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Co-op judge 'invented' evidence in ICL case

Bill Goodwin
The Co-operative Group, one of the UK's largest retailers, is to press for a retrial following allegations that a senior technology judge "invented" evidence during a disastrous £11m court battle with ICL.

The company has filed a petition to appeal against the ruling by judge Richard Seymour, who accused Co-op IT staff of lying in court in a conspiracy to bring about the downfall of the supplier.

The judge ordered the Co-op to pay ICL £1m in compensation in January after deciding that the retailer did not have a valid contract with ICL for the delivery of a point of sale system which ran into difficulties.

However, in documents lodged in support of the application for leave to appeal, the retailer claimed the judge constructed an elaborate conspiracy to explain the actions of Co-op staff on an issue that neither side had raised in court.

"This allegation emerged for the first time in the judgement. It had not been suggested to anyone at the time of the trial. It was certainly not any part of ICL's case and they must have been as surprised as Co-op when it came along," said Co-op barrister, Richard Mawrey.

The retailer claimed the judge took a "perverse" view of written evidence presented by the Co-op, ignored inconvenient documents, construed others in a way contrary to their meaning, and decided that others had not been made in good faith, even though this did not form part of ICL's case.

The Co-op also claimed the judge made a mistake in law by ruling that it did not have a valid contract with ICL - a point that ICL did not raise in evidence.

"We criticise the conduct of the trial. We criticise the case management of the trial, and the effect on pleading. We criticise the approach to evidence - areas of factual evidence ignored or disregarded and what we describe as inventing evidence," said Mawrey.

Allan Watton, an independent legal IT consultant at Best Practice Group, who has examined transcripts of the case for Computer Weekly, said, "The judgement appears to be fundamentally flawed. It does not correctly reflect the evidence put forward in the transcripts and seems to introduce what is effectively new evidence."

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