CHAPTER 24 – FAST APPROACHING TRIAL
The trial date was imminent and last minute discussions with D J Freeman to try to reach a settlement had been unsuccessful.
John and I were concerned that the case would be decided by a Judge because we felt sure that if a jury was to decide the outcome, as is the case with a UK libel trial, we would be much more likely to win. The sympathies of members of the public were more likely to be with John than with a multinational corporation, which had received a deluge of adverse publicity from its treatment of the Ogoni tribe in Nigeria and from the Brent Spar debacle.
As mentioned in the introduction, John was contacted shortly before the trial date to say that the appointed Judge, Mr Justice Laddie, wanted him to know that he was a participant in the Shell Smart scheme and wondered if John was still happy for him to decide the case. It was a tenuous link with the Judge being one of probably over a million motorists participating in the SMART scheme. The potential for a conflict of interest on that score seemed negligible. Indeed John felt that it might even be helpful that the Judge was already familiar with the scheme. What the Judge did not apparently feel it necessary to disclose was his link (if he had one – I have assumed that he didn’t) via chambers with Mr Tom Moody-Stuart, the son of the Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. If he had mentioned any such link, depending on the information given, John may well have decided to opt for a different Judge.
Despite giving his lawyers a charge over his home, John could not by that time afford to hire a Queens Counsel nor even a lead barrister specialising in Intellectual property law. Instead, on the advice of Richard Woodman, he retained Mr Geoffrey Cox as leading Counsel; a criminal law barrister who Richard said had a reputation for vigorous cross-examinations. This was felt to be very important bearing in mind that the day would soon arrive when at long last Andrew Lazenby would be in the witness box answering questions under oath. Geoffrey Cox was a smarter, younger and trimmer version of Rumpole of Bailey. John was mightily impressed with Geoffrey’s wonderful booming voice, ideally suited for Courtroom theatre. Mr Cox stood as a Conservative candidate at the last UK General Election and came within a whisker of capturing the seat at his first attempt. He became a QC (Queens Counsel) in 2003.
Lindsay Lane, a brilliant and lovely young lady specialising in Intellectual Property Law acted as Geoffrey’s junior Counsel. A number of pupils, including Fiona and Shamilla, provided support to them. Richard Woodman and his assistant, Jonathan Carter would also be in Court on a daily basis. John’s entire legal team were extremely nice people who believed in him and his case against Shell.
John had not been able to afford to retain expert witnesses on a normal basis. He had approached Professor Steve Worthington who is probably the worlds leading authority on loyalty schemes and David Christian, the Chairman of a security print public company, who supply loyalty cards to many major UK retailers. Both gentlemen knew that funds were tight but after reading the background information documents and speaking to John, wanted to assist subject to other commitments. Time was a real problem to Professor Worthington. He supplied written reports but it looked like it would be impossible for him to actually be an expert witness in Court. He agreed at the last moment to appear in Court despite knowing that he was unlikely to be paid for his time or expenses.
John could not afford to stay at a London hotel or to pay the train fares for travelling back and forth from Bury St Edmunds. He really had scraped the barrel just to get the case into Court. Knowing of his predicament, Richard Woodman arranged for John to stay at an apartment in Bloomsbury owned by his parents, who were abroad at the time. That is an example of how kind and considerate Richard Woodman had been throughout the long period of the litigation with Shell.
Click here for ShellNews.net HOME PAGE