Transcripts and CoA latest
Firstly – thanks to every single secret email reader, new and old, who has donated to my second crowdfunding campaign. Given the start we have made it looks likely I am going to be able to cover both the forthcoming Court of Appeal hearings and any further open sessions held by Sir Wyn Williams, as part of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry.
Now – down to business…
Transcript 1 – the strange case of what to do about Paul Marshall and Flora Page
This hearing, on 3 Dec 2020 at the Court of Appeal, was an odd one, to say the least. It had been convened to discuss what to do about Flora Page and Paul Marshall, two barristers who found themselves in an invidious positions after an extraordinary start to the first CoA Subpostmaster hearing on 18 November last year.
The 18 Nov hearing set in train a bizarre train of events which could still have very serious repercussions for two careers, the Subpostmaster appellants and the process of administering and reporting justice.
In short, on 18 November, the Post Office made the Court of Appeal aware a document called the Clarke Advice had been handed to a journalist. The Post Office contended this was likely contempt of court, and the judges agreed it was a potentially serious matter.
The way things unravelled from there has been documented in this newsletter and the Post Office Trial website. If you are not up to speed, I would recommend reading the following pieces:
I have now been able to post a transcript of the events of 3 Dec. The start of the hearing was taken up with my application to be given the Clarke Advice so I could report its contents. As I note in How not to obtain a court document, the application failed.
The remainder of the hearing was given over to some pretty torturous legal argument about the Page and Marshall situation, which was difficult to hear, as by this stage I had been booted out of court by the ushers due to social distancing regulations, and I was stuck in an ancillary court with a duff sound system.
Imagine my delight to discover that even the transcribers were not able to hear what was going on, which means the transcript itself is written up with holes in it.
Nonetheless, it is the best record we have, and I am grateful to the Post Office for supplying it. To be fair I doubt the finished document would be that intelligible to the lay reader even if it were complete, however it might be of interest to m’learned friends, who are subscribed to this email in growing number.
Shortly after the hearing, Paul Marshall stood down from the case, saying he felt “inhibited from continuing fearlessly to represent my clients before this court.”
This really is a serious matter, and I am surprised there isn’t more interest in it.
Transcript 2 – first Subpostmaster convictions quashed
This was a short, but historic hearing on 11 Dec 2020 at Southwark Crown Court. The first six Subpostmaster convictions referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission were quashed. The Post Office did not contest any of them.
The transcript to the hearing has now been released and you can read it here. The entire hearing took less than half an hour.
Incidentally, after allowing the appeals, in what may be one of the all-time classic failures to read a room, the judge said:
“I am sure that all of the appellants are grateful for the approach that the Post Office has taken finally to this matter and that it can be put to rest for them.”
Outside court some of the appellants made it quite clear to me that the Post Office has a long way to go before it receives any gratitude from them about anything.
I reported the convictions being quashed for the Post Office Trial website and ITV News (who I happened to be working for that day). It was a sudden and powerful turning point to a shameful chapter in the Post Office’s history.
Why are you getting the transcripts so late?
Good question. When I started covering the appeal process in in November last year, it looked as if I would have to pay for the transcripts of the hearings out of your crowdfunding cash. These are not cheap.
I approached the Post Office and the other parties to suggest they might want to get the proceedings transcribed themselves and perhaps see their way to then supplying them to me free of charge. I argued this was important to aid general reporting of the case and to provide documentation as a matter of public record when historians and academics come to study this affair in the future.
I am grateful to Aria Grace solicitors for offering to help in the very first instance, and the Post Office and their solicitors Peters and Peters for making arrangements to supply me with the transcripts I am sharing with you today. I have no idea why it’s taking the courts so long to release them, but at least they are a matter of public record now.