In light of revelations that disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner was paid £2.3 million by the MoD in the three years before his firm was declared bankrupt, military lawyer Hilary Meredith is calling for a full Inquiry into the relationship between Shiner, his firm Public Interest Lawyers and the MoD.
The taxpayers’ cash was handed over to cover his legal fees as he raked in a fortune suing the MoD over dodgy war crimes claims.
The payments – made on top of his legal aid bill – emerged in new figures released by the ministry.
Commenting on the payments, Hilary Meredith, Chair of Hilary Meredith Solicitors and Visiting Professor of Law and Veterans’ Affairs at the University of Chester said:
“In early 2017, I called for full disclosure of the MoD’s financial dealings with Shiner in relation to claims made against British troops.
“This scandal goes to the very heart of the MoD. I am now calling for a full inquiry into the relationship between the MoD, Phil Shiner and Public Interest Lawyers.
“Too many questions remain unanswered. Why did the MoD select Phil Shiner and Public Interest Lawyers? Who made the decision? Was there a formal tender process? Why did the MoD feel it had to pay for evidence against its own service personnel? Who was in charge of this flawed process? Why did the MoD totally fail to support servicemen and women falsely accused?”
Continued Hilary: “Some of Shiner’s claims led to the £25m, five-year-long Al-Sweady inquiry, which later dismissed the allegations and said they were based on calculated and deliberate lies by Iraqis. Others led to investigations by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) into British troops. It eventually took a parliamentary Inquiry and threat of a Judicial Review to force the closure of IHA.
“At the Inquiry, MPs heard how investigators from IHAT were turning up on family doorsteps and at barracks’ gates demanding information or threatening arrest. It became a witch hunt against our troops.
“IHAT’s closure also came at a price – not only the cost to the taxpayer but the shattered lives, careers, marriages and health of those falsely accused over many years.
“The MoD must now take responsibility and demonstrate transparency. They allowed this situation to develop by paying a lawyer who we now know was fraudulent, and has since been struck off, to gather evidence against our own service personnel.”
Official figures that Shiner’s firm, Public Interest Lawyers, received a total of £1,238,916 million in the year 2013-14. He was paid further sums of £913,058 and £170,594 in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively.
Shiner was struck off the legal register in early 2017 after an inquiry found he had repeatedly acted dishonestly.
The MoD figures show a further £4 million was paid to Leigh Day, which worked alongside Shiner’s outfit and also accused British troops of war crimes.
The firm was also accused of dishonesty by the Solicitors Regulation Authority but was cleared of any wrongdoing.