Thursday 17 January 2019

Reading the Common Issues trial

Getting wiggy with it
More than half a million words were spoken during or written up for the Common Issues trial.

I know this because I wrote and spoke some of those words, and I was present every single day in court to live tweet and report on proceedings. And because I used the word count facility on my word processing application whilst pasting them up on this blog.

So they're all here to be read, but navigating your way around half a millions words to find the killer line might feel daunting. So here's a mini-guide:

If you do not know anything about the story behind this trial, you can either read the about section of this blog (also linked to on the nav bar at the top of every page of this blog), or Antonia Hoyle's rather brilliant piece for the Daily Mail, published on 1 Dec last year.

The Common Issues Trial Menu (also linked to on the nav bar at the top of every page of this blog) will help you get around. 

Rather than read the Generic Particulars of Claim, Generic Defence and Common Issues (all linked to in the Common Issues trial menu) you might as well dive into the transcripts on Day 1. Here both the claimants' and defence barristers set out their arguments, and it's quite easy to follow.

Once you have done that, by all means have a look at the Generic Particulars of Claim, the Generic Defence and the Common Issues, but you don't need to. They are filled with legalese and can be hard going.

You're better off heading to the witness statements of lead claimants who give evidence on the second day: Alan Bates and Pam Stubbs. Then read the day 2 transcript.

Then read the witness statement of Mohammad Sabir and read the day 3 transcript.

Then read Naushad Abdulla and and Liz Stockdale and read the day 4 transcript.

Then read Louise Dar and the day 5 transcript.

I would not bother with going to the Post Office employee witness statements next. The JFSA barrister makes a very good job of suggesting they are barely worth the paper they are written on. I would go straight into the day 6 transcript and read through the cross-examinations.

The Post Office witnesses were:

Nick Beal, Head of Agents’ Development and Renumeration.
Paul Williams, Restrictions Advisor
Sarah Rimmer, Agent Remuneration and Expenses Manager.
John Breeden, Head of Agency Contracts.
Angela van den Bogerd, People Services Director.
Timothy Dance, Retail Transformation Integration Manager.
Helen Dickinson, Security Team Leader.
Michael Shields, Temporary Subpostmaster Advisor.
Elaine Ridge, Network Contract Advisor.
David Longbottom, Training and Audit Advisor.
Michael Webb, Training and Audit Advisor.
Michael Haworth, Network Engagement Manager.
Andrew Carpenter, Agents Contract Advisor.
Brian Trotter, Network Contract Advisor.

You can find links to the transcript of their evidence laid out in the Common Issues trial menu. Having read what they say, if you then want to go back and cross-reference the transcripts with their witness statements, be my guest - I have posted them all up and they are linked to in the menu too.

Then finally have a look at the Common Issues - which is what this trial is all about - and then go and read everything again.

I am still waiting on the transcripts of the last four days of the trial - which comprised closing arguments. Days 14 and 15 were taken up with the closing argument of the Post Office barrister. He methodically tore into the claimants' legal position whilst trying to persuade the judge to ignore the testimony of all the witnesses and park them for October's "breach" trial.

Mr Cavender made (through implication) the perfectly respectable point that whether Post Office employees had been acting with incompetence or worse in the cases that were described in court, it didn't actually matter to the Common Issues trial - this first trial was about whether the contractual relationship between the Post Office and its Subpostmasters allowed the Post Office to act as it had done, and he contended it was. 

If you're still hungry for more you can read the claimants' stories I posted on my blog. These people are part of the class action, but were not required to give evidence in court this time round. I'd recommend checking out Bal GillHelen WalkerWendy MartinJanet BradburyChris and an anonymous correspondent. If you're feeling very lazy you can sit back and watch a couple of One Show pieces I helped make back in 2014 which tell various peoples' stories. (There's also the perspective of the Communications Workers' Union Subpostmaster rep, Mark Baker, which is very much worth reading).

If you count up the claimants' stories on this blog and the cases of the lead claimants in the Common Issues trial, and those in Antonia' Daily Mail article and those in my One Show pieces, you will still only know about what happened to around 3% of the claimants in this class action. 

To which I would say - well - we'll see, won't we...?

Day 1 transcript - Wed 7 November - Opening arguments
Day 2 transcript - Thu 8 November - Claimants: Alan Bates, Pam Stubbs part 1
Day 3 transcript - Mon 12 November - Pam Stubbs part 2, Mohammad Sabir
Day 4 transcript - Tue 13 November - Naushad Abdulla, Liz Stockdale
Day 5 transcript - Wed 14 November - Louise Dar
Day 6 transcript - Thu 15 November - Post Office: Nick Beal, Paul Williams
Day 7 transcript - Mon 19 November - Sarah Rimmer, John Breeden, AvdB part 1
Day 8 transcript - Tue 20 November - AvdB part 2
Day 9 transcript - Wed 21 November - AvdB part 3, Timothy Dance, Helen Dickinson, Michael Shields part 1
Day 10 transcript - Thu 22 November - Michael Shields part 2, Elaine Ridge, David Longbottom, Michael Webb
Day 11 transcript - Mon 26 November - Michael Haworth, Andrew Carpenter, Brian Trotter