20 May 2004
Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Secretary of State and the Lord Chancellor
Department for Constitutional Affairs
54-60 Victoria Street
Dear Lord Falconer
SHELL, MR JUSTICE LADDIE AND “JUSTICE”
I note that one of the aims of your department is to “empower citizens to obtain justice, safeguard their rights and participate in a transparent and accountable democratic process”.
Presumably you agree that a fair and just civil trial requires the following fundamentally essential ingredients:-
1. No intimidation of witnesses.
2. Compliance with the discovery process and no compromise of documentary evidence.
3. Ideally, an equal weight of arms in terms of legal representation.
4. Last but not least, an independent impartial Judge.
I would like you to consider whether the experience that my son and I had with the UK civil justice/litigation system could be viewed as meeting the above basic requirements.
From 1994 my son and I sued Shell repeatedly in the High Court for alleged breach of confidence and/or breach of contract. Shell settled our first three claims out of court. However senior management of the Royal Dutch Shell Group decided to bring every gun to bear on us when we brought a fourth claim (in respect of a “Smart” Loyalty card scheme) which eventually came to trial before Mr Justice Laddie in June 1999.
It is probably fair
to say that Shell had never come up against such determined, persistent and
creative adversaries. We mounted a multifaceted campaign against Shell which for
example included founding a Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group which over
200 Shell UK Retailers joined. We organised picketing of Shell HQ buildings and
Shell’s AGM by Shell retailers and Shell shareholders. All of our activity was
entirely legal. At Shell’s request, the membership list of the pressure group
was investigated and substantiated by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The overall situation became so heated that Shell displayed posters at the Shell Centre making defamatory comments about my son and me. We promptly sued Shell for Libel. We subsequently withdrew the libel action after receiving a substantial consideration (worth £125,000) from Shell: unknown to Shell shareholders Shell entered into a secret agreement to fund our litigation against them in respect of two other High Court Actions. The bouts of acrimony/litigation went on for several years. It is against this background that Shell adopted a “no holds barred” approach which included the use of undercover investigators.
INTIMIDATION OF WITNESSES & COMPROMISE OF DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE
During the run-up to the “Smart” trial, our key witnesses, my sons solicitor, and my family, were besieged by undercover investigators. The cast of sinister characters included Mr Daniel Wilson who falsely claimed to be a Daily Express reporter; an American, Mr ***** ***** from Paris, who travelled over to the UK to interview our key witnesses under the false pretences of being a reporter for The European newspaper (subsequently identified by The Guardian as being a “Spook”); a Mr Christopher Phillips, a supposed “director” of a non-existent company called “Cofton Consultants”; and an anonymous telephone caller who made threats against our witnesses and my family after establishing his credibility as a Shell “insider”. His credibility increased still further when actions he said were being taken against us by Shell subsequently proved to be 100% accurate in every particular.
By co-incidence or otherwise, a series of burglaries were carried out at the residences of a key witness, at my sons solicitor’s home and at my sons house. Key documents privileged and otherwise were examined. Thus the integrity of crucial documents was compromised. Someone found and had obviously examined (and no doubt copied) a privileged document which Shell had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain via an application to the courts. Kendall Freeman had stated that they would in any event obtain the document. After the relevant burglary Kendall Freeman made no further application to the court for that document.
A former Shell Manager of long-standing and high repute, Mr Paul King, was a potential key witness. Shell was aware from the discovery documents that he had made derogatory comments about Shell in a handwritten letter he sent to my son (on Shell letter heading) prior to his resignation from the company. Mr King resigned because he was thoroughly ashamed and disheartened by the unethical conduct of the Shell manager at the heart of all our claims against Shell. An agency appointed by Mr King had also made a formal complaint against the same Shell Manager, Mr Andrew Lazenby.
Shell tried to entice Mr King back on side by offering him a job in the Shell Gas Division. He declined the unexpected offer. After becoming aware of the undercover activity and subsequently being approached by Shell lawyers, Mr King became too frightened to give evidence on our behalf. He expressed concern on more than one occasion about his pension. Mr King eventually said that he could not recall anything relating to our case – not even the name of Mr Lazenby who he worked with closely during his last years at Shell.
The undercover activity had a similar devastating impact on other key witnesses.
Our most important witness, Mr Roger Sotherton, was shocked when he discovered prior to the trial that he had been a victim of an interview by one of the undercover agents, Mr ***** *****. Mr Sothertons Norfolk residence was burglarised in the run up to the trial and his documents examined. He was so shaken and frightened by these events that he and his wife decided to put their home up for sale because they no longer felt safe at that address. It was therefore no surprise that Mr Sotherton was incoherent and obliging to Shell’s QC when giving evidence in Court at a time when the disposal of the burglarised property was being completed. When Mr Sotherton did mention the burglary in relation to a question about allegedly forged documents, Shell’s QC immediately dropped the line of questioning like a hot potato. He obviously had no wish to focus attention on such activity.
Another key witness, Mr John Chambers, backtracked on important evidence he had planned to give after he became aware that he had also been the victim of an interview by the undercover agent, Mr ***** *****. Mr Chambers gave evidence in court but omitted the most vital aspect relating to the circumstances of Mr Kings departure from Shell.
Thus the evidence of all of our key witnesses was undermined and/or neutralised by the undercover investigators. In a systematic fashion every one of our witnesses was intimidated. That is surely fundamentally wrong. The same tactics were used against us.
Senior Shell management – including most of the individuals named in recent US class action law suits against Shell relating to the alleged multibillion dollar oil reserves fraud, ignored all protestations about the clandestine activity.
Only after “Christopher Phillips”, was caught illegally examining private mail at our offices did we corner Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman, and Shell’s solicitors, Kendall Freeman, into confessing that investigative activity had been undertaken on behalf of Shell. On 19 June 1998, Kendall Freeman admitted in a letter to my son that they had instructed Mr Phillips in the course of “routine credit enquiries”. In a letter dated 24 June 1998 to my sons solicitors Kendall Freeman said that the investigation carried out by Mr Phillips was in regard to the financial status of companies with which my son has been associated. They went on to say that such enquiries are perfectly legitimate as long as they are conducted properly.
Shell U.K. Legal Director Richard Wiseman stated in a letter to my son dated 9 July 1998: “The activities of Mr Phillips have, of course, been admitted”. In the same letter, Mr Wiseman deemed it appropriate to give an assurance regarding the physical well-being of my family and our witnesses.
Kendall Freeman in an obvious effort to intimidate, made it clear in correspondence that in fact a number of agents had been hired on our case – not just Mr Phillips.
Although Shell and Kendall Freeman denied any involvement with the threats and burglaries, they refused to reveal to my sons’ solicitors the brief given to the various investigators or the scope of their activities. The excuse of “routine credit enquiries” was of course absolute nonsense. Routine credit enquires can be made instantaneously using modern technology. Mr Phillips engaged in illegal activity including using a fake business card and a fake company. Why would anyone need to go “undercover” to make routine credit enquiries? Why did Shell refuse to divulge the brief given to its undercover agents bearing in mind the serious criminal nature of the events which were unfolding?
When the Police carried out an investigation at Shell UK’s London HQ in relation to the espionage activity, Shell apparently did not disclose its ties with Hakluyt, an organisation well versed in the same tactics which had been directed against us. Directors/shareholders in Shell Transport were simultaneously directors/shareholders in Hakluyt; a shadowy organisation staffed by former senior MI6 Officers which, as you probably know, many MP’s believe is a commercial offshoot of the UK Secret Intelligence Service.
In addition to the covert operations against my family and our campaign, Shell also targeted various other NGO’s including Greenpeace and Body Shop. Shell admitted hiring Hakluyt undercover agents for this activity (Sunday Times front page story dated 17 June 2001). Shell also allegedly set up and paid for a private army of 1400 Police spies supporting the then murderous regime in Nigeria (Mail on Sunday; 4 April 04: “Shell Chief had a private army”). It seems that multinational corporations use undercover agents supplied by firms such as Hakluyt because it makes them once removed from direct responsibility for any unpleasant/illegal actions which might subsequently be exposed. In other words, scope for plausible denial with blame being ideally attached to the intelligence firm, rather than the sponsoring client company/Country. This may explain the use of so-called “private contractors” in the interrogation of American held prisoners in Iraq. One such private intelligence firm involved, Titan Corporation, is the American equivalent to Hakluyt.
I believe that it was entirely inappropriate for Shell to use ruthless intimidatory undercover tactics in the course of legitimate UK civil litigation involving a small company and its two directors, my son and I. Kendall Freeman made it plain in correspondence that the fact that I am a partly disabled war pensioner in my eighties is immaterial. Indeed my sons’ solicitor accurately described the conduct of Shell/Kendall Freeman in bringing a £100,000 Counterclaim against a then 81 year old war pensioner (me) as being “petty and vindictive”. Kendall Freeman is in my experience an unprincipled firm useful to a ruthless company like Shell, or a hard nosed businessman such as the Harrods owner, Mr Al Fayed. They have a track record of being associated with dubious activities by sleazy individuals’ e.g. freelance agents checking the contents of dustbins in the hope of collecting intelligence/evidence useful to clients of Kendall Freeman (the Hamilton/Al Fayed libel case).
EQUAL WEIGHT OF ARMS
Shell followed a deliberate policy of draining the finances of a financially weaker opponent. This was entirely in line with a threat made in writing by a Shell solicitor, Nigel Rowley, to make our earlier litigation against Shell “drawn out and difficult”.
My son and I applied for and were granted legal aid. However it was withdrawn after the legal aid board received a letter from Shell making a completely unfounded allegation. My sons solicitor knew for absolutely certain that the allegation was untrue and an attempt was made to put the matter to Judicial Review so that the solicitor could give evidence. Unfortunately because Shell had timed its intervention to perfection the Smart trial commenced before the Judicial Review could take place. Hence we were both put at a further tremendous disadvantage when Shell already had a host of lawyers at its disposal.
LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN COURT
Shell had a leading specialist QC, Mr Geoffrey Hobbs supported by a specialist junior, plus the then Senior Partner of Kendall Freeman, Mr Colin Joseph, and a small army of flunkies. Our company was represented in court by a teenage dropout, Mr Nicholas St John Gill, who had no legal background or experience whatsoever. He never spoke a word in the entire trial except to confirm his name. My son was represented by a junior barrister, Mr Geoffrey Cox, who had no experience in the relevant field of law. Because of the sudden withdrawal of legal aid I HAD NO LEGAL REPRESENTATION WHATSOEVER despite the fact that Shell had brought the malicious £100,000 Counterclaim against me. Thus we were faced when almost naked of arms by the unbridled might of a multinational goliath which had used every underhand trick in its arsenal to prevent us having a fair trial.
I have become
increasingly embittered about the withdrawal of my legal aid after reading
reports of cases where legal aid has been granted. For example, the case of
Brendan Fearon, a career criminal with more than 30 convictions for burglary,
violence and other offences, who was granted legal aid to sue farmer Tony
Martin, whose secluded house was burglarised by Fearon and his gang. More
recently, there is the equally astounding case of the hook-handed ranting Muslim
Abu Hamza and his £250.000 in legal bills; a fanatic, who backs terrorists,
incites racial hatred and applauds acts of mass murder. Yet legal aid was
withdrawn on baseless grounds for an 81 year old war pensioner who served in the
British regular army for 12 years and subsequently as a UK Civil Servant.
AN INDEPENDENT IMPARTIAL JUDGE
The trial Judge was Mr Justice Laddie (Sir Hugh Laddie QC). During the course of the trial Mr Hobbs sprung an ambush in court and apparently with the approval of Mr Justice Laddie used outright deception in an attempt to entrap my son during his cross-examination.
Mr Hobbs said that a motorbike messenger was on his way from J Sainsburys, the supermarket group, with evidence, which by implication, would prove that my son had forged documents. In reality there was no such messenger and no such evidence. The charges were completely without foundation. The case was settled mid-trial.
On 12 November 2002 I wrote to Mr Peter Smith, the Clerk to Mr Justice Laddie seeking confirmation that Mr Justice Laddie had not personally known at the time of the trial a Mr Tom Moody-Stuart.
Mr Moody-Stuart is an intellectual property law barrister at 8 New Square. He is the son of Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, who at the time of the trial was Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. I pointed out the close connection which Mr Justice Laddie has with the same chambers. I also reminded Mr Justice Laddie that at an early stage in the trial I had supplied him with a letter received from Lady Judy Moody-Stuart (the mother of Tom Moody-Stuart). The dispute with Shell had grown so bitter and intense that Lady Judy Moody-Stuart had entered the fray on behalf of her husband, Sir Mark. Mr Justice Laddie declined to enter into any correspondence with me.
I subsequently offered to supply Mr Justice Laddie with a copy of a manuscript I had written. Mr Justice Laddie declined my offer. Shell did look at my manuscript and circulated copies to senior figures including Sir Philip Watts (the then Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group) and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart (his predecessor). Sir Mark specifically requested a copy for his son, Tom, which was subsequently supplied via Shell’s in-house barrister, Mr Richard Woodman, the Legal Director of Shell U.K. Limited and General Counsel of Shell International Limited.
The close linkage between Mr Justice Laddie and his colleagues at his former law chambers 8 New Square has subsequently become even more apparent. He is the joint author of text books written by barristers at 8 New Square over recent years, including barrister colleagues of Tom Moody-Stuart. The text books connected via chambers with Mr Justice Laddie (The Modern Law on Copyrights and Designs) and Mr Tom Moody-Stuart (Kerly’s Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names) are advertised, one under the other, on the chambers website. The text books are updated at regular intervals. It therefore seems more likely than not that given his on-going connection over many years with 8 New Square, Mr Justice Laddie must have known Tom Moody-Stuart at the time of the trial. If that was in fact the case should Mr Justice Laddie have recused himself from hearing the trial as he might in such circumstances have been subject to conscious or unconscious bias?
This is an important question as my son and I had staked our houses and everything we owned on a fair trial before a neutral Judge.
I also wrote to Tom Moody-Stuart on the same subject of a connection between him and the Judge, Mr Justice Laddie: there was no answer. I also wrote to his Head of Chambers, Mr Mark Platts-Mills QC: again no answer.
Is it possible that these three gentlemen have never discussed this matter despite the obvious interest displayed by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart on behalf of his son? Or is there a conspiracy of silence? If so, why?
I note that Mr Justice Laddie personally knows Lord Oxburgh, who at the time of the trial was a co-director of Shell Transport And Trading Company Plc alongside Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. Lord Oxburgh is now Chairman of Shell Transport following the forced resignation of Sir Philip Watts.
I wrote to Lord Oxburgh before the trial commenced bringing pertinent matters to his attention involving serious wrongdoing at Shell completely at variance with the core principles of honesty, transparency and integrity in all of Shell’s dealings pledged in Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles. Were Mr Justice Laddie and Lord Oxburgh acquaintances at the time of the trial? Probably not, but I would like confirmation.
Incidentally, since 1994, I had warned far and wide of a culture of deceit and cover-up deeply ingrained at the highest levels of Shell management. I put this directly to your friend and colleague, Prime Minister Tony Blair, plus every Member of Parliament, the DTI, Pension Funds and many other bodies. I also wrote to Shell senior directors including Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Sir Philip Watts, Mr Malcolm Brinded OBE, Mr Steven Miller, and Mr Maarten van den Bergh registering my concerns as a Shell shareholder at the danger to Shell’s once proud reputation. All of these individuals are named in the US Class Action suit being brought against Shell alleging fraud and misrepresentation. What a pity no one paid any heed to my warnings which have been proved eerily accurate with the recently admitted deliberate lies and deceptive at the very top of Shell. And of course I knew nothing at the time about Shell’s close association with the sinister Hakluyt organisation.
My son and I had not expected to encounter threats, undercover agents of known and unknown origin who improperly had access to our witnesses and our documents, nor the tactics used to stop our legal aid which put us at a huge disadvantage in court. Neither did we expect to be faced with a Judge who may not have been impartial and has been unwilling to answer a simple question relating to that fundamentally important principle – a fair trial before a neutral detached Judge.
It was only because of the strength of my sons Smart claim and Shell’s concern about matters being potentially aired in open court that led to a compromise settlement, although not the one to which my son was properly entitled.
For some unknown reason, to the surprise of Shell and my son’s lawyers, Mr Justice Laddie instead of rubbing-stamping the peace settlement which he had encouraged, decided to make some comments in open court which were in my humble opinion biased against my son. Mr Cox (now a QC) pointed this out in court in as muted language as he could muster despite his obvious anger.
Mr Justice Laddie also seemed to endorse the disreputable conduct of a Shell manager who deliberately deceived companies participating in a tender process for a major Shell contract. A heated exchange took place in court and subsequently continued in the Judges chambers (according to Mr Cox). It is my understanding that in the light of information given to the Judge which was unknown to him, Mr Justice Laddie backtracked still further on his comments and even mentioned that his Clerk had formed a different opinion to him about which principle witness had been giving false testimony. In this connection it is important to note that Shell offered a settlement in the middle of the cross examination of Mr Lazenby. They made it plain that their interest in a compromise settlement would end if Mr Lazenby was compelled to complete his testimony.
Contrary to the terms of the settlement Shell subsequently used the unfortunate comments made (in my view foolishly and unnecessarily) by Mr Justice Laddie to impugn my sons reputation with a third party company.
As a consequence my son served notice on Shell that they had repudiated the settlement. Thus the judges’ imprudent unnecessary comments torpedoed the peace settlement. The temptation to use the Judges Comments against my son had proven too much for Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman.
I have already on a website I operate publicly recognised the high reputation and integrity of Mr Justice Laddie. However I am surely entitled to seek answers to reasonable questions arising from the trial and subsequent information which has come to light and to criticise any actions or comments made by him which I consider to be unjust.
I have been warned by Mr Colin Joseph of a potential action against me for contempt of court. I did not appreciate that he could issue such warnings on behalf of Mr Justice Laddie and in any event my family and I have been threatened so many times by Shell and its lawyers that I am by now impervious to such intimidation. In his letter to me dated 6 December 2002, Mr Joseph even issued threats against me on behalf of unnamed third parties who as far as I know his firm does not represent.
I have enclosed for your further information a copy of a self-explanatory letter to Mr Joseph dated 14 April 2004 together with an earlier letter dated 25 may 1998 listing the avalanche of threats made against us by Shell lawyers and Shell senior management including the then Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Mir Mark Moody-Stuart. There have been countless further threats since then.
Speaking of Shell senior management, I note with regret the recent government appointment of Mr David Varney to head the combined Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise Authority. At the outset of our difficulties with Shell my son successfully sought the intervention of Mr Varney when he was a Shell Managing Director. I have the original letters from him containing materially false information (which Mr Varney knew was untrue). If anyone is interested, I have the evidence of the deliberate cover-up (the normal corporate culture at Shell), including tape transcripts to prove that Mr David Varney cannot be replied upon to tell the truth. It is therefore appalling that he is going to be placed in such a vitally important role where integrity and trust are essential. If Mr Varney had personally investigated our case as he falsely claimed, the years of acrimony may have been avoided.
As a free Englishmen who, some 60 years ago, was an non commissioned officer in the Royal Corp of Signals serving in Burma during the invasion by the Imperial Japanese Army, am I not entitled to raise questions which go right to the heart of equal justice in our country not just for the rich and powerful, but for ordinary citizens?
To summarise, it is plain that there is a lot in common between Mr Justice Laddie and Mr Tom Moody-Stuart. They are both associated with the same law chambers. Hugh Laddie QC had his law practice at the same chambers where Tom Moody-Stuart is in practice. They are both authors of different legal text books associated with the same law chambers and advertised on the chambers website. They share mutual barrister colleagues in connection with the text books. They both have an indirect connection with Shell.
Bearing in mind the wall of silence, I am surely within my democratic rights as a UK citizen to ask the following straightforward salient questions, the answers to which would bring some transparency into what is supposed to be an accountable process: -
1. At the time of the trial did Mr Justice Laddie have any pre-existing potentially prejudicial connection with Shell, the Moody-Stuart family, or with Lord Oxburgh? Mr Justice Laddie did make known before the trial his personal participation in the Shell Smart scheme which was the subject of the litigation.
2. Was it proper for Mr Justice Laddie to allow an attempt by Geoffrey Hobbs QC to entrap my son during his cross examination based on a totally fabricated scenario? Was that outright deception by Shell’s QC appropriate during a civil trial?
3. Did Mr Justice Laddie make biased imprudent comments when the trial ended prematurely following a settlement between the parties?
4. 4. Was it proper for Mr Justice Laddie in his comments to endorse dishonest conduct by Mr Lazenby (deliberate documented deception against companies participating in a Shell tendering process) on the grounds that Mr Lazenby was acting in the best interests of his employer, Shell?
5. 5. Leaving aside the issue of the Judges impartiality, does the overall background events I have described – the threats and the widespread undercover activity, some of which has been already admitted by Shell, not warrant a police investigation of a possible criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice?
Your comments would be greatly appreciated.
Letter to Mr Colin Joseph of Kendall Freeman dated 14 April 2004 entitled: “Shell Transport & Hakluyt Spy Firm – One and the Same?”
To view the letter dated 14 April 2004 click here: http://shell2004.com/2004%20Documents/emailcolinjoseph14apri.htm