The human rights lawyer believes in transparency, doesn’t he?
There are elements in the public hounding of Phil Shiner that are extremely distasteful. This is a solicitor who, along with his firm Public Interest Lawyers, has acted legitimately for years in holding government and authority to account.
Just because his causes – often taking on the core of the British establishment – are often unpopular, it does not make them wrong, or at least should not preclude Shiner from seeking justice on behalf of his clients.
But the present situation involving Shiner’s prosecution before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal borders on the farcical – and goes against the accountability Shiner himself has always sought from others.
Here is what we can tell: Shiner (and possibly his firm) is charged with an unknown number of allegations by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. These allegations are likely to be linked in some way to the Al-Sweady inquiry, which looked into the way claims were brought against British soldiers.
Proceedings are ongoing, and all the media is allowed to say is that Shiner is subject to disciplinary action.
This is now a feeding frenzy without a dinner table
When? We don’t know.
Why? We don’t know.
Shiner may have his reasons for contesting publication of certain details – for example if the allegations overlap with criminal proceedings involving his clients.
But the truth is we don’t know, and it doesn't look as if we are to be told.
Earlier this year I was at the hearing-which-never-was at which media lawyers argued for anonymity to be lifted. Let me tell you: the Mail and Sun are desperate to nail Shiner.
But this is now a feeding frenzy without a dinner table, and the idea that closing down publication of the prosecution will make this go away is fanciful.
The Gazette has been fulsome in its praise for Shiner and his work over the years and I would stand by that. You may not like what he does, but society would be poorer without his type of work.
The trouble is that by hiding away and keeping an air of secrecy around these proceedings, all that good work is tarnished. For the sake of the very causes Shiner believes in, these hearings should be made public.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor