As everybody knows, truly great baddies never really go away but always return for an epic sequel. This time, part two will be played out in the House of Lords, as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has decided to launch an appeal against the judgement previously won by CAAT and The Corner House.
This next fight will be premised upon the SFO’s claim that ‘public interest’ demands the case is heard by the highest court in the land. Judges Moses and Sullivan agree, whilst CAAT people know that the dark side is always defeated in the end, one way or another, and so are happy to have the case heard again. As such, both tribes are laying down plans for the what is likely to be the greatest fight the Lords have ever seen.
The preliminary hearing for the appeal took place last week in one of the history-addled, cavernous rooms at the High Court in London. Anyone is welcome to attend any such hearing unless they are specifically closed to the public, and finding this one open to all I went along to watch the action live.
The barristers for CAAT and the bad guys sat at opposing ends of the bench, facing the judges on their exalted seats, patiently taking turns to state their case and await the response.
The debate was anything but dull as the somewhat irreverent Judges Moses and Sullivan made witty asides to jolly up the crowd. After granting that public interest was a legitimate grounds for mounting an appeal, the court action shifted focus to the issue of who would pay for what. ‘Public interest’ then became a double edged sword for the SFO, as the judges pointed out that this surely meant that government coffers should fork out for the cost of the national good. The SFO fought valiantly against this suggestion, but didn’t really have a leg to stand on when claiming misuse of public funds – the very inquiry they halted was allegedly likely to reveal questionable use of our money.
By way of tradition, the judges ajourned the court and stepped outside to confer. But no sooner had they left the room they were walking in again, a decision apparently easy to make. It was declared that if an appeal was to go ahead on the grounds of public interest, then it logically follows that the government should foot the full cost of the case, regardless of which party wins.