As if a trooper’s life isn’t hard enough when he or she comes home, they are now up against something new. Law firms in the U.K., desperate for work, have been going after soldiers for things that have happened on the battlefield. As lowdown and despicable as that seems, there have been cases where these so-called lawyers have lied and bent the truth to win cases. It makes my blood boil to think that, while brave men and women are out there keeping everyone safe at night, there are those who are looking to exploit them and make money off of their backs.
One such firm, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has recently been caught out, its owner (and now ex-solicitor) forced to pay back over £3m in ill-gotten profits. Phil Shiner, from Birmingham in the U.K., is a despicable creature. I would hope in time they throw the book at him. In my opinion, what he has done is up there with treason, and he should receive a similar punishment. Life in prison is lean for a man like this. He has tried to ruin the lives of servicemen and women who have put everything on the line in the name of duty to protect queen and country.
What sort of a system would even allow this to happen, you ask? Well there is an organisation called the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) that has been set up so that those who feel they have had something unfair happen to them during the conflict in Iraq have somewhere to start complaining. It has had funding of around £60m. From what I understand, the majority of complaints come from those claiming to have been held incorrectly or tortured while kept captive.
A tribunal found Shiner guilty of 22 misconduct charges. They were proven to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. Two other charges were left to lie on the file. The Birmingham lawyer led the pursuit of legal claims against British troops for their treatment of Iraqi detainees after the 2003 invasion. Shiner claimed U.K. soldiers had captured, tortured, and murdered innocent Iraqi civilians after the Battle of Danny Boy near Amara in 2004.
A 2014 report by the al-Sweady inquiry demonstrated that those who died had been members of the Mahdi Army militia, who ambushed a British patrol and were killed in exchanges of gunfire.
Shiner subsequently admitted paying an Iraqi middleman to find claimants, a practice that is in breach of professional standards, a practice so unbelievably low I am struggling to cope with it. Col. Coote, the commanding officer of my old lot, the Princess of Walles’s Royal Regiment known as “The Tigers,” said, “The false allegations levelled against the soldiers in my command were among the most serious against the British Army since the Second World War.” Everything from murder down has been levelled at soldiers, based entirely on the false testimonies of insurgents.
They must think we are the softest nation in the world. Just where do these human rights people get off? I would love to see how they would perform if their lives were on the line. The colonel also said, “I didn’t think solicitors could simply make or endorse false statements. I recall my sense of anger and dismay about those allegations. The nature of those false allegations raised at a press conference (given by Shiner in London in 2008) resulted in an extremely stressful and demoralising decade for me and other soldiers.”
Opening the case, Andrew Tabachnik, counsel for the prosecuting Solicitors Regulation Authority, said Shiner’s firm had been paid more than £1m, mainly in legal aid, up to last summer for its work on the Iraqi claims.
“At the heart of Shiner’s misconduct [is his belief that] his work in the human rights field was of sufficient moment that he was entitled to ignore the rules that applied to fellow solicitors,” Tabachnik said.
Shiner never even turned up at court; he claimed he had stress. Can you actually believe that? The mere fact he is not remanded in prison is astonishing. He used this excuse in his defense and tried to say he did not know what he was doing. There were, however, emails between him and Iraqis showing him cooking the whole thing up. “The defence to the dishonesty aspect,” Tabachnik said, “is effectively: ‘I was not in full control of my mental faculties at this time and I didn’t know right from wrong and what I was doing.’ But what these emails establish is a pretty clear indication that…you’re not dealing with somebody incapable of working out whether he was behaving dishonestly or not.”
It blows my mind that he would even attempt to say that he was stressed. It must be so hard going from your comfy home surrounded by your family into your nice office to stitch people up. The tribunal was also told by Tabachnik that a letter had been sent requesting an adjournment. Shiner had stopped paying for legal representation and informed the tribunal he did not wish to receive a bundle of legal documents from the case against him because it would be an invasion of his privacy, the tribunal heard. Again, that alone is absolutely out of this world.
I am sure that this will not be the last time the powers that be pick on our armed forces for carrying out the orders generated by the same people. Teresa May has already been quick to jump on this and say enough is enough, and then within dayside it was announced that soldiers were to be investigated for their service in northern Ireland. Surely if the soldiers are to be dragged into this, the politicians who sanctioned action in the first place must also come under scrutiny. I don’t think this is the last time I’ll be writing about this sort of abuse.
Featured image courtesy of Sgt John Hawkes RAF Leeming photographic section