26th April 2021
Few appeal cases keep on being news a few days after the judgment has been handed down.
The parties, of course, will keep an interest as they decide what, if anything, to do next; lawyers will consider any legal or procedural point of wide import; specialists and experts will take due notice of any significant development.
But general news value of an appeal decision diminishes rapidly, and soon it will be as old news as a football result.
But the Post Office appeal case has been different.
If anything, many people – this blogger included – are taking more of an interest in what happened.
In part this is because of the detailed judgments – and so some relentless investigative journalism.
The more one looks at the case the more worrying the case becomes.
All sorts of professionals – not just the senior managers – appear to have been caught up in the attempt to oppose the exposure of what happened.
And as the eminent blogger on law and legal ethics Richard Moorhead asks over at his blog: where were the lawyers?
Reading carefully this detailed Private Eye piece on the scandal, there are many moments where anyone with an interest in litigation will gasp.
The easy way of addressing the question of what were the lawyers doing is to aver that lawyers are not decision-makers, they only advise and so on.
But that old stand-by of an excuse does not quite work with issues, such as disclosure of documents and duties to the court, where the decision-making is done by lawyers rather than clients.
Something very wrong happened, and for a long period, and because of the decisions made of many people.
And the wider question becomes: where else are such commercial-legal scandals and cover-ups where there has not been a success in bringing it to light?
Perhaps not ones where there have been a mass of prosecutions, but where there has been co-ordinated attempts to prevent transparency, scrutiny and accountability.
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