Reporting the class action against the Post Office at the High Court
The judge in the Post Office group litigation has told a Case Management Conference at the High Court Rolls Building today that his judgment on the Common Issues trial, which finished on Thursdau 6 December, will now not be released until the final day of February at the earliest.
Mr Justice Fraser had told the court he wanted to hand down his findings at the end of January, but the judgment isn’t finished. He gave no reasons for the delay or why it would take at least a full month longer to complete. He put the claimants and the defendant on notice that they would receive the draft judgment in “late” February.
The notification of the delay came at the end of a morning’s legal argument about the third trial of this group litigation. The judge ordered this will begin on Monday 4 November and will last four weeks.
We also got a little closer to understanding what the third trial would be about. The judge today directed (in the face of some resistance from the Post Office) it will be about some of the outstanding issues which weren’t covered by the Common Issues trial and won’t be in the forthcoming Horizon trial. I haven’t seen the skeleton arguments from either party so I don’t know what those outstanding issues are or will be, but the claimants’ QC, Mr Patrick Green was very keen to get alleged issues of deceit, concealment and fraud by the Post Office into the third trial.
Whether he will succeed or not will be played out between the QCs as they meet up to discuss things next week. If the QCs cannot come to an agreement, they will each draw up a list and the judge will decide which issues the trial will cover at the next case management conference on Tuesday 12 February.
The judge also wants both parties to decide whether or not the third trial will need Lead Claimants and whether or not those lead claimants will be the same as the lead claimants in the Common Issues trial. If new lead claimants are to be selected, he needs to know how many new lead claimants both sides are proposing and he wants them to agree the mechanism for selecting those claimants by the date of the next CMC.
It is almost certain a fourth trial will now take place in Spring 2020.
Reading the above must be hugely disappointing for those who were hoping a judgment on last year’s Common Issues trial was imminent, but it’s now going to arrive very close to the start of the Horizon trial, which begins on 11 March.
Newsworthy findings might stoke wider media interest in the next chapter of this very long and very drawn out legal story.
Read today’s full live tweets here.