybe:

    Why are foreign nationals, and not even UK resident taxpayers at the time of the invented (sorry, alleged) incidents, getting Legal Aid anyway?

  15. @cynic

    “Under current rules, there is no requirement that a person receiving legal aid should be a British citizen or resident or present in the UK. Civil claims against UK armed forces from people outside the UK are therefore subject to the same eligibility criteria for legal aid as claims from UK residents.”

    researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7477/CBP-7477.pdf

  16. Cynic, it’s not a daft question.

    Personally, I’d abolish all publicly-funded legal work. But then I’d abolish just about all publicly-funded everything ‘cept guns and bombs.

    If Shiner is convicted, it is likely he’ll be made the subject of a confiscation order, which may claw back any ill-gotten gains. Don’t sneer, at the back. Confiscation is underpinned by very draconian statutory provisions, which can be extremely effective. The damage done to the armed forces by fake claims, however, and to our ability to wage war in our national interest (even if you disagree about Iraq) may not be remedied for decades.

  17. Interested, indeed, and thank you for that rounded picture.

    My brother is a consultant at Deloitte. Per my earlier remarks about how some areas of publicly-funded legal work remain generous, I am constantly amazed by how much my brother’s firm charges, where the gravity of what is being charged for is far less than in targeted areas like criminal law.

    Just goes to show: the problem is not a lack of public money, it’s the political pull, even if exercised merely by flying under the radar of public perceptions of fat-cattery, which matters.

  18. I worked with a large consultancy firm that might just have been mentioned. One of my roles was to pull off, odd or “difficult” stuff out of the contract (in my area of professional expertise – I’m not a lawyer, never mind a contracts one.)

    So I had access to the whole contract.

    I was amazed what they were charging for me. And even more amazed to find out what they should have been charging for me, according to the charging matrix (they were charging for me at the minimum qualification level for the role rather than my actual one.)

    And, yes. I am remembering my comment re consultancy overtime.

  19. I note that Paul ‘SJW’ B and Lawrence ‘Arnald’ Aegerter are not interested in contributing to this thread. How odd, given their vociferous commitment to the truth.

  20. Careful, SE!

    I thought I had previously mentioned my utterly peripheral involvement in the Danny Boy investigation and the utterly fabricated allegations about my (non-combat) activities?

  21. Which is a point. Is a defamation action against a firm of worse-than-ambulance-chasers (they’re in the ambulance because people have a good suspicion they are actually hurt) either possible (some ancient privilege of court meaning that you, as an individual – perjury is an offence – can’t sue, like parliamentary privilege) or practical (lawyers drawing in the bridges and defending their own interests)?

  22. SE, generally, what is said in court is indeed, in that sense, ‘privileged’.

    Although I am not (of course) giving you advice, I suspect your remedy would lie in either an application to the civil court to commit to prison for contempt in the form of perjury/perverting (max., be it noted: two years’ chokey) or a private prosecution, if the CPS showed no interest, for perjury or perverting the course of whatnot.

    Can’t recall what, in the criminal courts, is the max for perjury, but perverting is life, as it’s a common law offence.

    Do you care to rehash these baseless allegations? I don’t think I recall the story …

  23. Bloke in North Dorset

    “My brother is a consultant at Deloitte. Per my earlier remarks about how some areas of publicly-funded legal work remain generous, I am constantly amazed by how much my brother’s firm charges, where the gravity of what is being charged for is far less than in targeted areas like criminal law.”

    Indeed, M’Lud.

    It never failed to amaze me when I was on the Govt contract as a technical expert how much the civil servants relied on corporate lawyers to draw up the contract and provide commercial advice. Even when it had been let the contract manager would hardly move without referring back to the lawyers.

    Whilst most of the work was handled by Senior Associates and Associates the Partner responsible for Govt relationships was regularly in meeting and knowing the consulting industry well I’m sure he was billing other times, presumably on a ratio of how much work Associates did.

    As for consulting companies, the old adage when billing people out used to be 1/3 for the employee, 1/3 for employment costs (including down time) and 1/3 for the partners.

    Sadly, when ADL went bust the client I was working with wanted me to stay on but I couldn’t persuade them to pay my full charge out rate 🙁 , although as a technical expert the billing adage above didn’t apply and I was charged out at 2 x salary.

  24. Edward Lud

    I am in favour of legal aid – certainly access to the courts should not be the preserve of the wealthy few. And legal aid for those accused of crimes falls under equality before the law.

    As to the human rights stuff, I am of the opinion that it has gone far too far and the likes of PIL are a bunion on the law. It is absurd that the UK armed forces should be subject to absurd post hoc investigations that only benefit the enemies of the state. Of course true human rights abuses should be pursued to the full limits of the law, but the present state of affairs is quite undesirable.

  25. Bloke in North Dorset

    “The damage done to the armed forces by fake claims, however, and to our ability to wage war in our national interest (even if you disagree about Iraq) may not be remedied for decades.”

    Not least because of the impact on morale and the belief that the Govt won’t protect our soldiers.

  26. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Shiner is a Gramscian woodworm. If he has been found to have conspired to bring baseless cases against members of the Armed Forces then it would be an act of political hygiene to throw the book at him.

  27. ken, the fundamental problem of principle with legal aid is that is suborns the right of private individuals to sell their labour for whatever it might fetch to, well, the stuff you talk about (equality, preserve of the wealthy few).

    Now, the stuff you talk about might be important. Let’s agree for the sake of argument that it is (it isn’t, or at least, not as much as you might think).

    Is your livelihood dependent on someone else’s abstract view of stuff?

    Let’s imagine you make cakes. And a Rousseau comes along and says all must have cakes. And all say, “But of course, we must have cakes”. So the government starts buying your cakes, to ensure that the public’s need for cakes is universally fulfilled. Then there comes a time when the government is feeling a bit poor, so it decides to cut back on its funding for your cakes. The obvious thing for you to do is to cut back on the quality of your ingredients. But you’re not allowed to do that, because you’ll be sued, or the Cake Standards Board will revoke your licence. So you get poorer. Because of people’s right to cakes.

  28. “Why are foreign nationals, and not even UK resident taxpayers at the time of the invented (sorry, alleged) incidents, getting Legal Aid anyway?”

    Because they are foreign nationals and not UK resident taxpayers?

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    M’Lud,

    I don’t think you’re cakes analogy is close to the problem. The reason people need legal aid is that the state has virtually unlimited resources when it comes to prosecution.

    I agree that forcing you to sell your labour at below market rates is wrong, indeed forcing you to sell your labour at any rates is wrong, but even the most heinous of criminals deserve some defence.

    I admit I don’t know the answer to the problem other than paying more for legal aid.

  30. BiND, why does the might of the State trouble you when it’s used to prosecute people, but not when it’s used to impoverish them?

    At least the prosecuted people might merit being prosecuted …. cue sardonic remarks about how lawyers deserve to be impoverished …

    The basic point IS the point about the State’s might. Once you concede that the State is properly entitled to make these sorts of decisions about who gets what, then nothing and no one is off sacrificial table. My cakes example was deliberately chosen for its apparent flippancy. It’s Pastor Neimoller all over again.

  31. Do we need to send more on Legal Aid?

    In Interested’s example above, we learn that the legal profession is being hugely overpaid, AND that individual lawyers are underpaid. The money is simply lost on gross inefficiency.

    Lawyers are relatively very clever, and notoriously over-represented in parliament.

    It proves that for world class stupidity, ordinary thickos just won’t do.

  32. Jack C, I would not say there is much inefficiency in the civil court and tribunal system – where legal aid, in it’s broadest sense, also operates. The reason for this is that the negative consequences of inefficiency are punished in adverse costs orders.

    In the criminal courts, costs orders are usually laughable in amount and in any event rarely made.

    And if we go back to Interested’s example, the problems he identifies are with things like witnesses not turning up. The classic example is the woman who makes a complaint about her boyfriend, gives a statement to the police, thereby starting the wheels of a prosecution rolling, but who is once more loved-up with the thug by the time the trial comes around and decides to disappear for a few days, while everyone is kept waiting at court and the police expend valuable resources running around trying to find the silly cow. Because the trial cannot start, the lawyers are paid a fixed rate per day. As little as £46.50 for prosecutors, on whom the cost of the aforementioned silly cow’s behaviour is placed.

    Another major area of inefficiency is the CPS, which has been in meltdown for as long as I have been in practice – and every new cutback* makes it even worse. But it’s a monopoly, so what can judges and lawyers do? Judges regularly criticise the CPS, publicly. But the reality is, it bestrides the system as a colossus behaving in the way that such an organisation inevitably will and so long as it is there, it will carry on doing so with impunity.

    * in socialised funding systems, cutbacks are a feature, not a glitch, remember.

  33. Edward,
    All of that is sort of my point.

    I’ve been in court on jury service, and haven’t seen anything done so well either before or since. Not efficient in the Japanese sense, but that would be inappropriate.

    However, where systems are broken, you will always find a failure of seniors to put their foot down.

    Feckless defendants are also a feature, and there must be a better way of covering that fact.

    Besides, my point stands: the Greatest Fuck-Ups don’t only require computers.

  34. “I’ve been in court on jury service, and haven’t seen anything done so well either before or since.”

    Very gratifying to hear.

    As for feckless defendants, the socialised system of legal aid ensures they don’t pay the price for their fecklessness. In fact, legal aid, in removing moral hazard in terms of costs, encourages fecklessness.

    Plus, I have a long-standing theory that most defendants would do better in the eyes of a jury without legal representation, because I think jurors would be far more reluctant to convict the unrepresented.

  35. I note [‘SJW’ is not] interested in contributing to this thread. How odd, given their vociferous commitment to the truth.

    Are there comments on here against the truth? If so, I disagree with them.

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