Bloody Sunday

By | 22nd June 2010

Some time in May 1998, I returned to my office from a meeting to find on my desk a three page fax (remember those?) from the Solicitor to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry asking if Eversheds would be prepared to express an interest in taking some statements in Northern Ireland during July and August of 1998.

The publication of the Saville Report last week has set me thinking a lot about what transpired. Having indicated our interest, I and a couple of other partners, a senior support lawyer and our Head of IT set about working out how we might respond to the opportunity offered to attend a meeting with the Solicitor and the Secretary to the Inquiry and leading Counsel.

Fortunately, we must have got something right as Eversheds was appointed to work for the Tribunal and so began a totally riveting period of my life which was to last, not the six weeks which had been suggested in the original fax but almost six years.

After publication of what is said to be 5000 pages weighing 45 lbs if printed out, I do not propose in this forum to add to what has been written elsewhere and by others save to say that, while the technology used by the Tribunal and by Eversheds will inevitably seem clunky and old fashioned with today’s eyes, it was in fact the first time I had been involved in a case with so much useful technology available.

I had always intended to write a short piece acknowledging the value of the technology as it explains to those who read this blog how I first became involved in e-disclosure and the like but it is all the more timely now having seen the short piece posted by Chris Dale on the subject of the negative comment apparently printed in The Times, see:  A meaningles comment about technology in court, 18th June, 2010.  Referring to the Saville Report Chris says, “The report included a quotation about the Inquiry’s use of technology: ‘without it, the tribunal would have had to be more focused’.”

You can see the rest of what Chris says by clicking on the link. By itself the comment appears strange and as the context is not clear does not warrant any further comment from me. For my part, however, I shall always be grateful for the opportunity presented by the chance to work for the Tribunal which included my first insight as to how technology can help busy lawyers cope with huge amounts of paper and electronic documents. 

Now, some 12 years later, I have no doubt that the work carried out by those engaged by the Tribunal to make their systems electronic was a vital tool in managing the process. As an example, to be able to show witnesses photographs from the day of the shootings on 30th January 1972 and to show them electronically was a huge advance. Of course, from time to time, we carried around lever arch files but it was clear to all that technology had and would continue to have a huge part to play in the Saville Inquiry and in other inquiries to come.

Now that e-disclosure is main stream, this seems obvious, but in 1998 it had to be demonstrated practically that there was an advantage in using the technology and personally, I am delighted to say that it worked for me!

If the writer of the comment in the report explains in due course what was meant by the comment quoted above, I will return to the issue, but in the meantime, thanks to what used to be Oyez Legal Technologies and Kelvin McGregor-Alcorn and his team.