2017-02-03 15:37:00
Within 10 years, the Ministry of Defence had been forced into setting up a vast criminal investigation into 3,400 allegations of abuse, including claims of murder and torture committed by British troops. Ihat, at a likely cost to the taxpayer of £60 million, has undoubtedly wrecked the lives of veterans trying to forget the terrible events of the Iraq conflict. Shiner had won a series of early court skirmishes. By 2007, he had been named lawyer of the year by the Law Society and was accusing UK forces of deploying a “systematic policy” that led to the execution of “scores of Iraqis in detention and the torture of countless more”. Shiner forced a public inquiry into another alleged atrocity in Iraq, the Battle of Danny Boy, which cost a further £25 million. It would later prove Shiner’s downfall and culminate in the lawyer being struck off yesterday. The Al-Sweady inquiry concluded in 2014 that Iraqis, who accused the British Army of murder and mutilation – had made up their claims. Indeed, Shiner and his law firm should have known their clients were telling lies. Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, ordered a dossier about Shiner and passed it to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for investigation. But the fact it took more than 10 years to expose the astonishing greed, lies and deceit at the heart of the cases that traduced the reputation of the British military is staggering in itself. That Shiner had done so well for so long is thanks to the law – or more precisely the European Convention on Human Rights – which he used to full advantage. Judges ruled in a series of early victories for Shiner that human rights laws in the UK should apply to war-torn Iraq. That enabled Shiner and another law firm, Leigh Day, to pile in, bringing a series of lucrative compensation claims against the Ministry of Defence on behalf of Iraqi clients. To date, the MoD has paid out about £22 million in damages for 300 cases. But the fees for the lawyers have been huge and has proved to be a worrying incentive for Shiner and his fixers on the ground. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard this week how Shiner had entered into an improper deal in which fees from the compensation claims were carved up between PIL, Leigh Day and Shiner’s man on the ground in Iraq – a fixer called Mazin Younis. PIL and Younis, an Iraqi-born translator who had been living in Manchester, shared £3.2 million for 95 cases. It should be stressed that Leigh Day denies any wrongdoing and will contest a disciplinary hearing due in the spring. Under his deal with Shiner, for every client Younis could find he would receive £500. The duo had uncovered a gravy train. Shiner, according to the solicitors watchdog, had failed to check the deal’s “legality or propriety”. What is more Younis, insisting it was too dangerous for Iraqis to find him, went knocking on doors looking for clients. The practice is illegal under law society rules. The danger is obvious. Impoverished Iraqis suddenly found themselves with a tempting offer; the incentive to sue is clear. It is not known how many false claims were made by Iraqis as a result of knocks on doors made by Younis and other agents working for Shiner. The false allegations made at the Al-Sweady inquiry have been well aired but Ihat is now combing through the thousands of cases lodged with it to see how many of those are bogus. The answer is almost certainly a very large proportion.