A Conservative MP has accused embattled human rights lawyer Phil Shiner of ‘threatening’ the media over coverage of his secretive prosecution at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Shiner, from defunct Midlands firm Public Interest Lawyers, is currently subject to proceedings at the tribunal, although the details of the allegations and dates of future hearings are still unknown.
Lawyers for media outlets have argued for proceedings to be heard in public, but these calls have been resisted on undisclosed grounds.
In the House of Commons on Monday, speaking during defence questions under parliamentary privilege, Canterbury MP Julian Brazier (pictured) accused Shiner of ‘trying to conceal his ill-gotten gains by threatening those editors who are threatening to expose him with recourse to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on the basis of so-called mental health problems’.
Defence minister Mike Penning said the SDT should be allowed to do its work first, but he opened the possibility of the government pursuing further legal action, adding: ‘It is very important that those who have done wrong are dealt with, but it is really wrong that tax-paid lawyers are chasing around the country trying to prosecute other people.’
Penning added: ‘I think we all welcome the demise of Public Interest Lawyers. It is for the regulatory authorities to look closely at what it did and how it earned its income.’
Penning confirmed that the government still intends to bring forward legislation to ensure members of the armed forces are not subject to ‘persistent legal claims’ that undermine their ability to do their job.
Meanwhile, Public Interest Lawyers has lost a challenge in the Court of Appeal in respect of the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to claims brought by Iraqi civilians.
In Al-Saadoon & Ors v The Secretary of State for Defence & Ors, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones said it was a ‘fundamentally flawed’ argument to say the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture confer rights on individuals in domestic law. Jones refused permission to appeal on this ground.
The judge confirmed that at the time of the hearing in May clients were represented by Public Interest Lawyers in 1,282 public law claims.