Reporting the class action against the Post Office at the High Court
Morning. We are in court 26 at the Rolls Building for Day 6 of the Bates v Post Office common issues trial. Post Office representatives will be cross examined (xe’d) by Patrick Green QC (PG). First up, I think, is Nick Beal. #postofficetrial
And today’s rather grouchy secret email has been sent to subscribers.
Here is yesterday’s write up by the @ft on ft.com/2PuCxd3
Mr Beal has been sworn in. He is the Head of Agents’ Development and Renumeration at Post Office.
PG asks about his witness statement in which he says he speaks about PO practices which happened before he started based on his own experience.
NB was a manager of crown post office between 1990 – 1996.
NB says his branches were computerised with paper records alongside it. Crown offices in the 90s used Echo Plus.
PG says this contrasts with agents in branches using paper-based systems.
NB says there was a pilot computerised system in the Thames Valley in the 90s which was run alongside a paper-based system.
1996 – 2001 NB became a manager involved in the analysis and design of operational procedudres in advance of the rollout of Horizon (H).
PG wants to know if this was changes to agents or PO or both.
NB says both – it was about way transactions were conducted.
… with a view to automating them. NB was a about product-facing, not what the agent would see on the screen.
Judge asks what product-facing means.
NB says work related to products rather than back office. Accounting process is non product-facing. Which he didn’t do.
Still going through NB’s cv – in 2001 to 2004 he was Head of Operational Finance and Planning. Head Office.
Just to be clear PG – Patrick Green QC – is representing the claimants and this is a cross-examination.
PG points out that PO was making losses whilst NB was doing what he was doing and he was trying to improve performance.
PG says one of the issues PO had recovery of losses after termination.
NB says it didn’t fall within his role.
PG is it fair to say H was a big change for SPMRs
NB Yes I would say that.
PG now taking NB through Angela van den Bogerd’s witness statement.
Got to the point in AvdB’s WS where she says handing over H data to SPMRs would not work. PO operates the system on behalf of the SPMR.
PG asks NB if he’s happy in his job and likes the PO.
NB says he is [his boss is in the room, but he is on oath]
PG now taking NB through the bumph they use when they recruit SPMRs about welcoming them into the warm embrace of the PO.
Now talks about the booklet’s setting out of the training and support they might receive.
NB agrees it sets an expectation
PG but there’s nothing…
… surprising about this expectation at all?
PG Now “we care for all our employees, SPMRS and we cherish ourplace in the community.” is that a fair expectation of how the PO should behave?
PG now on to training bumph “training is usually delivered by an agency trainer – it usually varies from office to office to meet your needs.”
onsite training detailed customers service, accounting etc
ongoing training assessed by retail manager. PG says not surprising this?
mentions NB agrees. We supplied the booklet, so yes.
PG points out list of training services provided inc problem-solving “speedy accurate information on” handling complaints etc
PG no surprises?
Just a note – unless something in these tweets is in quotes it is not a direct quote – it is a paraphrase.
PG noting bumph “you will have received a full contract on the day you start working at the very latest” – it is a working document, demonstrates what we expect from you…
… and you can get from us.
NB says this document is from the late 80s/90s
PG it’s still being used
NB said it wasn’t part of his role when it was written. He took on the role of responsibility for the content of the contracts later…
Judge is querying NBs area of responsibility.
PG asks if the contract changed when H was brought in, as it was quite a big change on the ground.
NB says he believes the contract broadly stayed the same.
PG raising NB’s WS note about changing the contract for the NT programme (network transformation), “the core principles of the agent being responsible for running the branch, employing assistants, completing the accounts and liability for losses remained the same”
NB goes to p16 of NB statement in which is makes quite clear that the SPMR contract is standard with no scope for individual negotiation.
PG asks about his familiarity with the old SPMC contract and modified (NT) contract
PG notes contract says SPMR can make a written response to any allegations of wrongdoing against them and can request a meeting with an area manager and be accompanied by a “friend”.
PG notes he can appeal against suspension in writing. “There is no formal…
… appeal against termination in 3 months notice.” but the SPMR can appeal against SUMMARY termination.
PG making clear the distinction and saying it is the same in both old and modified contract.
NB says he doesn’t know
PG calls up the relevant document…
PG says there is a difference between the contracts in that one does allow an appeal against 3 months termination and one doesn’t.
PG reason I asked you about this is that you’d have to be broadly familiar with the standard and modified contract and YOU didn’t know about the difference between the appeal procedures between the two documents (standard and modified SPMC).
PG asks about an internal guidance document on termination on notice and how to word the letter. He says the doc fails to draw attention to the distinction between the right or lack of appeal in the modified and standard SPMC.
PG drawing another distinction between standard SPMC and modded SPMC about payments made if a branch moves.
NB agrees the difference exists.
PG has just described the NFSP as an independent organisation which provides support to SPMRs.
He is talking about contract modifications in the newer NTC (network transformation contract)
PG asks about his negotiations with the NFSP
over the NTC and notes the liability for losses clause and how it changed. PG says although the language changed, the substance of the issue didn’t.
PG now asking about 12 month notice period in NTC. That was a change in favour of SPMRs. On paper.
PG asks how NTC was better for SPMRs
NB it was part of a wider NT programme…
NB that programme came with it a huge amount of investment from the government, SPMRs could refresh their stores, save money by changing the way the sold products…
judge says I think you were asked about the contract.
NB I think it gave them clarity on their responsibilities and allowed them to focus on running their business.
PG is looking at termination clauses in NTC.
Clause on termination if SPMR “fails to properly account for any money or stock” belonging to PO
PG so it’s right to say that the right of appeal was completely removed?
PG goes back to the standard SPMC p1 – 23 contain general terms of SPMR appt.
p14 “no breach of rules will be excused on the grounds of ignorance”
PG explain what your understanding of the rules are
NB this is in the 1994 SPMC. I didn’t write this
Judge: “I don’t think you’re being accused of writing it…”
NB gives explanation of the various documents an SPMR would expect to find in branch and how the rules would be contained therein.
PG now discussing the Manual and what that entails – the operation of the counter, the Horizon operating instructions, individual instruction from PO, updates to procedures etc. They agree this is a big bunch of sometimes big documents…
PG Discussing self-reporting obligation in new NTC. Did you know it was new?
NB don’t remember
PG Do you remember discussing it with the NFSP
NB No I don’t remember
PG now talking about branch focus the magazine for SPMRs
NB yes but no longer paper copies since 2013.
PG draws his attention to a specific article in an issues entitled “Getting ready for summer”
PG are these instructions or advice?
NB don’t know I’d have to read it for sure.
PG talking about a specific “summer sizzlers” promotion. Is that an obligation on the SPMRs to do this?
NB I would say it was yes. I would also say if they failed to do this it wouldn’t be a contractual matter we would take up with them necessarily.
PG notes an example where SPMRs are told not to tell customers about a new promotion coming through. is that a contractual obligation?
NB yes as branch focus is part of the rules they need to follow
PG asks what if someone comes in asking for currency for a holiday and is told – best wait till next week. Is that a breach?
NB technically yes
PG would it have to be self-reported?
NB it’s not the sort of thing…
… we would take it up.
PG have a look a the rules
NB it says “material breach” i would not consider that a material breach.
PG so it depends on which customer they are talking to
NB and the fact you said it was the next day
PG what if the sums were huge
The obligation in branch focus was general to stop competitors from finding out about a new promotion. the specific example you just gave me is hypothetical of course, but the way you’ve explained it – no I would consider that a breach of contract.
we break for 10 mins.
We’re back. Nick Beal for the PO being xe’d by PG. I’m going to call him QC actually so you know what’s going on. PG is the claimants’ QC and I did the same with the PO QC David Cavender…
PG taking NB through his evidence re the list of changes to the PO contract down the years that he provided to the court. PG asks where it came from.
NB our legal team
[PO legal team used to be called Bond Dickinson – they are now Womble Bond Dickinson, which is a great name]
PG picking up a list provided by WBD – then BD – to a previous request and the one NB provided. Broadly the same, aren’t they?
NB broadly agrees
PG shows a big gap between two changes in the list of 9 years
PG thinking now – any material variations in that period?
NB not that…
NB …. I can recall.
QC points out a change wrt to a change in procedures which introduces financial penalties and training for SPMRs at their cost if their standards drop below requirement.
NB I don’t recall this
QC goes to letter which summarizes contractual
… obligations set out over the past few months in Operational Focus.
PG is this the successor to Branch Focus?
NB I don’t know.
PG reads out a specific change to procedure from this letter and contrasting it against the rules on performance in branch standards…
I think. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on documents I can’t see.
We’re now looking at a branch standards booklet. When I say looking, they are. We hacks are just listening. I’m sure we’ll get to QC’s point soon.
QC explain to the court the difference between operational instructions and Operational Focus
NB I don’t know.
QC These instructions are referred to as branch standards. Is that all of the instructions or some of them?
NB I don’t know.
QC PO could require SPMR to pay for compliance training, including travel, where standards have not been reached.
NB reasonable costs, yes.
QC and some of these branches are quite remote
NB some yes
QC gets to letter to Pam Stubbs…
it shows outstanding debt 12 Feb 2010…
at the bottom there it says transactions due for this period £8K – total account balance c £17K – please settle this account by 25 Feb 2010 – by cheque in pre-paid envelope or debit
QC is that a postal instruction
NB it’s a request for payment
QC PO regards it as a debt…
… owed by PS
QC I understand it is a request for payment, but is it a postal instruction?
NB yes it is wrt to her contractual liability
QC asks him to look at memo from 8 Feb – where PS is being told request for payments will be put on hold whilst an investigation takes place.
Now that – says QC – is not an instruction – it is a notification?
QC goes to 11 march memo
QC please see attached request for payment which has been settled centrally for PO – failure to meet repayment terms by 21 March will lead us with approval from contract manager…
… to deduct the amount outstanding from your future remuneration. Is this a Postal Instruction?
NB it’s an instruction to her to pay the debts in the context of her contract. I don’t know whether you’d call that a Postal Instruction or not. So I don’t know.
We go back to negotiation of Network Transformation Contract (NTC) with the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP). QC asks about the difference between Post Office Large, PO Mains and PO local. Says remuneration structure is different…
sorry – NB says … requirements of space and services on offer is different.
QC takes him to a pleading – PO’s case in defending individual claim of Mr Alan Bates (head of Justice or Subpostmasers Alliance) about what implied terms, if any, exist in the SPMC
QC notes in the pleading that PO can change SPMC with and without the agreement of the NFSP. It is admitted that there is an implied term in the contract that would stop PO from changing the contract dishonestly or in an arbitrary capricious manner.
NB says all changes to contract are discussed with the NFSP – they won’t agree to all of them, but we still discuss them.
QC says the distinction is important. Changes with agreement and changes without agreement.
QC points out this stipulation in the pleading…
QC says admission by the PO that it won’t change contract dishonestly capriciously or arbitrarily is confined to the clause where there is NO agreement with the NFSP.
QC says would it ever happen that the PO would change the contract dishonestly capriciously or arbitrarily
All agree that such a situation would be ridiculous.
NB I would not expect any changes to be made dishonestly, capriciously or arbitrarily about anything.
QC no one would!
QC youre nodding
NB sorry, I agree
Both QC and NB both agree it would be totally ridiculous for the PO to make any dishonest, capricous or arbitrary changes to any contract, whether it has the agreement of the NFSP or not.
THEY HAVE SPENT ABOUT 5 MINUTES ON THIS.
Oh. we’ve moved on.
QC you explained in your WS the role of the NFSP – an independent org repping SPMRs. They were as a trades union?
NB yes the were
QC deregistered I think in 2012/3
QC NFSP became a trade association funded by the Post Office in 2015
QC but the agreement allowed the NFSP to remain independent from the PO
QC draws attention to AvdB’s WS assertion that NFSP supports PO’s assertion that H is robust. And it supported the NTC.
QC moves to opening statement of defence by PO in which it says the SPMs…
… are small in number and the NFSP supports the PO’s position on the factual basis of this claim. Asks NB if they support H
NB says in the select committee the then GS did
QC what about the helpline?
NB haven’t discussed it recently
QC have you ever?
NB it will have come up yes
QC draws attention to NFSP purchase order for £250K to PO for activities in support of network transformation.
QC so PO was paying NFSP for it’s support of NTC
NB it was for support activities around the implementation of NTC
btw Judge intervened about 5 mins ago to say “everyone comes to this court with a clean slate… I don’t particularly care what the NFSP thinks”
QC says “bear with me and I’ll… make it good, my Lord”
QC describes NFSP to PO memo ahead of NTC discussions – “dear Sue and Nick 23 want to set out a few things ahead of our meeting – including 23 months compensation for compulsory leavers”
QC some SPMRs were not given the oppo to stay on their old contract under NTC
QC there is a long-standing agreement with the NFSP regarding compensation of 26 months for SPMRS on termination
NB this is only when the PO does not wish to continue to offer services in that location
QC that’s my point – if there is termination, there is no payment…
QC if there is resignation to avoid termination – there is no payment
NB well actually if there is any resignation and the PO wishes to continue services, there is no 26 month payment from the discretionary fund.
QC notes Post office and NFSP signed a 15 year contract which mandates NFSP to serve all SPMRs. NFSP will get millions a year in exchange for dropping its membership subs. QC says NFSP was negotiating for its own survival whilst negotiating the NTC contract.
NB they were negotiating for the grant agreement at the same time as dropping of the membership subs…
QC look at the line “please note a signed agreement with the blood of myself and Paula, that’s Paula Vennels, the Chief Executive…
… of the Post Office, is necessary on the future of the NFSP before any agreement on the NT and other points”
QC they’re linked, aren’t they?
NB explains what the NFSP were up to
QC would you think that a SPMR would expect the NFSP to be doing this whilst supposedly representing their interest?
NB I don’t know because I’m not a subpostmaster
Judge has asked about a statement made in passing by PG QC about documents he got last night. Judge wants to know how many documents he received last night – 350 pages of emails in 45 different changes.
Judge says he is not prepared to deal with a case of this importance which includes obviously necessary documentation being disclosed so late. Not acceptable. Orders a witness statement from the Post Office solicitors to be given to him by 4pm tomorrow explaining the delay.
We’ve had lunch. We’re now back to JFSA QC Patrick Green’s cross-examination of Nick Beal, Head of Agents’ Development and Remuneration at the Post Office.
QC now discussing an FOI about a request into NFSP’s change from a union to a limited company…
Which must be a historic first by anyone’s reckoning.
QC asking if he was involved in the decision as to whether to grant the FOI.
NB says he must have been.
QC notes the response saying we do have the info, but we have to balance it with commercial sensitivity etc
QC says Mark Baker from the CWU (who wrote the original letter) comes back saying you’re a public body, pls send the info
QC what happened next?
NB explains process
NB points out this agreement was eventually published on the NFSP website
NB confirms he was involved in this decisoin re the FOI
QC says but at the time of the FOI there was no indication it would be published in the future.
QC says you weren’t thinking about commercial confidentiality when you were prevaricating on giving this information
NB we were
QC why didn’t you tell mr baker
NB I don’t know
QC Mark Baker he will take this up with the information commissioner as the PO is not complying
PO sends a letter back to Mr Baker saying it’s being held back because of future publication
Mark Baker sends another letter saying you’ve changed your mind…
Whilst this to-ing and fro-ing is happening – it’s worth introducing you to Mr Baker – he is @CWUPostmaster
and he was in court yesterday, but is not in court today to hear is name being discussed.
Mark Baker asks in a letter for the date on which the decision to publish the agreement was made.
QC you didn’t give it to him – why not?
NB don’t think it was made on any one date
Judge asks in plain English how that is possible.
NB explains the process by which the decision was come to.
Judge is starting to query why PG QC is pursuing this line.
QC notes a line in the agreement with the PO whereby the NFSP is prevented from doing anything that could materially harm the Post Office.
QC This action has been described as an existential threat to the PO
mentions QC so does this action fall under the terms of that grant agreement?
NB I don’t know
QC “so the NFSP cannot support this litigation because of the terms of your grant?”
NB I don’t know
QC points out that this action could materially affect the reputation of the pO
QC goes into the implications for the NFSP’s grant if it were to support the litigation. It would essentially give the PO the right to claw it back.
QC says and you wanted to keep that confidential
NB no it was always our intention to publish it
QC says but you wanted to keep those clauses about bringing PO into disrepute confidential?
NB No. We always intended to publish the document.
The point PG QC is making is that the NFSP is in the pocket of the PO.
Judge intervenes to say to PG QC – whether your point is that the NFSP are contractually prevented from supporting this litigation, or because they’re being paid too much money by the PO – you’ve made yr point
QC goes back to a specific case where an SPM wants help from the helpline and cannot get help, so they turn to the NFSP for assistance.
SPMR wanted to sell her office, and wanted confirmation from PO about its future under the NT – QC notes that the NFSP rep in the letter is calling the helpline the hell-line.
NB l and p are quite close to the keyboard.
QC there’s a dash between hell – and line.
[[there is a pause]]
Judge -the point is noted
QC the letter also mentions scripts
NB they were scripts there to help people in that situation
Judge who provided those scripts? The PO
Advice eventually given that they either resign and lose their termination payment or they wait.
Judge points out that this point was accepted by the witness this morning.
PG says yes but this is a specific SPMR
Judge says well I don’t think it’s a controversial point, but we’d better find out.
NB indicates it is not controversial
PG QC finishes
PO QC stands up and asks a couple of questions about the date of introduction of various contracts. Had the NTC contract started being used in 2013?
PO QC goes back to the signed in blood NFSP document – aug 2013 – which required negotiation on NTC matters
PO QC asks what is that referring to?
NB it’s referring to the revised terms – specifically the amount of compensation leaving SPMs will get.
PO QC so this was about how the NTC was going to be implemented as the terms of the contract itself had already been agreed?
NB I believe so, yes.
Sorry – drifted off there. The PO QC drew NB’s attention to a document which in NB’s mind shows the intention to publish the grant agreement with the NFSP was always intended.
Judge now asking if he knew about the difference in the drafting between the liability clause (responsibility for losses) until it was drawn to his attention?
NB may have done but it wasn’t front of mind
Judge how would you express it now?
NB does a pretty good 12:12 from memory
Judge – why, in terms of policy or any other reason, would a letter of termination not give the SPMR receiving it a reason for their termination
NB no immediate reason springs to mind
Judge onto witness statement – point put to you they were very similar to those compiled by the PO’s legal team. Why is there a 9 year gap between variations.
NB don’t know
Judge why did you start these variations from 2002
NB that’s when I believed Horizon was rolled out to most branches
Judge okay thank you you are free to go.
New PO witness, Paul Williams, being sworn in. I think he dealt with the appointment of SPMRs in the 90s.
Maybe, maybe not. Mr Williams is the “Restrictions Advisor” for the Post Office.
He did! “In 1992 I was… in charge of recruitment and remuneration for SPMRS.”
Then became a PO HR advisor in 1999
In 2000 Mr Williams moved into Subpostmaster contract role.
PW I’ve been doing it a long time – they are rather long documents but you get to know them quite well.
QC says your office dealt with Mr Alan Bates appointment [Bates is bringing this whole class action against the Post Office]
PW confirms they did but he did not have any personal involvement.
QC showing PW AB’s letter of employment. It says: “please find enclosed with this letter two copies of list of the main conditions attached to your employment. Sign one copy and return it to the agency recruitment manager.”
QC picks up on “conditions of employment” term and note the clause which gives an SPMR 75% salary in the first 12 months. Explain that please.
PW it was a standard term, says new SPMR might underperform, drive away customers etc
QC so the SPMR might be entitled to think..
… their employment might be a little more long term than 12 months.
PW that’s fair enough
QC and he’s being asked to install a national lottery terminal which has a cost attached, but he should or might defray that cost by selling tickets
PW that’s not unfair
Judge asks PW to speak up
PW Oh – sorry. I thought I was shouting
Judge [booming] you can never speak too loudly in a room of this size
QC draws attention to a welsh language provision
PW this was a standard provision
QC notes “it is expected you will render a personal service to the Post Office” PO prefer SPMR to provide a personal service
PW wouldn’t say preferred
PW it was expected
QC they got a contractual benefit from providing a minimum of 18 hours personal service. so it was a contractual benefit
QC is it fair to say there are sensitivities around calling SPMRs employees?
NB yep – there were tribunals in the 90s…
PW and we sincerely believe they are not employees and it’s important to be precise in our language.
QC describes a document in which “dismissal” “employee” and “employment” is not used – yet personal service is something which is considered part of employment…
We had a break, we’re back. Final session of the day. Paul Williams still in the stand for the PO. PG QC questioning him for the claimants.
QC this personal services element to Mr Bates letter of employment was a standard document
PW no I disagree – this might have been something prepared for mr Bates specifically – although documents like this could be used elsewhere
QC “the incoming postmaster WILL provide a personal service of not less than 18 hours services a week” these are conditions of appointment. This is contractual, isn’t it?
PW [rambles about generalities]
Judge you’re being asked about this specific document
QC This is an internal doc on what has been agreed with Mr Bates.
PW yes [but goes on to not quite accept it is a contractual agreement]
QC points out Alan Bates did not get this is the reason this recorded internally, but not on the document AB signs so there’s no…
… record of an agreement held by the SPMR that they are providing a personal service.
PW a qualified yes.
Please note I didn’t catch all of PW’s qualification and it may have been a very good one. These notes are paraphrases NOT direct quotes unless they are in quote marks…
QC would Mr Bates get his SPMC
QC but it doesn’t say that does it, it says it contains conditions of your employment, but nothing about the SPMC which it would, if it was included. And that’s a standard letter.
QC we say the contract of employment was not sent with this letter
PW – no. by this time – by AB’s – time – it was standard practice to include a copt of the contract in the letter of appointment.
QC and it had been for years?
PW since about 1995/6
QC why would it be satisfactory to ensure that an SPMR would only get their contract on the day of their employment?
PW well when I started in my NW area it wasn’t satisfactory
QC so other areas weren’t doing it
QC if you say you started doing it – you are suggesting
… others didn’t.
PW says its’ possible some areas around the country weren’t doing it – that changed when we started recruiting nationally.
QC so it is possible AB did not get his contract – you didn’t send him it personally
PW no my team would have
QC but it’s possible they didn’t
PQ yes it’s possible that he didn’t get sent a contract but I don’t remember any SPMRs getting int touch to say they hadn’t had their contract
Judge – so you’re relying on SPMRs to get in touch to tell you they don’t…
… have their contract.
In the same way the PO QC was very keen to make the judge believe all the lead claimants did get their contract, Mr Green seems to want to shed doubt on this.
I guess if you don’t get the contract, you might not be under contract, so how can you
… be held liable for errors if you’re not properly under contract. [that’s my musings btw – not anything that was said in court!]
I don’t know the law in this area so I will stay out of it. Sorry. Back to the discussion.
On to transfer day:
QC they are committed to the Post Office at that stage so they pretty much have to sign what’s put in front of them
PW that’s fair
PW has also admitted they could have done better in making some of the documentation or contractual responsibilities clearer to SPMRs as the Post Office was “teased away” from being a government departement to a limited company.
QC notes there were doubts expressed by auditors from the early 90s about the ability of SPMRs to understand all their contractual responsibilities.
QC notes that in the pre-Horizon days the 12:12 clause exists – SPMRs by error negligence of them or their assistants they are liable for all losses in branch.
QC moves onto losses and gains. Refers to a docu dated 20 Nov 1998: Introduction of Purpose. It is a policy document by the Counter to Risk Committee (or something that sounds very similar)
Computer is having its afternoon doze. Am going to reboot.
And we’re back.
Patrick Green QC has gone back to Pam Stubbs’ case – asked if PW had anything to do with her taking on a Post Office the day after her husband died and the document she signed that day.
PW No. I was northern territory
QC reads from letter of appointment of Pam Stubbs “PO will endeavour to support you through every stage of your appointment”. That was a standard letter wasn’t it?
QC and let’s have a look at Alan Bates letter of appt. That was a standard letter too
QC says your evidence is about what should or would have happened
PW it’s my recollection of processes 20 years ago. I have no clear recollection of the letters in hand, but I remember how my department was run and that included things like send out the SPMC as we should
And that if anyone asked for information we would help them
QC it’s been suggested that incoming SPMRs would be able to get info about the SPMC from the outgoing SPMRs. Was outgoing SPMR authorised to do this
PW on behalf of SPMR no – but they had every right to.
Correction – that should say:
PW on behalf of Post Office no – but they had every right to.
QC the death in service policy that you described was not followed in Pam Stubbs’ case.
PW I don’t know – there isn’t enough evidence to show what happened. [explains what usually happens]
PW Colin were were in touch, but perhaps we could be more sympathetic
QC she didn’t say you weren’t sympathetic, it’s that there was no application completed at all.
PW I can accept there may have been an informal transfer process that I would expect to be followed up…
… by a more formal process, albeit a truncated one, but there isn’t really enough information here to comment at all.
JFSA QC sits down.
PO QC stands up and goes back to the internal memo showing that Alan Bates was going to provide 18 hours personal service. Was it a stipulation or a notification?
PW the latter
QC what if he didn’t do it, was it a breach of contract?
PO QC what if he had ticked the box that he wasn’t going to provide 18 hours personal service – would that be a contract NOT to give a personal service
QC why do you think you got the SPMC sent to AB
PW it’s what we did
QC How big is the contract?
PW 114 pages
QC how obvious would it be if it hadn’t been put in the pack?
PW self evident – that’s why I’m confident it would have been sent
QC how confident are you in the skill of your team
PW v confident. I had tremendous confidence in my team
QC ever receive any complaints about your…
PO QC has no further questions
Judge wants to know about his use of the word evidence wrt to a specific question and PW confirms he’s talking about contemporaneous document, not claimant evidence.
Judge also wants to know about
Rules, Postal Instructions and PWs admission that the language of the documents might not be clear enough.
Judge says he has to decide under what terms the SPMRS were actually engaged and PW used the terms
“lots of bits of paper”
Judge asks was he ever involved in an effort to simplify or codify all the documents into one document.
PW leaves the box.
Judge “Timetable, please Mr Green”
PG explains he wants to do two witnesses on Monday start Angela van den Bogerd if he can on Monday
Judge says he wants her done with by end of Tuesday. Mr Green protests as AvdB covers such a huge area. Judge points out he then has 7 witnesses for the next 2 days. Says there will be a ‘hard start” with the PO’s Mr Howarth on Mon 26th. PG agrees.
Judge now moves on to third trial.
He wants summer 2019.
PG stands up and says something about shifting the Horizon trial. Judge has already ordered this should be a 5 week trial starting 11 March.
PG then says he wants a mediation afterwards.
Judge says he can have a mediation at any time.
PG says my experience suggests that it would be better after the trial.
Judge says my only view is to move this group litigation forwards.
PG is speaking for himself and DC QC and says a mediation will help the litigation.
Judge really doesn’t see why he should wait until after summer – a gap of 6 months between Horizon trial and 3rd trial.
Judge clearly wants June 2019 on another lead issue, final resolution on some of the claims or final resolution on test claims.
Points out if we get common issues cleared, horizon issues cleared, then it is probably best to have a small number of claimants personal situations tried, perhaps less than 6 not necessarily any of these lead claimants. Perhaps even just two – one each identified by…
claimant and defendant. Judge has identified 5 June as possible (and I think in his view, preferential) start.
He rises. We are back at 10.30am Monday.
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No court tomorrow – and I’ve got another job on so that it on this story til Monday. ta-ra.