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Location: Bristol, United Kingdom

Saturday, February 07, 2004

7th February 2004

We all learned, at roughly eighteen hours' notice, that Mr. Justice Grigson would hold a Directions hearing for the Fairford cases on Jan. 28th, at Winchester Crown Court. So, from the four corners of the British Isles - well, from London and Birmingham and Oxford, anyway, and from Scotland, where I'd gone for a different court case - we all converged on Winchester. Very little then happened. (What a surprise.) We had a look at our new - and third - judge.

Mr. Justice Grigson had, I suppose, a look at us - or at least took stock of our lawyers, as they made their various submissions about who would do what, and when. Some horse trading went on, about how many QCs we can have. (The answer is "two" - in rough terms, one for the Bindman's team of Phil and Toby, and one for Paul, Margaret and Josh.) And then - Mr. Justice Grigson (who made it clear that he's only the High Court judge on these cases because he expects to have some time free to start trying them on June the 21st), took quite a radical step. He ordered all parties involved to send him a calendar of dates, making clear when they are free for the five-day Preliminary hearing on matters of law.

This dramatic bit of social engineering will enable us to have the hearing some time in April - even in March, possibly. I am not being sarcastic when I say how grateful I feel to the judge, for this small intervention in our cases. So it has been cock-up rather than conspiracy that's been holding us back, all these months. I can see, now, that the sheer logistical difficulty of finding commonly available dates for three trials involving five defendants, four barristers, two QCs and a High Court judge who now isn't the one we had before Christmas, have made of scheduling a total headache. It's good to know this.

Everyone seems a lot happier since this last hearing. We have a better idea what the prosecution is up to. We have a judge who seems prepared to stick with our case to the end. We have the prospect of a date for the Preliminary hearing, and some idea of what issues it will, and won't, cover. However infinitesimally slowly, the judicial glacier can at least be seen to be flowing.

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