Stephen Dilley of Womble Bond Dickinson

giving evidence to the Post Office Inquiry now: https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/

Joshua Rozenberg's article: https://rozenberg.substack.com/p/how-far-should-a-lawyer-go

there was evidence the system was not robust and they appear deliberately to have avoided having those issues looked into by an independent expert
 

That evidence being the system going a few pounds astray on a couple of occasions or the calls to the help desk? On the former point he was assured by Fujitsu it was fine. I think a solicitor is entitled to accept the evidence of people who know better than them. 
 

On the latter those calls - as I understand it - would be all calls ever made to the help desk not necessarily restricted to Horizon throwing up  errors. I think the figure given was that there were about 15,000 calls a month which equates to about one call per postmaster per month. It doesn’t seem to me the gross numbers would tip someone off about a problem and certainly not the problems which actually existed. 

Yes, exactly. A few pounds going astray easily raises the possibility that larger figures may be going astray. It seems that this wasn’t properly considered, or that there was a concerted attempt to avoid considering it

On the latter those calls - as I understand it - would be all calls ever made to the help desk not necessarily restricted to Horizon throwing up  errors. I think the figure given was that there were about 15,000 calls a month which equates to about one call per postmaster per month. It doesn’t seem to me the gross numbers would tip someone off about a problem and certainly not the problems which actually existed. 

"And also, as I said yesterday when questioned by that nasty barrister any reasonable person would agree, those are far too many calls to go through, while being far too few calls to alert anyone that something might be amiss."

a few pounds going astray would be enough tbh

either the system is reliable or it isn't
 

A solicitor / barrister or whatever is in no position to comment on that. He spoke to the experts and they told him that was not the case.

It took a multimillion pound high court group action to prove the system didn’t work. 

That is specifically because there was a strategy on the part of the Post Office, its legal advisers and Fujitsu to avoid the possibility of acknowledging fault with the computer system, even when it was obvious that faults existed

A solicitor / barrister or whatever is in no position to comment on that. He spoke to the experts and they told him that was not the case.

It took a multimillion pound high court group action to prove the system didn’t work. 

An accounting system either works or doesn't. And any solicitor (except maybe Prags) knows that the SRA will be all over his/her client accounts if there is any accounting discrepancy, not matter how small.

"It took a lot of money to find out our accounting system sucks, and then the victims had to do it because we wouldn't tell them" is an extraordinarily weak line of defence, even for the Post Office.

That is specifically because there was a strategy on the part of the Post Office, its legal advisers and Fujitsu to avoid the possibility of acknowledging fault with the computer system, even when it was obvious that faults existed
 

Absolutely, but for 25 year old Stephen Dilley in 2005/6 that was not at all obvious.

The post office, Fujitsu and its legal advisers have been absolutely appalling over Horizon but    there’s no way he was going to be able to uncover the thing.

They knew there was a problem with the Horizon system long before that. As pointed out by Mr Harrison’s solicitors in their letter of response (and gone through in forensic detail yesterday by Mr Blake in his examination of Dilley) there had already been a slew of claims with postmasters that had been settled with NDAs

I don’t think that’s accurate. Dilley was aware of two claims ongoing with Hugh James and then two others were mentioned in passing. The two mentioned in passing he wouldn’t have known anything about other than they concerned “Horizon issues”. His knowledge and the knowledge of Post Office are quite different things. 

I am not sure this shower of outrage on somebody who was then a junior solicitor is entirely appropriate.   Anyone would think he masterminded the whole thing.    I am not sure he has done anything so bad - save for inappropriate language used, if indeed he did use it.

“I might be wrong in that, but….”

crikey

surprisingly rattled for a KC?

 

Just candid, surely? The question was would you tell a private corporation not to do something if it was likely to expose them to claims later.

His answer was yes. Then the above. And it's something we all have to grapple with.

I say that as somebody who is just as sickened as the next person by this saga.

The difference comes once you are actually aware that there are probably serious issues with the system. And don't disclose those docs and supervise evidence / make submissions otherwise.

I've lost count of the number of commercial cases where people have behaved like khunts and their lawyers have pulled every trick in the book arguing that their khuntish behaviour was perfectly reasonable.

The line is drawn at suppressing disclosure of relevant adverse documents / misleading the Court, I think? 

BusinessSecretsofthePharaohs22 Sep 23 11:31

 

Seems mad to blame a partner and head of litigation department for his incredibly poor performance at the stand when responding to questions about a case they had day to day management of case where zero instructions from POL told him to treat the IT system faults as limited to that branch and there was a constant stream of evidence over a number of months before trial that issues were apparent in many post offices . He doesn’t seem to have reflected on either his role or his firms role, at all.

 

Fixed it for ya

Spurius: yes, candid on a very difficult issue. He was surprisingly disconcerted I thought (for a silk) but I guess he realises that although a technical minefield the optics in context are er…. uncomfortable?

https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/hearings/phase-4-19-september-2023

 

I am with Dan Needle on this

 

 

Dan Neidle

 

 

@DanNeidle

 

My personal theory: many of these people believe that they were right all along, Lee and everyone else is really guilty, and a few minor problems with Horizon are being used to allow the guilty to walk free.

 

 

A text book example of someone convinced they had a fraudster and doing everything right or wrong to hang the (non) fraudster. She will still have her bullet proof final salary pension of course. 

Bizarre happenings with the upvote/downvote thumbs. A vote on one side adds 2 or three to the other!

ROF has been hacked!

You're right - just tried it out myself, there is an immediate and opposite vote added when you downvote the comments supporting WBD. Fascinating.

Beer appears to have just shown that contrary to Morgan's submissions and the Judge's judgment, Castleton in fact was trying to explain to the Court that the figures on which the "account" was based were in fact themselves inaccurate, and Castleton said that he had reported the inaccuracies to the PO helpline

if that is right, then the accounting claim and the judgment were both misconceived

Morgan wrong or at least not fully accurate in relation to whether witnesses of fact can give opinion evidence

what would be interesting is whether if every litigator was forced to open book all their client files after the event whether any firm would come out it looking perfect.

i'm sure everyone of the litigators on this thread would be completely un-embarrassed if all those emails to clients and internal emails were printed and reviewed in the cold light of day, along with all of the client's internal machinations

 

Clubbers is right.  Ultimately litigators like all lawyers act in the best interests of their clients and correspondence/advice given in the heat of battle reflects that. The overriding concern when devising/advancing a case strategy is whether it is supported by the relevant legal theory and the evidence.  If it isn't, especially if it is contradicted by either, you don't run it. 

That's true in theory JCD. But I've seen countless cases where litigators have very aggressively run cases that were clearly not supported by the evidence. There is a lot of Nelsonian (or even Trumpian) blindness.

What you can't do is suppress relevant documents or advance a case you know to be untrue to the extent that you are factually misleading the court. Although tbh I have seen many litigators advance a case they really must have known to be untrue, which only leaves suppression of relevant documents. I have a pretty low opinion of the average litigator tbf. This enquiry is a timely reminder to all of us.

Heff - the Morgan evidence does appear to expose the iniquity of the position the postmasters were put in.

He says he didn't know the Horizon software was dubious, which may well be true.

But he took a glance at this £25k claim (surprising someone of his calibre was even involved, albeit not a QC then) and said forget Horizon. He has signed off on the accounts. By his own verification of the accounts (as against which he was short cash so there was a loss) he is stitched up.

Castleton's response: but the system imposed on me was that I had to verify the accounts as they were, or the Post Office system didn't allow me to continue to trade. At the same time I was telling them the accounts were wrong.

Response of Post Office, Morgan and Judge: doesn't matter. You've verified accounts so Post Office is entitled to rely on them.

It's a brutal system. The Post Office was forcing unsophisticated people to sign away their right to challenge the Post Office accounting system, as an ongoing precondition for being able to trade.

Court seems to have thought this was effective as a matter of law.

clubbers, in one way you're of course right. None of us is perfect and we hate to have our emails and docs raked over in this way, as happens from time to time. But in a way that is one of the safety checks in the process: you have to always bear in mind that a judge may one day read what you are writing, or a note of what you said.

In this case, things went very badly wrong. Disclosure was not given in relation to issues that were plainly relevant, and the unrepresented defendant's factual case was not properly understood by either counsel or the judge. I am not for a moment saying that there was any professional misconduct, but things went wrong, with very grave consequences, and it is right that they should be examined closely.

Clubbers you may be right. There are undoubtedly things in my 20 years+ as a litigator that if highlighted to me I would say “I got that wrong” (though I genuinely can’t think of any).  But Mr Dilley appears to lack the humility or ability for self-reflection to say that with hindsight what he did to Mr Castleton was wrong and that he is sorry.

Heffa do you think that the judges involved in the original cases should face any consequences? The Leeds HC in Castleton’s case doesn’t really seem to have done a great job. 

I’m obviously totally naive in the way I approach disclosure.  I’d always assumed even colleagues I work with would be disgusted if I even considered not being entirely scrupulous.

I see Julian Blake is Counsel to the Inquiry. I instructed him a couple of times when he was at 6KBW. Gr8 attention to detail. 

"you have to always bear in mind that a judge may one day read what you are writing, or a note of what you said."

First thing I was taught. 

"Heh., dux I have never met a single lawyer in my life who wished to be come a lawyer to acquire a duty to the court."

Most people, at least when they're young, want to become lawyers to do something socially useful. Very few kids want to be lawyers just to make mega bucks. And absolutely none want to do it because they want a "duty to their client" which is both pompous and absurd. 

"Most people, at least when they're young, want to become lawyers to do something socially useful."

I THINK IT IS YOU THAT IS BEING ABSURD

I see the comments n likes battle is still going on the News story for this

Amazing to see  the WBD supporters on there still drinking the Coolaid and trying to gaslight others into agreement .

Delusional stuff, carp on m5s carp on.

This case has made me realise how much - when I was a (relatively) young City drone - I repressed my disgust at the way some business was conducted - when I was de partnered and chopped I wondered why they wanted an NDA. 

Senior bods at the PO, in the PO legal dept., at Wombles/BondPearce/HSF, and at Fujitsu should suffer consequences - any bright ideas as to what actions one might take to make such an outcome more likely?