Newspaper’s tirade included telling profession it should apologise for Phil Shiner
Few lawyers were left unscathed this weekend in a brutal anti-lawyer article that had something bad to say about pretty much everyone.
Though named persons in the firing line included Ben Emmerson QC, Lord Sumption and Lord Pannick QC, the lengthy comment piece really used the story of Phil Shiner as an excuse to tar the profession as a whole.
Shiner was struck off earlier this month after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found him to be, among other things, dishonest. The former human rights lawyer was reprimanded for paying a middleman money to seek out potential claims against the Ministry of Defence from Iraqis.
One rotten apple? The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to think so. In a piece posted on the Mail Online, columnist Stephen Glover told readers “the legal profession as a whole is implicated”.
Glover — who co-founded The Independent — says this because Shiner was “lauded by many of his colleagues”, such as High Court judge Rabinder Singh QC. He was also endorsed by the Law Society Gazette, which he believes should “apologise” for ever doing so. This has prompted a backlash from Gazette journalist John Hyde, who tweeted a number of positive legal stories using the hashtag #goodlawyers in response to the vicious hate piece.
But it’s not just lawyers’ support of Shiner that has riled Glover. The all-encompassing, incredibly one-sided piece also slams the profession for its lack of regulation (“the degree to which lawyers police themselves in secret can be breath-taking”; no mention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority/Bar Standards Board/etc here). It then goes on to say “we are all of us [sic]” paying more for our car insurance because of “unscrupulous lawyers touting for business”.
Later in the piece comes claims about the senior judiciary “increasingly throwing its weight around”, with Glover questioning how independent judges actually are. “Surely no human being can be utterly impartial or neutral”, he argues, before saying he “entirely acknowledge[s] Lord Neuberger’s neutrality”. But while he thinks Neuberger is a “very great man”, he couldn’t help dredge up that Lady Neuberger Twitter saga. On this, he says:
While I entirely acknowledge Lord Neuberger’s neutrality, we surely have a right to know that his nearest and dearest hold such strong views.
Glover’s piece is over 2,000 words of pure venom, directed at all facets of the profession. Perhaps it was only fitting, therefore, that he’d make a claim at the end of the piece sure to make lawyers scream.
How do we combat “unaccountable” judges who “like to maintain the illusion of impartiality”? Appoint them based on their political predilections of course! This according to Glover, who says the United States system is preferable to ours in this sense. With a swathe of Supreme Court justices set to retire in the next two years, a Theresa May-appointed bench is exactly what the profession is calling out for…
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