Morning secret emailers
I’m preparing to head up to London for the recusal hearing.
For those of you who have missed what has been going on recently, on 22 March the ongoing Bates v Post Office litigation was dramatically halted as the Post Office made an application for the judge to recuse (sack) himself on the grounds of bias.
The evidence for his bias was his first judgment, which was critical of the Post Office.
This application has sent shock waves through the legal world and has stopped both the Horizon trial in its tracks. This week we should have been hearing evidence from the claimants independent IT expert on Horizon errors. Instead we are waiting for One Essex Chambers’ Big Deal, Lord Grabiner to roll into court and have it out with the judge.
Lord Grabiner (right) is just about the most expensive barrister money can buy. Things are about to get very interesting. I will be live-tweeting from court 26 of the Rolls Building from 10.30am. Get down there if you can.
To add to the “fun”, the Communications Workers Union have decided that today they will be making their support for the claimants Subpostmasters known outside court. Several CWU reps have attended court over the past two trials and seen what is going on, and I know that the CWU is directly supporting at least one Subpostmaster who is a claimant, but this is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time the organisation’s big guns have decided to show their support in this way. A senior CWU exec called Andy Furey is going to be at the demo.
Examples of the sort of signs the CWU will be holding have been sent to me. They are obviously a mickey-take of the current Post Office poster campaign. Given the timing, I cannot imagine the CWU demo will have much media cut-through, but I expect this might be the first of many stunts by the CWU in respect of this court action.
Whatever you think of the CWU, they are not the NFSP. The National Federation of Subpostmasters has been exposed by the judge as being in the pocket of the Post Office, and in some cases, actively working against its members’ interests. I wrote up the judge’s findings on the NFSP yesterday, and I would reiterate my request for your stories of contact with the NFSP good or bad. I’ve already had two since I sent my initial request last night. Please keep them coming. It does seem like a pretty shabby organisation, but evidence to the contrary is just as welcome as tales of NFSP woe.
If you are unable to follow the live tweets today (very easy, just click on this link at 10.30am and use your eyes), I will send another secret email linking through to all the live tweets as soon as the hearing is done, and then I will start the process of writing proceedings up on the blog. Once that is finished I will send a third and final email linking to that and everything else of interest from today.
I am still in the process of putting together a Common Issues trial judgment crib sheet, which I realise will be useful for those who don’t fancy wading through all 400 pages of the first judgment. The plan is to get it down to less than 1000 words so anyone with a passing interest in the story can read it.
For fans of slightly longer reads, I have already put together a five-part series on the judgment, which weighs in at around 5,000 words per post. I have distilled the key findings and comments and added my own commentary to help. You can find part 5 here (along with the links to parts 1 – 4)
Thanks very much to everyone for your recent communication, even if it’s just to say hi. I’m very grateful to everyone who gets in touch, and I am very sorry if I don’t get the chance to send you either an acknowledgment or meaningful reply. I suspect that after today court proceedings will grind to a halt for a bit which isn’t really in the interests of any claimants, but will at least give me the opportunity to do some more admin.
After the recusal hearing
With regards to what happens today, the judge may choose to reserve his judgment, which will cause a delay. Even if he makes a judgment today, the Post Office has the right to appeal, which will have to be heard, so a date will have to be found for that before the Horizon trial can re-start with or without J Fraser in the chair.
I have it on good authority the Post Office is relying on its bottomless pockets to see off the claimants. It is part of a strategy to drag things out for as long as possible and make them as expensive as possible so the claimants eventually run out of money. The judge has noticed this attritional approach (as has everyone else), but there is little he can do about it. I would therefore be very surprised if the Post Office didn’t appeal the first trial judgment (and any subsequent ones which don’t go in their favour), and we end up at the Appeal Court watching everything go round again in 2020/2021.
Justice, eh? I am thinking of asking your help in starting a secret email photo series entitled “Things I have done since the Bates v Post Office litigation began.” My youngest child has almost doubled in age.
Have a great day whatever you’re doing.