• “She didn’t even have the guts”

    For obvious reasons I have spent many hours dealing with sacked and convicted Subpostmasters, rather than those still working. The evidence given to the Post Office Inquiry has come from both serving and former Postmasters. I am currently watching the focus group session on the afternoon of Fri 4 March – particularly because of some social media interest in what the Chair of the National Federation of Subpostmasters, Sue Edgar, told the inquiry about remote access to Horizon, the Post Office’s disastrous IT system. I haven’t got to the relevant bit yet, but before I do, I thought it was…

    Read More…: “She didn’t even have the guts”
  • “Good news” for the 555 “in the next few days”

    This scandal has been characterised by many things, but one of the most striking is the absolute relentless determination of backbench MPs and peers to hold the government to account. To my mind, it is a racing certainty that without consistent pressure from parliamentarians of all stripes, the government would not have made available £1bn in compensation to wronged Subpostmasters outside the High Court litigation settlement, nor would we have a statutory inquiry. That is not to belittle for one moment the excellent work done by campaigners, lawyers and other professional people who care about what happened or who were…

    Read More…: “Good news” for the 555 “in the next few days”
  • “They never want the truth to come out.”

    Malcolm Simpson was a Subpostmaster at Boxgrove Post Office near Chichester, West Sussex. Malcolm came to the inquiry on 24 Feb with his wife Lesley (pictured above). Malcolm and Lesley bought Boxgrove village shop in 2003. It had a Post Office counter which was run completely separately by the incumbent Subpostmaster. The Subpostmaster left in 2007 and although he was reluctant to do so, Malcolm said it was the “logical step” for him to take over. After inadequate off-site group training (during which Malcolm said none of the trainees could balance correctly) he was let loose on Horizon in his…

    Read More…: “They never want the truth to come out.”
  • Numbers Matter

    The number of people affected by the Horizon scandal is a question news editors used to ask me and journalists used to ask themselves when trying to get some kind of handle on scale of this story. This was in the bad old days when the Post Office refused to give out information and no one else had a record of it. Alan Bates from the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance always had a perceptive view of the likely scale. In our very first conversation in 2010 he told me the number of people affected could be “the high hundreds, possibly…

    Read More…: Numbers Matter
  • Recusal Top Dog Revealed

    One of the most extraordinary episodes in the Bates v Post Office group litigation was the Post Office’s attempt in March 2019, in the middle of the Horizon trial at the High Court, to have the managing judge, Mr Justice Fraser, recuse himself on the grounds his first (Common Issues) trial judgment was somehow biased. During the recusal hearing, which took place in April 2019, the Post Office’s QC, Lord Grabiner – a true legal Big Dog – told Mr Justice Fraser: “This is regarded as an extremely serious application to be making. It was made at board level within…

    Read More…: Recusal Top Dog Revealed
  • A Lot of Criminals in Society

    In 2017, the Farncombe Subpostmaster, Chirag Sidhpura, was sacked over a £57,000 discrepancy at his Post Office branch. Chirag’s case was taken up by his MP, Jeremy Hunt, and the campaigner Eleanor Shaikh. In a recent newsletter to constituents, Jeremy Hunt wrote: “In 2017 the tail end of one of the biggest miscarriages in British legal history struck at the core of Farncombe, devastating the life of our ex Sub-Postmaster Chirag Sidhpura and his family. “Chirag was accused of stealing £57,000 on account of a faulty IT system, just as Post Office Directors were gearing up to fight 555 ex-sub-postmasters…

    Read More…: A Lot of Criminals in Society
  • The Whites of Their Eyes

    Howe and Co sit down with BEIS officials to see just how serious the government is about compensation On 19 January 2022 a meeting was held between officials from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and three lawyers from Howe and Co, who represent 146 Subpostmasters at the Statutory Inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT disaster. The meeting had been called by Howe and Co on the back of some vague promises by the Postal Affairs Minister Paul Scully that he was going to “continue to work” with Alan Bates and the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance to…

    Read More…: The Whites of Their Eyes
  • The £1bn Disaster

    I recently got a call from a parliamentary friend – not an MP, but someone who works with MPs. He pointed me in the direction of a website I had never come across before. It lists grants made by the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS – which “owns” the Post Office) . The thinking behind the Subsidy Transparency Database is written up here. The entry I was being alerted to was here. It states the following: Subsidy scheme name Post Office Historical Matters Compensation Purpose Rescue aid Legal basis S103 Postal Services Act 2000 Subsidy type…

    Read More…: The £1bn Disaster
  • Read Admits All 736 Post Office Convictions Are Unsafe

    I am not going to attempt to rehash the entire BEIS select committee hearing earlier today as you can still watch it in full here and you can read the transcript here. If you want a blow-by-blow account you can read my live-tweets, carefully collated into a single, readable web-page by the brilliant thread reader app here. The news lines which came out of the sessions (in my mind, anyway) are: 1) Nick Read describing all the 736 convictions of Subpostmasters (prosecuted at a rate of one a week between 2000 and 2013) as “unsafe”. Up till now we knew…

    Read More…: Read Admits All 736 Post Office Convictions Are Unsafe
  • Post Office CEO in the Hot Seat

    The continued unwillingness of any Post Office executive, past or present, to be interviewed by broadcast journalists on the subject of the Post Office Horizon scandal speaks volumes. We hacks are therefore wholly reliant on MPs to do the job for us. Execs can refuse journalists’ interview requests with impunity. It is rather more difficult to turn down a parliamentary select committee, which has the power to summon people to attend. If someone refuses a formal parliamentary summons, they can be held in contempt. Being in contempt of parliament could lead to fines or imprisonment, but as this entertaining article…

    Read More…: Post Office CEO in the Hot Seat

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