Time for the conspiracy theories

 

I have been dreading this moment.  I have stayed away from conspiracy theories because they are usually so easy to discredit.   The amount of people needed to be involved and hold their silence is the first thing that one would look at in order to shoot down the conspirators.   Then there is the type of people of involved.  In this case they hold very senior positions in their respective spheres.  It really would be bordering on the incredulous if a conspiracy theory turns out to be correct.   But hey! Nothing – I repeat – Nothing in Post Office Land surprises me anymore so I will say it one more time (won’t be the last) everything they say and do is “beyond belief” which is the definition of incredulous.

This morning sees the revelation courtesy of Nick Wallis and his blog at www.postofficetrial.com (stick a penny in the tip jar please) that Lord Justice Coulson has turned down the appeal by Post Office Ltd to allow them to appeal the decision by Justice Fraser not to recuse himself from the current Post Office Group Litigation trials.    It marks the end of one chapter of this long drawn out claim by the JFSA claimants, that they were mistreated by Post Office Ltd.

Now we need to look back at what has transpired, the sequence of events, the decision making process and the people involved to try and come up with a plausible explanation as to why POL asked the judge to recuse himself and even more relevant why they decided to appeal his decision not to.

On Thursday 21st March on the last day of factual evidence to be presented to the court and during the lunch break, Justice Fraser found himself reading a request from POL QC Lord Grabiner to recuse himself.    The application was put together by a Mr Parsons, a partner in the law firm Womble Dickinson.  (https://www.postofficetrial.com/2019/03/horizon-trial-application-to-recuse.html)

My immediate impression when I read this application was that it had been put together in ten minutes.  Both Patrick Green QC, Justice Fraser himself and now Lord Justice Coulson tend to agree, as all have said the application lacked any substance at all.  Justice Fraser went so far as to instruct Womble Dickinson to go away and put some meat on the bones and present it back to the court for deliberation.

POINT ONE Two Judges and one QC immediately thought that the initial application was scandalously short of substance so from a conspiracy theorist point of view the question has to be asked, at that moment in time did not POL legal team think so too?  It would be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic for the legal profession if they did not surely.

POINT TWO How long did it take to prepare the application?  This is a really serious point.  If,as Lord Grabiner went on to explain in the actual recusal hearing, that the matter had been under consideration for some time, was decided by a board meeting of POL and a further delay was necessitated by the need to take advice from a mysterious very senior legal figure, then why oh why did the application lack so much substance?  Surely that substance would have had to be revealed to the mystery legal man (MLM) for him to provide advice on it?

POINT THREE Why was no notice given to Justice Fraser immediately the decision was made to ask for a recusal?  So short was the notice that even POL’s QC in court that day knew nothing of it and just to confirm point one he also agreed the application lacked substance.  How on earth could their own QC not know the application HAD been prepared?   Lord Justice Coulson remarked specifically on this point (no notice given to Justice Fraser) in his decision saying that it was “at best discourteous; at worst, it betrayed a singular lack of openness on the part of POL and their advisors”

POINT FOUR POL’s legal team consist of multiple QCs from different chambers.   They all must be instructed to carry out the requests of their clients.   The legal teams can advise their clients of the chances of success and the cost but at the end of the day the decision to make the recusal application and the decision to appeal Justice Fraser’s decision not to recuse himself had to be taken by POL.

POINT FIVE the appeal has been decided.  The trial continues with the new timetable but the same judge and the same witnesses and evidence.  The only thing the recusal application and appeal has done is to delay the trial by a few weeks.  (at a cost to POL and the taxpayer of some £1m) Was that the only objective?

So the overriding question must be WHY did POL decide to ask for the recusal?  The overriding answer must be: to win the case, but a recusal application is only one part of that strategy.   It wasn’t going to stop the trial being completed under another judge, the same evidence would be produced and the same questions asked.  There is nothing to suggest that a new judge would come to a different decision than the one that Justice Fraser will arrive at.

Lord Justice Coulson goes so far as to suggest that there must be more to the timing and manner of the recusal request than meets the eye given the nature of what followed after they had made it.  My interpretation of Lord Justice Coulson’s comments in this regard are that the recusal request was a spur of the moment tactical decision made to delay the trial as it clearly never had any chance of success.

I have previously considered that POL have been purposefully using delaying tactics in order to push the costs up for the claimants as ultimately these costs will come out of any compensation that may be awarded to them.   Given that even POL must realise now that they are on a hiding to nothing in court then the claimant’s funders must also be extremely confident in the outcome and will not be willing to back off now given their expenditure to date.

So fellow conspirators where does that leave us?  What rationale was behind this recusal fiasco?  Will we ever find out?  What theories could provide a solution to this conundrum?

  1. a) has POL’s expert witness realised what is going on and is about to change his testimony?
  2. b) was it important enough to have the trial stopped until after the 31st March which is the end of POL’s financial year?
  3. c) Are POL actually making these decisions or is the mysterious senior legal figure a politician or the legal representative of the civil service as the sole shareholder?
  4. d) did Mr Parsons make a mistake and didn’t deliver the recusal application in time to prevent the witness testimony on the last day of the trial which was pretty damning against POL?

I originally thought either a) or d) made sense but neither explains the appeal which was legally unsound and POL should have been advised of this by their legal team.

Thoughts from fellow conspiracy theorists welcome as I think the more minds work on this the better.

5 thoughts on “Time for the conspiracy theories

  1. To drive up the costs, so the claimants run out of money??? PO is unlikely to run out of money, but the claimants might.
    I’m a cynic.

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  2. Dear Tim,
    Fascinating reading.
    I have always felt the lack of intervention from the government years back was a serious case for concern. I have researched as much as I am able to, the extent to which the government IS responsible for oversight of its ALB’s, of which POLtd is one. (It is desperate to deny this level of responsibility but it is there). I am currently awaiting to here from my MP, Jeremy Hunt, if I can meet him to discuss the matter in more detail. I met him when 18 months ago, one of his constituents, a now ex-subpostmaster was ‘Horizoned’ to the tune of £57,000. (His nightmare continues). I have made a FOI request to see all Framework Aggreements/ Accountability System Statements/Memoranda of Understanding. Interestingly they were due 9&10th May, none have been produced despite my understanding that they should already be in the public domain. Let’s stay in touch!

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  3. So…. Tim that leaves b or c. at least until something else becomes obvious.

    I am a long standing conspiracy theorist, especially if POL is involved, so here are my thoughts.

    b; POL will certainly have to identify any liabilities so far, in their latest accounts,but are the accrued sums sufficient to ring alarm bells? Not proven

    c; The shadows behind the curtain of invisibility? I think it would be a strong possibility that HMG, would have had an observer at the trial. Civil service perhaps maybe legal too. The whole bizarre episode, oozes a desperation to stop the proceedings in their tracks, before any further damage occurred. Probably scribbled the application on the back of an envelope. Front runner in my opinion.

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  4. I think the best theory so far from Twitter is that they are laying the groundwork for the ubiquitous appeal. They couldn’t claim bias in an appeal unless they had challenged that at the time. However that still does not explain why they did it in such a rush on the last day when even their own QC in court knew nothing about it.

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