Iraq 'witch hunt' lawyer Phil Shiner could avoid paying debts

Robert Mendick
Disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner, who led the “witch hunt” against Iraq war veterans that cost the British taxpayer £100 million, has declared himself bankrupt. - AFP/AFP

The disgraced lawyer who led the “witch hunt” against Iraq war veterans that cost the British taxpayer £100 million has declared himself bankrupt, meaning he could now avoid paying his debts.

Phil Shiner, who was struck off as a solicitor for dishonesty and is now facing a criminal investigation, sold his home to his two daughters just a few weeks before applying for bankruptcy.

Shiner, 60, was made insolvent on Tuesday just 48 hours after filling in an online form with the Government’s Insolvency Service.

It means the lawyer who brought more than 2,200 claims of abuse against British troops – including murder and torture – is likely to escape paying his creditors. That includes an estimated £500,000 in costs to the legal watchdog that brought the disciplinary case against him.

Disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner, who led the “witch hunt” against Iraq war veterans that cost the British taxpayer £100 million, has declared himself bankrupt.

Shiner’s claims led to the Government setting up a number of inquiries including the now discredited Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) at a total estimated cost of £100 million. All but a handful of allegations have now been dismissed as without foundation.

Johnny Mercer, the Conservative MP who led a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of British veterans investigated as a result of Shiner’s claims, said: “It is outrageous that Phil Shiner has cost the British taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and caused British troops untold misery and now seems to have run out of money himself to avoid paying any debts. This is simply not right.”

One veteran, who was investigated by Ihat over events in Iraq 13 years ago, said: “How is Shiner allowed to get away with this by making himself bankrupt. Where has all his money gone?”

Land Registry documents show that on Jan 10 Shiner sold his home in Selly Park in Birmingham for £300,000 to two grown-up daughters Bethany Shiner, a solicitor, and Leisha Shiner, who bought the house for cash.

Disgraced lawyer Phil Shiner, who led the “witch hunt” against Iraq war veterans that cost the British taxpayer £100 million, has declared himself bankrupt. Credit: AP/AP

Both women had at one stage worked for Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), the law firm set up by their father. Neighbours said yesterday that Shiner was still living in the house which he purchased outright for £320,000 in 2012. That means Shiner sold the house for £20,000 less than he paid for it five years ago.

The Insolvency Service said the transaction and any other transfer of assets would be subject to investigation to ensure his creditors recoup as much of the money owed to them as possible.

An Insolvency Service spokesman said: “We would want to know what has happened to any money received for the house. The Official Receiver checks all transactions over a five-year period before bankruptcy. We would investigate that sale.”

The Insolvency Service website shows Shiner was declared bankrupt on March 14 and that his bankruptcy will be discharged in a year’s time. The scale of his debts are not known.

Other assets owned by Shiner include a stake in another house in Selly Park, which was bought for £470,000 in 2009.

PIL folded in the summer after the Legal Aid Agency withdrew funding and warned it would try to recoup million of pounds.

British troops disperse Iraqi protesters in the southern city of Amara 12 January 2004.  Credit: AFP/AFP

PIL was even paid more than £200,000 by the Ministry of Defence in 2015 to 2016 for help it gave in the Ihat investigations, a practice that was subsequently stopped. Ihat will now be wound up by the summer.

Mr Mercer said: “Shiner’s law firm was paid £208,342 in 2015/2016 by the Ministry of Defence to facilitate the prosecution of UK soldiers. I find it hard to understand how he could become bankrupt just a year later.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which successfully brought proceedings against Shiner, said it was aware he had made himself bankrupt. Shiner was ordered to pay the body £250,000 in an interim costs payment when he was struck off last month. It is reckoned the total costs of the case were £500,000.

An SRA spokesman said: “It will now be up to the Official Receiver to decide what happens next.”

Shiner was convicted of a string of professional misconduct charges, including that he acted dishonestly, recklessly and without integrity in bringing baseless claims against British troops that they killed, mutilated and tortured Iraqi civilians.

Mr Shiner has declined to comment over a number of months.

Neighbours said he was still living at the home he sold to his daughters in January. There is no suggestion his daughters have done anything wrong.

One neighbour said: “As far as I’m aware he’s still living there. I’ve seen him about recently, so there’s been nothing to suggest that he has moved out.”

Another said: “Mr Shiner hasn’t moved, and I haven’t heard of any reason why he would be moving.”

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