Thursday, June 02, 2011

HM Courts and Tribunals

Following up from our post of 25 May 2011, we can now advise that the Case Management Discussion (CMD) mentioned there took place on the 27th of May, as scheduled.

The Department for Transport (and the MCA), the Respondents in the case, always liberal with taxpayers’ money, had hired a top-notch lawyer for the event. This barrister (who also sits as a judge) - a slightly fresher version of Justice Eady - has recently been given notoriety by the Daily Mail – as a gagger.

The CMD, unbefittingly called a ‘discussion’, consisted of the Respondents’ Counsel giving directions to the judge and the judge showing little resistance in following them, while the Claimant, accommodated with ostensibly dissimulated impatience, was hardly allowed to speak. The barrister hired by the DfT looked so upset that it was hard to believe that he was simply acting on the government’s behalf. The judiciary may have been closing ranks, we reckoned, bearing in mind that the Claimant’s disclosures have cast doubt on the integrity of a number of prominent figures within the judicial brotherhood.

What felt stranger, however, was the impression we got that the judge presiding over the CMD seemed somehow afraid of the government’s Counsel, and even took the cue from him as to when to take a break and when to adjourn.
Their plan was to remove the DfT from the proceedings, probably, so as to cut short the liability chain and ‘ring-fence’ the wrongdoing at some junior level within the MCA. Warned that trying to push her arguments forward will be sanctioned by the Court, the Claimant’s representative used the few moments when she was directed to give yes or no answers to a couple of questions to try to object to the Tribunal’s steamroller technique. At one such moment, she tried to suggest that not only the DfT, but also the Crown and former DPM John Prescott should be added as Respondents, a suggestion that was met with instant opposition from the judge and an indignant snort from the DfT’s barrister. The matter, however, was left unresolved.

Further on, the DfT’s Counsel demanded that a deposit be paid before the full hearing so as to make the access to justice more difficult – justice, it seems, is not a luxury for the plebs. The opposing party was prepared to do anything to prevent a full hearing where evidence, witness testimonies and the thorny matter of the Gaul could be heard in open court.

The end of the CMD was marked by the DfT’s Counsel delivering a diatribe against his opponent and the judge’s failure to intervene or to allow the Claimant to respond.
A pre-hearing review has been scheduled for the 11th of July and a full hearing for the 17th of October. But we very much doubt that there is much to expect from our justice system. The whole thing is rotten to the core.

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