This Judge Took Nearly Two Years to Deliver a Verdict. He Forgot the Evidence and Lost the Trial Notes. Yesterday He Resigned; SLOWCOACH OF THE HIGH COURT IS FORCED OUT
Byline: JASON BURT;STEPHEN OLDFIELD
A CONTROVERSIAL judge who took 20 months to deliver a ruling resigned yesterday after an unprecedented attack by the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Harman, 67, had forgotten large parts of the evidence and lost his trial notes by the time he came to give judgment.
Three senior judges said his conduct 'weakens public confidence in the whole judicial process'. They ordered a retrial of the case of farmer Rex Goose who lost his house to a convicted con-man.
Mr Justice Harman eventually dismissed Mr Goose's damages action in the High Court against a firm of accountants involved in the property deal.
One of the Appeal Court judges, Lord Justice Gibson, said it would be a 'substantial miscarriage of justice' if the ruling was allowed to stand.
His fellow judge's conduct would be 'ultimately subversive of the rule of law'.
'A situation like this must never occur again,' he said. Mr Goose had 'lost a chance of success which was fairly open to him on a substantial part of his case.' At one stage the farmer was so concerned at the delay by Mr Justice Harman that he considered taking out an insurance policy in case the judge died before giving his decision.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, was said by his department to have been 'extremely concerned' by the slowness of the case.
Within minutes of the Appeal Court's 54-page judgment yesterday, it was announced that Mr Justice Harman had resigned from his [pounds sterling]112,000a-year job. He will start drawing his [pounds sterling]56,000a-year pension from April 20.
A relieved Mr Goose, 57, said: 'His departure was overdue. If this judge had been in business, his bosses would have given him the push a long time ago. I say, "Good riddance".
'This whole affair has taken up a huge chunk of my life. He took 20 months to deliver his decision. The Court of Appeal took just two months.
'There is a still a long way to go, but I feel I am coming out of a long, dark tunnel.' His wife added: 'The whole affair has cost us everything.' Mr Goose, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, inherited a [pounds sterling]500,000 farm when his father died in 1983. He decided to extend his operations to France and was introduced to Peter Bray. The two men formed a limited company with the idea of buying a farm each.
Mr Goose raised [pounds sterling]300,000 by mortgaging his property. Bray said he would match that amount by selling semi-precious stones.
But Bray, a bankrupt who had served two jail terms for fraud, had nothing and the deal fell through. Mr Goose lost his farm and was made bankrupt himself in 1987. He sued the accountants involved for [pounds sterling]2 million alleging breach of their duty of care. …