Reporting the class action against the Post Office at the High Court
Live tweets: Horizon pre-trial review
Here are the live tweets I sent out during this morning’s pre-trial review. You can read a beautifully-formatted version on thread reader here and you can read the original thread on twitter here. Or just read down…
We are in Court 19 of the High Court Rolls Building for a Pre-trial conference (PTC). The morning’s discussion will be about the second trial in Bates and others v Post Office – the Horizon trial – starting 11 March.
All tweets are paraphrases and summaries of what is being discussed. Nothing I tweet is said verbatim unless it is in “direct quotes”.
Mr Patrick Green QC will be representing the claimant Subpostmasters. Mr Anthony de Garr Robinson QC repping the Post Office.
Follow this thread for all the “action”.*
* I am not expecting much action.
Judge is sitting. They are discussing the witness statement of one of my followers @forensicgod and his meeting with Gareth Jenkins, the Fujitsu employee who was the expert witness for the Post Office in Seema Misra’s trial.
PO counsel has apparently objected to something in @forensicgod’s (Ian Henderson) statement.
PO QC says it is not seeking to exclude all his evidence. It is just trying to limit it to “proper” facts.
Also PO QC keen to keep Professor Charles McLachlan out of the picture (he was Seema Misra’s expert witness in her trial).
JFSA QC confirms the prof will not be called
So PO have successfully blocked Professor Charles McLachlan and they are trying to limit @forensicgod’s on the basis of practice directions which try to keep proceedings manageable.
CPR 35.1 is the practice direction which limits expert evidence.
PO QC says @forensicgod’s evidence falls well outside of this general prohibition.
JFSA QC relying on case law to keep @forensicgod’s in the trial. Judge is going to have to make a ruling on it.
Going back to @forensicgod’s statement on his knowledge of Horizon and the manner in which Second Sight was terminated by the PO, his confidentiality agreement and the way docs were provided to him by the PO. PO QC call the latter three issues “blissfully irrelevant.”
PO QC not happy about @forensicgod’s description of receiving data from the PO. Saying his “concerns” are not even a conclusion.
PO QC says Second Sight’s reports are hotly contested and if they were to be incorporated into this trial work would have to be done on whether those reports were done properly. By referring to and relying on those reports in his witness statement @forensicgod is…
… introducing huge areas which “is not what the Horizon issues trial is for.”
PO QC says this matters a great deal. They are angling for the opportunity to cross-examine @forensicgod, which he currently isn’t scheduled to do on a time-limited basis.
But also saying that if they do that – then @forensicgod will introduce a load of other arguments and justifications which would extend the document bundle significantly. So even if they did get to xe @forensicgod it wouldn’t be fair on them.
PO QC repeats that this is not what the trial is about. PO QC now repeating judge’s words back to him from a CMC on 22 Feb when he told the court exactly what the Horizon trial was to be all about.
Evidence of fact kept to a minimum and the court was to rely on expert evidence.
J asks how many PO witnesses of fact there are going to be.
PO QC says about 12.
J The only real issues is how to treat Mr Henderson (@forensicgod) – you say he’s an expert by the back door.
PO QC: My lord we do.
It’s a very odd process that seeks to exclude experts. But hey. That’s the law.
PO seem to be saying that @forensicgod is making claims as an expert, but they have no oppo to challenge them. But that it would be bad to challenge them because it would create a whole load more work and court time. So it would be better if it weren’t admitted.
PO QC insists, tho, that is is not a strikeout application. (PO QC is making this submission in full awareness of the last PO strikeout application which they lost comprehensively).
PO QC wants a ruling or direction which gives PO the protection its entitled to adverse consequences from accepting his evidence.
PO QC says admitting the evidence when it isn’t properly challenged creates a problem, but allowing that challenge would extend the trial and
give the PO a headache in having the tools to respond to whatever @forensicgod says. AND that they shouldn’t be doing this anyway because the work of Second Sight is NOT what the Horizon trial is all about.
JFSA QC responds “what is good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander”. There is a massive assymmetry in the information available to the claimants and to the PO.
JFSA QC taking J to a document in the bundle (Vol 2 of 5 Sec 5 Tab 7b, fact fans). Mr Godseth (?)’s second witness statement talking about Prof M and Gareth Jenkins again.
Witness statement refers to payments mismatch bug, callendar square bug, dalmellington bug…
J so you’re saying he’s being called as a witness of fact, when in fact he’s making expert witness points.
JFSA QC “its much worse than that” – goes on to quote how this PO witness…
… relies on conversations with Gareth Jenkins (who is also not being called in this trial).
Gareth Jenkins was the PO expert witness from Fujitsu at the Misra trial who was also present in internal PO meetings around the same time of the Misra trial discussing withholding information about Horizon bugs from Subpostmasters, as we discovered in the common issues trial.
Wonder why Jenkins is not being called in Horizon trial.
We are going to get a direction/ruling/order on @forensicgod’s witness statement, now.
Judge is summarizing the GLO before he gives the ruling for the written record.
H trial is about: Bugs errors defects in Horizon and how H does or does not work. There are 15 of these issues and claimants and PO are allowed to call one expert witness each.
He is now explaining the Second Sight investigation and its termination. Mr Henderson as a director of 2S has provided a short witness statement. His WS is somewhat short, but it does refer to reports by 2S. It summarises the position as he sees it involving his views…
… as he sees it on technical matters. No application was made by the PO to get his statement thrown out (which they tried to do in a wide-ranging way before the Common Issues trial). They are objecting that under CPR 35 this is introducing expert evidence by the back door.
They also object to his evidence on the basis that they don’t know what they can attack and that it would be a huge amount of work to prepare to do so.
Witnesses of fact in the TCC courts often have a huge amount of technical knowledge. Insofar as @forensicgod’s evidence seeks to rely on 2S’s reports as being correct I don’t need to consider that.
I am not going to allow this trial to be sidetracked into a satellite trial about the quality of 2S’s reports.
It doesn’t seem to me the concerns the PO has raised are either unusual or well-founded. J notes that PO has called witnesses of fact with vast amounts of expertise.
I don’t think it is helpful if I strike out or rule any of Mr H’s evidence as inadmissible. Nor am I going to tell the PO what they can or can’t challenge about it. That’s up to them.
Mr Henderson can be cross-examined, but I don’t expect that to last more than an hour.
That means @forensicgod’s witness statement is allowed to stand in its entirety.
We are now discussing timetabling of the Horizon trial.
It will definitely start on 11 March. Half a day each for opening submissions. Then the rest of the first week will be taken with the cross-examination of claimants witnesses.
The second week will be claimants’ xe of PO witnesses.
Third week the court will not sit cos Brexit.
Fourth week (commencing 1 April) will start the expert witness evidence.
PO QC wants to spend 4 days xe-ing Mr Coin – the claimants’ expert witness. Mr Coin has apparently uncovered 22 bugs in Horizon.
PO QC says that he could spend an hour xe-ing Mr Coin on each bug – that’s 22 hours.
J not having any of it. Says its very unusual for anyone in the TCC courts to be on the stand for more than a day. Your request is excessive.
JFSA QC on his feet. Says we’re going to have a lot of trouble getting through all 12 of the PO’s witnesses of fact.
J notes that a while back this trial would take 6 months. We’re not going back to that.
I know in an ideal world each of you would like a week each, but you’re…
… not going to get it.
JFSA QC we’re asking for three days.
J I know and you’re not going to get it.
JFSA QC – nothing further to add.
J okay – w/c 1 April we will sit 5 days and you will get 2.5 days each.
Anything you can’t put to the witnesses you can put in summary form in your closing argument. I am sure in 5 days of xe I will be very well informed and able to
to come to a conclusion.
J notes the IT experts for PO and JFSA are meeting this morning to agree a further joint statement. There’s no reason why they can’t meet again. They ought to be encouraged to agree as much as possible.
Final week will be closing submissions from the JFSA and the PO QCs.
Suspect the court will not be sitting on Mon 8 April and Tue 9 April to give the judge time to read the closing submissions.
Judge has just ordered that I get the transcripts of each day in court as they are distributed to the claimants and defence.
Which was nice.
Court has risen.
So that’s that. A wee battle over the admissibility of @forensicgod’s evidence which the Post Office lost, scheduling and timetabling discussions and we’re all set for 11 March.