Monday 29 July 2019

Speak my language

Throughout this litigation I have usually referred to the claimants in the Bates and others v Post Office High Court group litigation as "claimant Subpostmasters" or "claimants".

Ideally I'd call them the JFSA (Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance - the loose affiliation run by Alan Bates, the man with his name on the claim), but I have been politely and repeatedly reminded by the claimants' lawyers that not all claimants are members of the JFSA and not all JFSA members are claimants.

Even calling the claimants "claimant Subpostmasters" isn't strictly accurate as a small number of claimants are former Crown Post Office employees or branch assistants employed by Subpostmasters.

So the most accurate descriptor for this group is "claimants", but only at the High Court. As far as the Court of Appeal is concerned, the claimant Subpostmasters are "respondents", and very much not claimants.

Even just calling them "Subpostmasters" is problematic because it doesn't differentiate between those (largely former) Subpostmasters who are part of this litigation and those 9,000-odd Subpostmasters who are busy running their branches right now. The latter group are already being affected by the litigation and I find I'm writing about their circumstances more often. Having two distinct cohorts both called "Subpostmasters" doesn't work.

All this matters, as we're now dealing with an Appeal Court process running alongside the High Court litigation and I am going to be writing about as much of it as I can.

For those of you tempted to give up here, you have my sympathy.  For those who wish to soldier on, I might see how calling the claimants/respondents "litigant Subpostmasters" feels, but I suspect I will flip between "respondent Subpostmasters", "claimant Subpostmasters" or just revert to "claimants" depending on the context.

And they wonder why this story isn't gaining traction...
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