There was stunned silence followed by audible gasps in the High Court when Matthew Nicklin QC read out documentary evidence indicating that the blacklisting firms had deliberately set out to destroy evidence of their illegal conspiracy. The unions UNITE, UCATT & GMB plus solicitors Guney, Clark & Ryan (working in association with the Blacklist Support Group) are representing 581 blacklisted union members in ‘group litigation’ against 40 of the UK’s largest construction firms, including Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier, Costain, Laing O’Rourke, Vinci, Skanska, Bam.
The procedural hearing yesterday was deciding on case management issues to be put in place before the full trial which is now confirmed to take place on 16th May 2016 and set to last 10 weeks. With directors of multinational firms and former undercover police officers set to give evidence, this will turn into a show trial for the construction industry.
The major issue to be decided in this week’s hearing was one of disclosure of documents to be used in the trial. The firms have repeatedly denied holding documents relating to the illegal Consulting association blacklist, despite invoices proving that directors of the companies attending quarterly meetings from 1993-2009. The told the court that to search for the relevant documentation would cost them £27million and that they had already provided a list of documents that they have found on their computers.
But Matthew Nicklin QC, representing the blacklisted workers from UCATT, told the court that the pitiful disclosure by the firms was “worse than useless” and that the firms were being deliberately obstructive. Nickiln QC then read out documentary evidence that showed that David Cochrane, director of Human Resources at Sir Robert McAlpine & chairman of The Consulting Association (TCA) when it was raided in 2009 instructed Ian Kerr (chief executive of TCA) to destroy blacklisting documents and to ring round others to tell them to do the same. The document was a hand written record made by Ian Kerr of a series of conversations he had with various industry grandees immediately after the Information Commissioners Office served its warrant. The relevant part of the note read to the High Court states that David Cochrane told Ian Kerr:
“Ring everyone – Cease trading – Close down – We don’t exist anymore – Destroy data – Stop Processing”
Later sections of the same note record conversations with other senior managers who say they have already destroyed the documents they held.
(full note attached)
Roy Bentham, blacklisted joiner from Liverpool & Blacklist Support Group said:
“The wheels of justice turn painfully slow but we now have a date for the full trial. In 12 months from today, I look forward to seeing those captains of industry being questioned about their illegal blacklist with ruined so many lives”.
Dave Smith, BSG secretary added,
“We have repeatedly called for jail sentences for these wretches who violated our human rights. If the destruction of documentary evidence is proved in court, those responsible should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and be sent to prison. That would be real justice”.
Other issues decided by Judge Supperstone
20 lead cases decided upon.
Application by defendants for further information regarding DWP and HMRC records for lead cases regarding schedules of loss.
Length of trial – 10 weeks
2 further hearings scheduled. Next on the 14th July and two to be set in October including a costs hearing.
Expert evidence. Professor to give overview and detailed analysis of earnings and specifically loss of earnings of the claimants.
Defamation, data protection, libel, slander, conspiracy cases are all in the mix for which criteria that will be selected.
Blacklist Support Group