UK Law Firm’s “Witch Hunt” of Soldiers Ends When Funds Stripped

UK Law Firm's "Witch Hunt" of Soldiers Ends When Funds Stripped

British PM Theresa May has joined the chorus of delight over the closure of a law firm that pursued what one newspaper called a “Witch Hunt” of British soldiers.

The PM said she was “very pleased” that the firm, Public Interest Lawyers, was to close this month.

The government has already said that it was to clamp down on lawyers who were pursuing  “spurious claims” against military personnel.

The Guardian reported that Public Interest Lawyers,which submitted hundreds of allegations of misconduct and unlawful killing by British troops, is to cease operation at the end of August, weeks after being stripped of legal aid funding.

The Guardian report follows documents seen by the Daily Mail, submitted to the court by the law firm and  judges to make an order that it has ceased to act for 187 Iraqi claimants due to its “permanent closure”.

PIL Principal Phil Shiner
PIL Principal Phil Shiner


The firm will not pursue a further 1,000 compensation claims it planned to lodge.

After being stripped of public money Public Interest Lawyers will close at the end of this month.

Hundreds of service personnel will now escape being dragged into a taxpayer-funded witch-hunt.

The development will also increase pressure for the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) to drop many of the 1,500 cases it is investigating.

Nearly 200 compensation claims made by suspected Iraqi insurgents will be thrown out and more than 1,000 potential claims scrapped. Phil Shiner, who ran PIL, may now face charges because the National Crime Agency is investigating the law firm.

The Daily Mail, which has pursued the story with vigour on behalf of the soldiers and their families is celebrating the win over the lawyer firm’s closure.

The development is a victory for the Daily Mail, which has exposed the tactics of the ambulance-chasing solicitors. These include using touts to drum up business in Iraq in breach of legal rules.

For years the firm has been dragging military veterans through the courts with often false claims that they murdered and tortured Iraqis. It has pocketed millions of pounds in legal aid.

The PIL Claims

The newspaper provides a catalogue of the cases and issues that the firm has been behind in recent years:

 – Two public inquiries costing £55.9million have featured PIL. In the first it represented the family of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist who died in British custody in Iraq in 2003. The inquiry found wrongdoing by UK soldiers. The second, Al-Sweady war crimes inquiry exonerated British troops and said claims made by PIL’s clients were ‘deliberate and calculated lies’. – PIL has won High Court compensation payouts from the Ministry of Defence for ill-treatment by British troops totalling £21.77million. Earlier this year PIL was criticised by the judge presiding over a civil claim for wasting taxpayers’ money and the MoD’s time.

– PIL handed at least 1,150 cases alleging criminality by British troops to the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, with hundreds of soldiers hounded as a result. Scores of cases were thrown out at the first stage for lacking evidence or being duplicates, although most are ongoing.

– Some failed IHAT cases have been passed to Iraq Fatality Investigations, an inquest-style inquiry. Soldiers have again been dragged through the courts to testify in £200,000 cases.

– PIL has passed over 1,200 claims of wrongdoing by troops to the International Criminal Court. No action has yet been taken. 

The newspaper reported how PIL handed investigators at the Iraqi Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) more than 1,100 cases of alleged wrongdoing, leading to hundreds of soldiers being closely questioned over their role in the war.

The 145-strong IHAT team took over  1,600 cases, but out of 176 claims already examined, only one has had a result: a £3,000 fine and referral for disciplinary action.

A Video interview with Phil Shiner from 2003

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