SRA waited three years to stop disbarred bomb hoax barrister from working for solicitors

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By CJ McKinney on

Exclusive: Michael Shrimpton has been arguing cases in court despite being disbarred

Michael Shrimpton

The recent employment ban on disbarred bomb hoax barrister Michael Shrimpton was only imposed after he had been working for solicitors’ firms for over three years, it has emerged.

The former immigration judge has been suspended or disbarred ever since his 2014 convictions for a false bomb scare and possession of indecent images of children, but that hasn’t stopped him arguing numerous cases in court up until last September.

The SRA said that it knew all along but waited until all Shrimpton’s appeals were exhausted before doing anything about it.

Shrimpton first came to Legal Cheek‘s attention in 2014 through his conspiracy theory blogging. The following year, he was jailed for telling the Ministry of Defence that a secret German intelligence agency was planning to blow up the Queen.

During the investigation into what was deemed a hoax call, police found illegal images of children on a memory stick at Shrimpton’s home. The ex-barrister maintains his innocence, saying the images were planted by the security services in order to discredit him, but was separately convicted of an offence contrary to section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978.

It transpires that Shrimpton has been working in the law in various guises since getting out of prison in 2016.

As well as working as a legal consultant and helping to draft judicial reviews, Shrimpton has argued cases in the immigration tribunal on behalf of no less than nine firms of solicitors between February 2016 and September 2019, when the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) finally stepped in. The immigration and asylum chamber allows anyone to appear “under the supervision” of a solicitor or barrister, even if not (or no longer) qualified themselves.

He also claims to have appeared in various higher courts as an unregulated McKenzie Friend.

Shrimpton, formerly of Tanfield Chambers, described his freelance frolics to Legal Cheek:

“Aside from appearing in immigration appeals and doing advisory and drafting work on immigration cases, including Judicial Review advice and drafting, I appeared regularly in the County Court and on occasion in the High Court (Costs Judge) and Family Court, in chambers, as a Litigation Assistant. I also appeared with leave as a McKenzie Friend in the High Court, Bankruptcy Court and Court of Appeal (Civil Division). Leave to appear in the latter was given by the then Deputy Head of Civil Justice, Lady Justice Gloster, who with respect was most gracious, as was Lord Justice Richards at the hearing.”

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The Bar Standards Board said: “Mr Shrimpton was formerly disbarred following his unsuccessful appeal in 2019, although he was suspended during the period between the tribunal and appeal. This prevented him from providing legal services using the term barrister as a professional title. Once disbarred, a person is in the same position as a member of the public and is no longer regulated by the BSB. They are therefore legally able to undertake unreserved legal services.”

It added:

“We have, however, recently taken steps to prevent individuals who have been subject to serious sanctions from the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioners (the OISC), an approved regulator under the Legal Services Act 2007, like the BSB, or a professional body designated under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 from acting in Immigration Tribunals under the supervision of a barrister. This rule change, which has recently received the approval of the LSB, will take effect from 3 February.”

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association said that “it is difficult to see many circumstances where it will be appropriate for a solicitor to enable someone disbarred by the Bar Standards Board to continue acting in the Tribunal, thereby effectively circumventing the regulator’s decision”.

The group’s legal director, Sonia Lenegan, told Legal Cheek: “I believe that all of the firms who have been instructing Mr Shrimpton should be required by the SRA to provide an explanation as to how they came to instruct Mr Shrimpton, and what system of supervision was in place”. She said that if the SRA is unable to take any action in these cases, “then it seems that the current system is broken, and the rules need to be changed as a matter of urgency”.

An SRA spokesperson said: “While we were aware of the findings against Mr Shrimpton when he was working in firms we regulate, we did not seek to take action to allow his various appeals to be completed. Once his appeal against his disbarment was refused by Mrs Justice Jefford DBE on 8 April 2019, we pursued a Section 43 Order against him, which was agreed to in September 2019.”

Shrimpton has vowed to fight the SRA ban. An appeal is listed for 4 February at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in central London.

He is also seeking a royal pardon, saying that “one of the matters which has emerged since 2014 is that the jury was tampered with, with the connivance of officials, no doubt explaining the panic in the Cabinet Office! The conviction of Australian entertainer Rolf Harris at the same court has also come under question and my solicitors are keeping the Australian Attorney-General informed as a courtesy, on my instructions”.

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