Lord Grabiner: Never Mind “That Bollox”

Lord Grabiner KC

Lord Grabiner strode into the Inquiry hearing room wielding a walking cane. As he didn’t appear to be using it to support himself it rather gave the impression it might be utilised to punish impertinence. Jason Beer KC, who asked questions on behalf of the inquiry, appeared unruffled.

Grabiner was called to explore his apparent firm belief that there was something so wrong with Mr Justice Fraser’s Common Issues trial judgment that Fraser should be removed as managing judge of the Bates v Post Office group litigation.

Grabiner’s ace in the hole was a six page document written by Lord Neuberger on 14 March 2019. This generally supported the idea of putting forward an application to have Fraser recuse himself. Lord Neuberger is no ordinary law lord, he is a former President of the Supreme Court. At the time of writing his “Observations on Recusal Application“, for the Post Office, Neuberger was working for One Essex Court, alongside Grabiner (Head of Chambers) and David Cavender KC, leading counsel for the Post Office during the Common Issues trial. They all, therefore, had skin in the game.

Both parties had sight of the draft Common Issues judgment on 8 March 2019. The second (Horizon Issues) trial in the Bates v Post Office group litigation began on 11 March. The Common Issues judgment was handed down (made public) on Friday 15 March and the recusal application landed on Thu 21 March. On that date, the trial was adjourned so Lord Grabs could be invited to have Mr Justice Fraser recuse himself on 3 April 2019.

This is how it played out behind the scenes on the Post Office side. At 10.42am on 15 March 2019, Grabiner was asked for his advice by the Post Office via his clerk. By 11.58am Grabiner had read Neuberger’s “observations”, and a 13 March document by David Cavender called “Note on background to possible recusal application”. He felt able to agree there were “reasonable grounds for an argument for recusal”.

Grabs admitted he reached this position, in Jason Beer’s words “without reading any transcripts… without reading any orders, submissions, witness statements, statements of case”.

Grabiner also told Beer he had no idea who originated the idea of recusal, whether it was “driven” by Womble Bond Dickinson, the Post Office executive or the Post Office board. All he could remember was being “told by Jane McLeod [Post Office General Counsel] that the decision from the learned judge came as a bolt out of the blue and was rather a shock to them, because according to her telling me, they hadn’t appreciated that he’d taken such a strong view against their position.”

(Non-legal) Duty to Act

By Monday 18 March Grabiner had read the Common Issues judgment. He held a conference at his chambers with Jane McLeod and WBD. Grabs is recorded as saying the Post Office had a “duty to act” and apply to recuse the judge. As the note of the meeting records:

“Lord Grabiner explained that in his view, If there is no recusal application made, then Post Office will lose this series of trials that set up in this matter. Without a recusal application, Post Office is stuck with this judge. An appeal on the law may correct some of the very significant errors in the Common Issues trial judgment, but then the case will be sent back to this judge, who has demonstrable apparent bias against the Post Office and hence the firm conclusion that Post Office will lose and the financial impact of that will be substantial. Recusal is therefore essential… it was Lord Grabiner’s view that there was a duty on the Post Office to seek recusal. Lord Grabiner stated that in his view, the Board of the Post Office had no option but to seek recusal.”

Beer wanted to know if Grabiner was telling the Post Office board it had a legal duty to act.
“No,” replied Grabiner “I’m simply advising them as a lawyer as to what I think they ought to do, and that’s what I’m paid to advise them about.”

Two Lords a-Bolloxing

Lord Neuberger

McLeod was stuck. She was getting strong advice from one of the biggest legal dogs in the country: applying for recusal was the Post Office’s duty. Yet McLeod wasn’t sure if her bosses, as she wrote, had “the stomach” to do it.

Lord Neuberger was due to speak to the Post Office board by phone from Argentina that Monday afternoon. Grabiner had a medical appointment and couldn’t attend. McLeod arranged for Grabiner to speak to the board by phone on Wednesday 20 March. McLeod also told him the Post Office board wanted to speak to Neuberger that afternoon without Cavender or his junior Gideon Cohen present.

Grabiner immediately emailed Neuberger to tell him about his interaction with McLeod and WBD. First he told him “I advised that the clients had no choice but to make the application.” Then he said “neither David nor Gideon will be asked to participate in your call – the board seems to think that they will get a more detached view from you in their absence. I make no comment on that bollox.”

Neuberger replied:

“Excluding them is a bit unfair to David and Gideon, but I suppose one can see where the PO are coming from… I am anxious to ensure that nothing I say crosses with what you have said/will say or makes your task more difficult. I have the luxury of expressing a view and then stepping back, whereas you will be presenting the case and are the ultimate adviser.”

Beer wondered why Neuberger would be keen to ensure nothing “crosses with what you have said”, noting it correlated with a point in Neuberger’s witness statement where he wrote: “I was anxious not to give advice which was inconsistent with that of Lord Grabiner as he would be presenting the case and was the ultimate advisor.”

Up until this point in his evidence, Lord Grabiner had been acting with courtesy and politeness. Something seemed to change. Grabiner replied:

“Well what Lord Neuberger thought, I think you’d better ask him about. I can’t really climb into his mind beyond what he has said in communications that we have between ourselves that I’ve made full disclosure of.”

As Grabiner and the Inquiry well knows, Lord Neuberger is not being called to give evidence, possibly to spare such a senior person from being embarrassed by his actions*.

Beer noted the minutes of the 18 March board meeting which Neuberger called into stated: “Lord Neuberger reported that he did not yet know Lord Grabener’s view of the case”

Beer said to Grabiner:

“This record of Lord Neuberger saying that he did not yet know your view of the case doesn’t seem very consistent with the email traffic that we had looked at earlier when you’d been exchanging views, do you agree?”
“I don’t think I can comment really. I mean, this is for him, not me”, replied Grabiner, unhelpfully.
“Would you agree that he had known your view of the case by this point?” Beer pushed. “You told him on the afternoon of the 18th what advice you’d given to the solicitors in consultation that afternoon, and your views as the prospects of success.”
Grabiner was stuck. He groped for an answer: “Well, I’m not sure I can help further on the point. I mean, it may be that you’re right. I mean, the documents will speak for themselves” before suddenly alighting on “I don’t find this board minute particularly helpful or very clear at all, actually.”

On 20 March, Grabiner reiterated his advice to the Post Office board that it had “no option” but to “seek the recusal”.

The same day, Lord Neuberger wrote to Grabiner saying “I hope that they do not bottle it.”

Beer asked: “Did you gain any sense that the board was keen to take this step, applying for recusal of the judge?”

Grabiner stonewalled. “I’m afraid I didn’t get any sense at all. I mean, no doubt it would have helped if I’d been in the room, but I obviously wasn’t. But I had no sense of what they thought, or if there was any difference of view within the board on the subject.

After the board meeting, Grabiner got the green light. He wrote to Neuberger: “We’ve been instructed to proceed. Idon’t think the clients had any choice but they were reluctant to take such a serious step.”

In the Inquiry room, Beer asked again: “Can you recall on what basis you formed a view that the post office were reluctant to take this serious step?”
Grabiner replied: “I was given the impression that unless they were comfortable with the legal advice, the independent legal advice that they should apply for recusal, that they wouldn’t be comfortable in taking that step.”
Was this, Beer wondered: “essentially a lawyer-led decision?”
Grabiner couldn’t care less. “I just don’t know because I don’t know what went on in the board. I mean, they were getting the advice and they took the advice and they did it. It was their decision ultimately. But I have no idea what the individual views were of people on the post office board.”

Which judge?

More Beer

Then the gloves came off. Jason Beer took Grabiner to an email he wrote to Neuberger after the application had gone in later that week on Thursday 21 March. Grabiner wrote that Mr Justice Fraser:

“has directed a hearing for next Wednesday week. Typically that was a date that he was told was not convenient for me. That case is now settled. So his rather pathetic attempt to dodge me has failed. That behaviour does rather confirm our suspicions about his Smith characteristics.” [this being a reference to the recusal of a peevish judge who had lost his luggage whilst presiding over a court case involving British Airways]

“Was this becoming personalised?” asked Beer.
“What do you mean by that?” retorted Grabiner, his voice suddenly filled with menace.
“No more and no less than the question”, replied Beer.
“What do you mean by personalised? As between who and whom?”
“Well, you and the judge.”
“Me and which judge?”
“The judge that you were applying to recuse himself.”
“Absolutely not”, replied Grabiner with some force. “My view was that he had made a mess of that case… I had certainly not developed any personal animus against him. It was exclusively concerned with the judgment and what had taken place in the trial.”

Beer took him to an email Grabiner sent Lord Neuberger on the day the Post Office’s recusal application was refused:

“As predicted”, wrote Grabiner, “Mr Justice Fraser rejected the application and refused permission to appeal. He also directed that the balance of the fact evidence in Horizon trial should immediately proceed. He has produced a 302 paragraph judgement, which at first glance confirms our concern that he is not fit to do the job.”

“Are you sure you hadn’t personalised it a bit?” teased Beer.
“No, that was my view and Lord Neuburger’s view” said Grabiner, growing visibly irritated “It’s not a personal matter. It’s a view about the calibre or quality of the judgment.”
Beer disagreed: “It’s not the judgment, it’s the quality of the judge, isn’t it? It’s broadening it out from the quality of the judgment as a legal instrument to whether the man can actually do the job.”
“I don’t accept that” replied Grabiner, contradicting what he wrote at the time. “My criticisms are about the quality of the judgment and the subject matter of the application for recusal.”

Tinfoil Hats Ahoy

Beer had more. After the Court of Appeal refused the Post Office permission to appeal the recusal application, Andy Parsons from Womble Bond Dickinson sent a note to Jane McLeod and Rodric Williams at the Post Office.

“One curious point is that this Order was made by Coulson LJ, former head of the Trade and Construction Courts [TCC] and Fraser is of course the current head of the TCC. Given Fraser’s comments at the handing down of the recusal judgment that he had warned the C of A that an appeal would be coming, it makes us question whether he lined up / had spoken to Coulson in advance. I’ve asked LGQC [Grabs] to think about this.”

From here, the conspiracy theory blossomed. David Cavender got wind and chipped in: “Yes, it looks very much like this is what Mr Justice Fraser set up in advance with his mate the former of the TCC unless you believe in coincidences. This is very bad news.”

Grabiner signed up in a summary to WBD: “We share the concerns expressed in the flurry of emails. It looks as if Fraser J has been speaking either to the listing office or even to Coulson LJ. Otherwise it would be a remarkable coincidence that of all the LJ’s presented with the papers they ended up by chance in front of the former TCC Judge although this is not a TCC case.”

It eventually fell to Lord Neuberger to be the grown-up in the room. In a draft response to Andy Parsons he wrote:

“I think that there is a danger that our justified belief, and consequent sense of grievance, that the Judge has gone badly wrong may have made us over-suspicious of some sort of inappropriate collusion between the Judge and the CA. It would be perfectly proper, indeed sensible, for the Judge to have warned the CA of a possible forthcoming application which someone should look at urgently, although I cannot of course rule out the possibility that more was said (but even if it was, that is not by any means necessarily sinister). Coulson L is the U responsible for civil procedure, so it is not entirely surprising that the application ended up before him. The fact that he made an instant decision with regard to a stay is also unsurprising because that was urgent, and the fact that he has asked for the claimant’s response is a (pretty good indication that he is considering the application on its merits, as one would expect.”

Perhaps with one eye on Andy Parsons’ appearance before the Inquiry on Thursday and Friday this week, Beer asked:

“So is it right, Lord Grabiner, that the theory regarding some form of inappropriate relationship or communication between the High Court judge and the Lord Justice of Appeal originated from Mr Parson’s email that we looked at first?”

Grabiner took the opportunity with both hands: “Absolutely!”
“And in the end, Lord Neuberger essentially poured cold water on it?”
“Very properly,” replied Grabiner, with a straight face. “I mean you can’t jump to conclusions about such a serious matter unless you know the facts, and we don’t know the facts, so it would be entirely inappropriate to reach the conclusion that there had been some… inappropriate collusion.”

Exquisite gracelessnes

Possibly being aware that he was being made to look faintly ridiculous, Grabiner could not hide his displeasure when the next topic came up – a suggestion he might have changed his position over the recusal application’s chance of success.

It was introduced to the Inquiry in an email from Andy Parsons at WBD after the initial recusal application failed. Parsons told the Post Office via their General Counsel Jane McLeod that Lord Grabiner’s view remained that the Post Office’s prospects of getting the recusal if they applied to the Court of Appeal would “reasonable”.

McLeod wrote back. “Hi Andy, sorry to be petty,” she wrote, “Lord Grabiner QC told me when I met him – it feels like ages ago – that we had strong grounds to bring the application for recusal. When I challenged him on what our prospects of success were, he said, and this is not an exact quote, he wouldn’t say strong grounds to bring the application unless there were strong prospects of success. That now seems to be downgraded If that’s deliberate then I need to be able to explain to the board why.”

Parsons forwarded the email to Grabiner, who replied: “I haven’t downgraded anything.”

Beer queried this, noting the initial advice from Neuberger contained the word “reasonable” and that on 18 March, Grabinder was recorded as saying there was “a serious prospect of success.”
“Reasonable was not my word.” asserted Grabiner.
“It was in a sense to start with, wasn’t it, right at the beginning of the episode?” asked Beer.
“That was [Parsons’] summary, not my word.” said Grabiner.
“No, I meant right at the beginning,” corrected Beer, “when you were… adopting what Lord Neuberger had said.”
Grabiner was not happy. “I think you’re playing with words with respect… What I was, I think, being accused of, and this is something that you’d be familiar with over the years as a barrister, is being accused… by the solicitor that I had watered down my advice between point one in time and point two in time. That wasn’t true. My advice I think throughout has been consistent and I was making that clear in this email.”

Finally, Beer took Grabiner to an email in which Lord Neuberger told him that the client’s failure to run the recusal application alongside their appeal of the Common Issues judgment at the Court of Appeal gave them “an “out” in terms of our advice appearing wrong“. It led to the following grumpy exchange:

JB: Did you think that the client’s failure to follow your advice gave you an “out”?
LG: No I didn’t. and this is not something that has even crossed my mind.
JB: Did you discuss things at all with Lord Neuberger after the event? After perhaps recriminations started to begin as to whether or not you needed an out to explain away the advice that you’d previously given?
LG: I’ve never ever considered that I needed an “out” in this case. No.
JB: His suggestion that…
LG: … no I didn’t…
JB: … the client rejecting the advice on running the two appeals together did give you an “out”…?
LG: …absolutely not
JB: Lord Grabiner thank you very much. They’re the only questions I have.
LG: I’m tempted to say thank you.

And with that moment of exquisite gracelessness, Lord Grabiner finished his evidence and skulked off into comfortable retirement.

* I asked the Inquiry for the official reason for Neuberger’s absence and they told me: “In the light of evidence the Inquiry holds and other oral evidence, it is unlikely that oral evidence from Lord Neuberger would provide any further relevant information to the Inquiry, however the Inquiry always keeps under review the need to call a witness in the light of any developments which may occur.”

Another barrister gave evidence yesterday. See De Garr Robinson’s Jenkins problem.
If you want to know why the Post Office won’t tell me how much Neuberger and Grabiner’s advice cost them (us), click here.

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53 responses to “Lord Grabiner: Never Mind “That Bollox””

  1. […] had a “duty” to apply for recusal was described by Grabiner as nothing more than his personal emphasis. Beer asked Parker: “Can you recall whether you formed a view as in what sense you were under […]

  2. “Jason Beer KC, who asked questions on behalf of the inquiry, appeared unruffled.”

    Jason Beer is a force of nature. I can’t imagine him ever being ruffled.

  3. PCOJ Investigator avatar
    PCOJ Investigator

    Nominative determinism strikes yet again.

    Lord Grabiner, with the emphasis most certainly on the “Grab”.

    Rhet.Ques. – What’s his integrity worth?

  4. Stephen Phillips avatar
    Stephen Phillips

    Does anyone know WHY Lord Grabiner got his peerage?

    Lord Neuberger was a top Judge but Grabiner seems to have got no higher than Recorder and Actiung Deputy Judge

    Was it a political appointment? I see he started out as a Labour peer.

    1. PCOJ Investigator avatar
      PCOJ Investigator

      All honours are political appointments.

  5. Lards Grabiner and Neuberger, Bowyer, Altman, the idiot Judge Havery, etc…. I wonder what is the delta between their own (private) estimates of their intelligence quotients and reality.

    I would wager the mean is in the region of 40 points. In which direction I leave it to the reader to assess.

    There’s one thing I love even less than fools – and that is arrogant fools.

    1. Larks! Lord N sitting next to Lord Bates. What an ermine comeuppance.

      1. Well may happen in due course.

  6. At times, to me, this felt like watching Saruman and Gandalf duel! 🥶

  7. In the last 5 minutes of Lord Grabiner’s evidence he remarked that some of the contractual issues being considered by Justice Fraser were serious and complicated and therefore should be examined by a senior court. I am not a lawyer and am puzzled by this. He seems to be saying that lower courts are not competent to deal with complicated issues.

    So is there a mechanism to to take complex cases directly to the Court of Appeal or Supreme court? Or is he suggesting that complex cases have to go through the motions in the lower courts but the results are inevitably going to be unsatisfactory and will need to be appealed (if you can afford it I guess)?

    1. The judgment document of Justice Fraser had 313 pages and Lord G admitted his advice wasn’t based on that but two other opinions. It’s quite thin base to have such a strong opinion of justice’s competence. Anyway, it was a nice small gig for him, being able to charge £1,000 an hour for such a shoddy work is remarkable.

    2. Pay no heed to any of the babblings of this discredited idiot.

  8. LG has to take the blame for the incredibly poorly judged view that recusal was the right course of action and the case was valid. This clearly also implies, contrary to his denial, that he was saying success was a foregone conclusion, and it would have swayed POL to go ahead. It was a political dynamite just to apply for it and then being blankly refused really dug the knife in. LG did not review the details around the JF judgement about Horizon and it was simply ‘he had made a mess of that case’. He should have known better with his involvement in combating social security fraud back in 1999 when Horizon and its failings would have been mentioned.

  9. So Lord Justice Fraser might say (of Lord Grabiner and Lord Neuberger) “please do not ask for credit as a recusal often offends”………….

  10. After Robinson’s underwhelming showing, at least I could see what a company would get for their (considerable amount of) money with Lord Grab. Serious intellectual horsepower, no trouble remembering what he had been doing and trenchant – indeed, compelling (literally) – advice. He certain didn’t get where he is today by being self-effacing.
    I got the impression he still thinks he was right. As does his absent friend Lord N https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/neuberger-stands-by-recusal-advice-in-post-office-trial/5119988.article

    Thanks to the other commenter for directing me towards the wiki article on him. Horizon and Arcadia? That’s unfortunate. Doubtless he didn’t do anything wrong in his opinion.

  11. it might not be entirely clear to everyone but Lord Grabiner was exposed as a petty fibber, charlatan and oafish in the eyes of the people whom he deigns his equals. He had a tough, tough day attempting, pretty much continuously Mr Beer. His dislike and contempt for Lord Fraser are palpable, his haughty performance far from establishing respect for the Law witnessed his attempt to have it his way. Notwithstanding that, he still might consider he got off lightly having been previously shellacked by Lord Coulson. Post Office’s application to have his judgment overturned was “without substance”, “misconceived”, “fatally flawed”, “untenable” and “absurd”. It could hardly be clearer than that despite the still bombastic Lord Grabiner’s defiant stance.

    1. Agree. No way was it a score draw; he came off appallingly. He doesn’t much care as he won’t suffer materially, but he knew it as his increasing defensive tetchiness showed.

  12. Paul in Ealing avatar
    Paul in Ealing

    “Just consider the course of events if their action were to proceed to trial… If the six men failed it would mean that much time and money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose. If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous… That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, ‘It cannot be right that these actions should go any further’.”

    Lord Denning on the Birmingham Six, explaining why confidence in the law and the legal system is more important than the falsely convicted individuals being given recompense

    1. The first and overriding duty of counsel is to the Court, of which they are officers, and to the pursuit of justice.

      I can think of some picturesque ways of refreshing the memory of Grabiner, Neuberger and others of their ilk about this.

  13. I’m still not clear why Lord Neuberger isn’t giving evidence to the inquiry. Surely the reason cannot simply be to spare his blushes. The blushes of 100s of
    Subpostmasters weren’t spared by him.

    1. By which l meant in person evidence.

  14. Anyone else notice this? When Jason Beer asked Grabiner whether his spat with LJ Fraser had become personal, Grabiner replied along the lines of [here I paraphrase] “…absolutely not. We were dealing solely with the material facts of the case / judgement.”

    Yet in an email from Grabiner to Neuberger on 9 April 2019, Grabiner writes,

    “He’s [LJ Fraser] produced a 302 paragraph judgement which at first glance just confirms our concern that he’s not fit to do the job”.

    Sounds pretty damn personal to me…

    1. sounds very arrogant to me

    2. Yes, he actually made several personal remarks through his emails about Justice Fraser that were completely disgraceful and then got really nasty with Jason Beer when he was called out on them. He also called Fraser’s Common Issues judgement all sorts of derogatory terms. It makes you wonder what Fraser has done to upset ‘His Lordship’ in the past. The trouble is that the legal system is populated by people like him at the top – arrogant, pompous ‘Lords’ who think they know everything and are ‘revered’ because they achieved high office 30 years ago but who now live in an exclusive world completely separate from real world lives and issues. Did he or Neuberger ever once stop to consider the subpm’s and if Fraser’s judgement was actually right? No, they were too busy trying to find fault with it – I bet they hardly read it and to think we, as taxpayers, actually paid for the vast sums they charged for their services.

  15. The point about the “duty to act” is very interesting. If I received such advice from one of the country’s leading KCs, I would automatically conclude that he meant that there was a legal duty. Otherwise, why put it in those terms? I would also have expected someone at POL to question it – is it a legal duty of the Board? And to whom is it owed? At the very least, it is abysmally-written advice. I was more than a little surprised that Jason Beer KC did not explore this further.

    1. I am not sure. It’s commercial litigation and different from saying having a legal duty to get a TV licence before watching the telly. The point I think Grabs was trying to make is that if the PO wanted to win the case, it was its “duty” to seek the recusal because otherwise they would be toast.

      1. …and he wouldn’t get even more money than he already has. In my view it was a deliberate choice of words to push the PO as was his collusion by Neuberger to appear independent from each other.

    2. To use the word duty was mischievous. Inserted to ensure the Client would feel compelled to take his words of wisdom. So satisfying when a Client just accepts everything, after all he knows better.

  16. Christopher Lennon avatar
    Christopher Lennon

    This has been one of my best reads in the whole series of emails, not forgetting the cross examination of Vennells and, of course, your excellent book, Andy.
    As a sometime student of law and with experience of civil litigation management through my work, I found this riveting. I once spent two days in the Technology Court, alongside a solicitor friend, in a case before Neuberger J., as he then was and his sheer erudition and quickness of mind impressed me no end, as his subsequent career tended to bear out. I feel he redeemed himself here, given where he was placed and my admiration remains largely undimmed, unfortunate though his involvement was. As for ‘Grabs’, I believe he was the original “Mr Huge Fee QC’, always instructed by Sue Grabbit and Runne, lampooned in Private Eye. His reputation must be dented by this and I predict a distinguished career for Jason Beer KC, indictments for Vennells and others and a new appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, soon.

    1. Lord Grabbitt and Runne being his legacy?

      From a legal giant to forever be viewed as a mere ant in the Post Office insect colony. Grafting for Queen Paula.

      His reputation tainted by his love of cash. And himself. Will we ever know the true value of his ill gotten gains from taxpayers money that was used to try and cover up daylight robbery?

      The great Post Office robbery trial giving our dandy the opportunity to once more grace us with his presence. Like some over hyped star of an early 1980’s vanity pop video. The Adam of the Ants.

      I’m the dandy highwayman who you’re too scared to mention
      I spend your cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention

      The dandy highwayman, conceited, arrogant, preening and happy to smirk while accepting our cash (how much?) from a client who steals from the poor to give to the rich. Stupid bitch.

      Stand and deliver your money or your life
      Try and use a mirror no bullet or a knife.

      So far up himself that ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

      It will be interesting to contrast the evidence of the Dandy with the Andy.

      Another insect about to crawl out of the colony who’s ethical motto could have been

      Lower yourself
      Forgetting all your standards.

    2. They were both wrong as events have proven and had they suceeded the miscarraige of justice might well have remain hidden. They were more concerned about legal details than justice and lost sight of their supposed purpose. Plus N (appears to have) lied about not consulting with G

  17. Correction to your third paragraph. Barristers don’t “work for” their chambers. They are self-employed and don’t have “skin in the game” by virtue of another member of chambers being instructed. These 3 individuals were apparently all involved in the same case, which is a separate point. They are also supposed to exercise their independent judgment if instructed by a client, notwithstanding that a lawyer who also practises from their chambers is involved.

    1. Rosie Brocklehurst avatar
      Rosie Brocklehurst

      Does not Skin in the Game in Nick’s piece mean they were instructed and paid for by the Post Office?

    2. They do work ‘in’ (if not ‘for’) the same chambers, though. Nick was making the quite reasonable point that since they knew each other extremely well they might therefore be less likely to contradict each other’s advice, a position that became clear from their email exchanges.

      1. Never mind the bollocks, or the Sex Pistols, here’s the Chambers.


        There’s no point in asking, you’ll get no reply
        Oh just remember I don’t decide
        I got no reason it’s all too much
        You’ll always find me
        Out to lunch

        Miscarriage of justice?

        Oh we’re so pretty
        Oh so pretty
        Oh we’re so pretty
        Oh so pretty
        Ah but now
        And we don’t care…

        To maintain credibility their Chambers should have been like Rotten and stuck to Public Image Ltd rather than Post Office Ltd.

        They are now firmly part of the biggest anarchy in the UK legal history.

    3. @David, yes, your wording is correct.

      The “skin in the game” reality of what goes on is quite something else, though.

      As my friend Rumpole would tell you.

  18. Sickening that the POL seem to think their position is in any way defensible. They f****d around and got found out. The evidence, the testimony should be enough to end this fiasco. How many millions have POL spent trying to defend their crimes? The first trials should have been thrown out as the Subs’ testimony and eye witness accounts p[roved there was something wrong with Horizon. Weak lawyers and a catalogue of legal BS. At the taxpayers expense. Can’t wait to see Vennells and 10-20 of her co-conspirators are jailed, and there award of £600k paid to all Subs who were so maliciously prosecuted.

    1. This is the sheer stupidity. POL still in denial when the writing was on the wall. What was so biased in the LJ Fraser judgment? Why such a surprise? The POL Board and their legal advisors so badly assessed the probably of success, it beggars belief. Then the recusal application. Sour grapes. More wasted taxpayers money.

  19. […] Another, rather grander barrister also gave evidence yesterday. See Lord Grabiner: Never mind the “bollox” […]

  20. Grabiner….an arrogant old man with a highly snotty attitude!

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

    2. @ Jane

      Far, far too generous.

      Another Dunning-Kruger exhibit, too. Else he wouldn’t be having to sit there facing Mr Beer.


      Q: What is his integrity worth?

      A: His hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours, plus a premium for Special Service.

  21. Can’t Mr Bates request Lord Neuberger to be invited as a core participant?

    Otherwise, it looks like the Inqury’s legal team is doing what the POL did ie covering its own cock ups.

    1. There’s no coverup. This (lik nick’s ‘shameful’ comment unusually) completely misunderstands. He’s given a witness statement. The Inquiry isn’t an itv sequel. It’s a judicial process and the expert team (led by a retired judge) literally wrote the book on Inquiries. They know what evidence they have and are missing; they don’t call evidence for spectator satisfaction. If neuberger publicly criticised Fraser (which he’d be bound to do) its give HMG an out and be actively damaging for spm victims.

      1. I see where you’re coming from. However, shouldn’t all sides be heard, regardless of best guessed out-comes?
        I’m sure on reflection there has been no cover-up. Nonetheless, l should imagine Lord N will have to be called to give face to face evidence in due course, if the CPS believes POL has a case to answer. It may seem odd at that future stage, why only a written statement by Lord N was deemed sufficient at the inquiry.

        1. He’s the same side as Grabs, so the perspective has been heard orally – and he’s given a statement. If the Inquiry called every possible witness (around 3,000) it’d never complete a report, never progress for the victims, and squander billions. It’s beyond me how people feel they have a better idea of what evidence the Chair needs to hear orally than the Chair and his team who literally wrote the book on public Inquiries. They might fancy watching some public stocks but this isn’t that or an itv sequel, and that wouldn’t progress matters for the victims, for and about whom (not public rubberneckers) the Inquiry actually is.

          1. You are absolutely right. Just concerned, and l might be suggesting an incorrect characterisation here, that Lord N wasn’t called because the recusal advice he offered (and didn’t go as planned), might result in questions being raised about decisions made during his tenure as president of The Supreme Court. Costing even more money. Of course, I’m most likely wrong.

  22. I think it was contained in an email written by Tom Beezer that the client (POL) wished to push ahead with the recusal of Fraser. Mr Beer asked lord Grabs if he knew the identity of the point man/woman referred to. He said no. Has the identity of this person emerged elsewhere. If we presume it was a board level decision is it likely that Alice in Wonderland is in the frame or did she use the cut-out of a useful idiot.
    PS Just to get a mini-bio on Grabs before his appearance I checked Wikipedia. You cannot make it up. Look at the info on corporate governance.

    1. Is he the ultimate “establishment figure”? A man paid so much for each case that he is retained for (almost certainly in high six- or low seven-figures for a reasonably complex case), that he can afford to leave questions of morality at the door (although not legal ethics). Indeed, it would be interesting to know how much he (and Lord Neuberger) were paid by POL to advise and appear for POL on the recusal application.

      Having advised (as a very lowly solicitor at the time) upon a recusal application in a case in the past and decided that it was an exercise in futility (and our client won the case even without it), I am absolutely amazed that two of the most senior members of the legal profession came to the view that they did. The common issues judgment should have been the red flag that POL was going to lose and should drop its case. But then it seems to be consistent with the performance of the legal profession in this case as a whole, with honourable exceptions of Fraser LJ, Lord Coulson, and those firms advising the SPMs; oh, and the inquiry team.

      1. Well, I can answer my own question – £175k for Counsel (Lord Grabiner QC, plus David Cavender QC and Gideon Cohen – see para 5 of https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2019/1373.html) – which excludes whatever POL paid Lord Neuberger for his advice and which was presumably also eye-wateringly expensive. Not bad for a few days’ preparation of documents (being generous), a day of preparation ahead of the hearing, and a single day in court.

        1. Oliver Harrison avatar
          Oliver Harrison

          Money well spent if it delayed justice for the SPMs a little longer 😉

        2. It also seems, from Grabiner’s testimony, that his ‘juniors’ did all the work whilst he offered comments on their advice to him. Either that or he asked Neuberger that he thought and then deferred to his reply. I bet he hardly read the judgement as it was very long and it might have interfered with his G&T’s at whatever bloody club he belonged to (probably the Garrick Club as he will be a misogynist for sure!). He really was appalling and treated Jason Beer as if he was an irritating junior himself.

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