The employment tribunal case of Mark Edmunds v London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) resumed on Tuesday 10th December last week and the tribunal judge is now considering the verdict.
This is the continuation of the hearing that started in August but ran out of allocated time due to the issue of media access to the evidence bundle.
Here is a very brief overview of the status of the Poplar Papers. Apologies to the numerous people who have emailed asking about this but Moley has been snowed with work.
Poplar Papers update
The tribunal was very keen to get this case finished this week so not much time could be allocated to the issue of media access to the 2,000 page evidence bundle we refer to as the Poplar Papers.
The media was fully supportive of this as the primary matter is that the case that Mr. Edmunds has brought against LBTH be completed as soon as possible.
The issue of the Poplar Papers is very important as without access to the evidence bundle the media – including Love Wapping – cannot report on the employment tribunal case accurately. And if we cannot report accurately it is best we do not report at all.
Don’t hold your breath but…
The good news is that at the time of writing (Sunday 15th December 2019) the tribunal case has been heard and since Thursday deliberations towards a verdict have been underway. Don’t hold your breath as it might be some time before a judgement is given, probably not before Christmas, maybe early in the New Year.
The other good news is that a way forward has possibly been found to provide the media with access to the evidence bundle.
After several different options were considered and rejected by the tribunal during the week the current possible plan is that Mark Edmunds is given a big marker pen (well, a virtual one) and he goes through the evidence bundle redacting the ultra-sensitive stuff like names, addresses, bank account details etc, so that personal details of innocent people are not released.
Innocent means innocent
Remember that ‘innocent people’ means everyone referenced in the evidence (bundle or in other documentation) because even those who are arrested and charged with serious criminal offences are innocent until proven guilty.
And as all Tower Hamlets residents know it seems incredibly difficult for anyone to be ever nicked and banged up for corruption in the borough.
The good news is that Mole and other journalists now have an understanding of why that is. More on that in 2020.
Why does the evidence bundle matter?
In a court case (of any type) all witnesses are required to make a written statement. This is the primary documentation for a case.
But these witness statements are just part of the evidence. The statement will in turn refer to other documents such as letters, emails, spreadsheets, reports, memorandums and all sorts of stuff that the case rests on but it is not essential for these documents to be directly read out or examined in court.
To paraphrase Judge Crosfill the witness statements given so far are merely foothills in comparison to the mountain range that is the evidence bundle.
As you can see from previous reports on the case of Edmunds v LBTH there are numerous references in Mr. Edmunds witness statement to documents in the evidence bundle which look like this (#1234) or this #983 or this (#987-123).
Trouble is that none of the media have the slightest idea what (#1234) refers to in the evidence bundle. And the media has yet to gain access to it. For some reason the LBTH lawyers do not want the media to have access to the bundle.
Thing is that is not how the law works.
Not only must justice be done it must also be seen to be done. That’s what the media does, attend court and report on what happens for you so that you read those reports and you can see justice has been done.
Here’s an example of how this problem looks using a sentence or two from the notes Moley made in court during the hearing this week. The issue in question has been covered before in LW, we just use it as an example here.
The zero-hours worker who earned £96k
These are Mole’s notes of a very brief verbal exchange between Francis Hoare acting for Mark Edmunds and a former member of the LBTH Youth Service.
Francis Hoare: It is in [evidence] bundle two, the shiny claimant bundle, #1320.
Francis Hoare: You have that? Numerous allegations against you, leading to you not being sacked but laid off. The finding of the original disciplinary panel was that those allegations one, two, three and four were substantiated in April 2016. The report that led to this finding was (#1308) A draft report of 17 December from Mark Edmunds sent to Andy Bamber. Mark Edmunds identified that you were paid £96,000 over two years.
Interesting stuff huh? Francis Hoare is talking to the witness and as he does so refers to documents in the evidence bundle, here #1320 and #1308 are the references.
Mr. Hoare is referring to LBTH council documentation from an internal investigation that found that the witness in question was paid £96,000 in two years by LBTH despite being employed as a zero-hours worker. After an internal LBTH investigation the witness was not sacked but laid off and then re-hired by the Council a few months after.
The issue here is not how a zero-hours worker earns £96,000 in two years from the Council – the issue is the other very complex events surrounding Mr. Edmunds claim for unfair dismissal.
But you have no idea what the evidence bundle references #1320 and #1308 refer to. You have no idea because the media has no idea what the references mean.
If the media is blind and so are you.
The problem is, at one level, quite simple. The employment tribunal is a civil court. The evidence bundle contains numerous references to allegations of criminal behaviour. We know this because of the witness statement of Mr. Edmunds.
So it is a little tricky for the employment tribunal to release the evidence bundle because there are all sorts of really serious stuff in there. Well, allegedly, because we do not know because we have not seen it.
In August when the first part of the tribunal was heard the Legal Department of LBTH were dead against the release of the evidence bundle, proposing that they should be responsible for reducing the bundle.
Which is, as we have stated before, rather too much like allowing somebody to mark their own homework.
So now, after much legal faffing around, the proposal is the Mark Edmunds is given the job of redacting the evidence bundle. This seems sensible to us, let’s see what happens.
Maximum credit to Mark Edmunds for not breaking down in tears on hearing this suggestion. Mole would have.
So that is where we – and you – are.
With luck the redacted evidence bundle should be released to the media before the judgement is given so that the media can properly explain the context to the case.
This has not been possible until now.
The evidence bundle fills a couple of those wheelie type suitcases you can buy at Chrisp Street market. So even when Mole does have the bundle in his sweaty little paw it is going to take some time to read through it.
Still, something to look forward to for the New Year!
Related Internet Links
- Data protection and journalism: a guide for the media – Information Commissioners Office
- Jurisdictional guidance to support media access to courts and tribunals Criminal courts guide
- Open justice principle applies to all courts and tribunals, Supreme Court rules Press Gazette 30 July 2019
- Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring representing the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK – Supreme Court
- Civil Procedure Rules – Rules and Directions – Ministry of Justice
- Editors’ Code of Practice Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).