Phil Shiner, the lead solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), has been shortlisted for one of the prestigious Law Society Excellence Awards. Phil, who founded PIL in 1999, is one of six lawyers vying for the Gazette’s “Legal Personality of the Year Award”.
In the last year, Phil has led the PIL team to successes in a number of high-profile cases both in the UK and in Europe, including:
- Suppiah and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department, in which two single mothers and their young families successfully argued that their detention at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre had violated their rights to liberty and security of the person, establishing that child detention in this country could only be lawful if carried out on an ‘exceptional basis’;
- Al-Skeini and Others v the United Kingdom, where Iraqi nationals established before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights that the Secretary of State for Defence must investigate the deaths of their families members because, contrary to what the House of Lords had held, they did fall within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of the European Convention on Human Rights when they were killed;
- Al-Jedda and Others v the United Kingdom, in which the Grand Chamber held that if the UN Security Council is to displace human rights laws, in this case in Iraq, then it must do so expressly. For that reason, the applicant had been detained unlawfully;
- Al-Bazzouni v Secretary of State for Defence, the challenge to the Government’s “hooding” guidance in which PIL established that hooding is always unlawful and can never be repeated by UK state agents;
- The Baha Mousa Inquiry Report, in which Sir William Gage documented the many MoD corporate failures and individual abuses that lead to the brutal death of tortured Iraqi hotel receptionist, Baha Mousa, whilst in the custody of 1 Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra;
- Hurley and Moore v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, a case in which PIL has successfully obtained permission from the High Court to challenge the decision to allow universities in England and Wales to charge incoming students up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees. The full hearing in the case will take place on 1 and 2 November;
- Evans v Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, where Maya Evans successfully challenged the Ministry of Justice’s decision to deny legal aid to litigants who did not stand to gain a personal or family benefit from a judicial review action. PIL exposed the role played behind the scenes –and not disclosed to consultees – by the Ministry of Defence, which, it transpired, had warned an MoJ Minister of the “threat to national security” posed by PIL’s public interest cases;
- Um Haider v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, where an Iraqi woman successfully settled her case alleging abuse by contractors working at the British Embassy in Baghdad;
- Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v the United Kingdom, another landmark Strasbourg case in which the Grand Chamber refused the UK’s referral of the case to its jurisdiction following PIL’s success in March 2010 in establishing that awaiting the death penalty constituted torture. Mr Al-Saadoon and Mr Mufdhi, who faced the death penalty by hanging as a result of their transfer to the Iraqi authorities by British Forces, are now free men.
In addition, the Court of Appeal will shortly decide on whether the Secretary of State for Defence must now order a public inquiry into the ill-treatment of hundreds of Iraqis detained by British Forces between 2003 and 2008. A separate inquiry is already being conducted into allegations of unlawful killings by British soldiers at Camp Abu Naji in May 2004. Meanwhile the High Court last week heard PIL’s judicial review challenge to library closures in Somerset and Gloucestershire, and PIL is also preparing to challenge the tuition fees regimes in Scotland and Northern Ireland as they apply to students from elsewhere in the UK.
The others shortlisted for the award are David Allen Green, Jo Cooper, Dean Parnell, Daniel Winterfeldt and Julian Young. The awards ceremony will be held in London on 18 October 2011.