The red BEIS
I was once filming for Channel 5 News in a young woman’s flat at something like 5am as she prepared to run her first London marathon. I noticed the extensive number of empty decorative champagne bottles on her sideboard, many with candles in. I commented on her collection and she said “Oh yes well that’s the result of Champagne Tuesdays. Me and my flatmate decided that Tuesdays are always a bit of a drag so we decided to turn them into Champagne Tuesdays!”
I hope you are having a Champagne Tuesday, figuratively, if not literally.
Aapologies for the wrong link in yesterday’s secret email. If you wish to donate to the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance crowdfunding campaign to reach the £98,000 they need to ask the parliamentary ombudsman to investigate the government’s alleged complicity in the Post Office Scandal, click here. They’re not far off the half way mark with 15 days to go. It might happen!
I have been told that Chi Onwurah, who kicked off last week’s Urgent Question in the House of Commons, will be asking another question of Paul Scully about the Post Office during BEIS questions at 11am today.
It is only one question rather than a full debate and it is billed as a supplementary question to one about the sustainability of the Post Office network, but I am told it will be on the Post Office Scandal, so let’s wait and see.
This Thursday, Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom will ask a question of the government thus:
“further to the answer by the Prime Minister on 26 February, what steps they have taken in relation to the establishment of an independent inquiry into the Post Office’s Horizon accounting system.”
This will engender a decent debate and we will no doubt hear repeated requests for a judge-led inquiry.
Second Sight and JFSA say no
The issue takes on added urgency after Computer Weekly’s scoop yesterday which revealed that Second Sight, the independent forensic accountants who did so much work on the Horizon system over three years from 2012 – 2015 have announced they will refuse to participate with any review unless it becomes a full judge-led inquiry with the ability to: “compel the production of documents.”
According to another Computer Weekly article, the JFSA have already said they won’t cooperate with any review unless it is judge-led, which ratchets up the pressure on the government to do what so many backbenchers called for last week.
I had a conversation yesterday with a respected postmaster of many decades standing who was convicted of fraud and thrown in prison at the age of 55. She was neither a claimant in the civil litigation, nor has her case been with the CCRC. She’s only just been persuaded, in the light of last week’s Panorama, to make an application to have her conviction quashed.
Another man has come forward with a harrowing story to tell about being sent to prison back in the early 2000s over a discrepancy of just £1500. Working by himself, he has started to try to find out what evidence the Post Office had on him, by asking them. He is, of course, getting the complete runaround, and it doesn’t sound like he is being helped much at all by the CCRC.
Finally I received one brutal tale of a Postmaster who recently had a mysterious discrepancy with Horizon. From what they are telling me, the Post Office’s investigative function hasn’t improved much since Second Sight reported back in 2013 that they were more focused on “‘asset recovery solutions’ without first establishing the underlying root cause of the problem.”
Plus ça change.
I am hoping to make some of these cases public soon, but as you might imagine – telling me a story privately via email is a very different scenario to publishing, and many people who wrote to me out of the blue over the last week or so are making their first contact with a journalist after years of living with their own nightmares. It’s a big step.
If you missed it
Where the Post Office went wrong with Horizon – a superb series of blog posts by software testing consultant James Christie. A number of people have asked me for Mr Christie’s contact details. They are on his website.
Finally, those of you who use social media will notice an increasing and understandable predilection for using the hashtag #PostOfficeScandal rather than the rather outdated #postofficetrial.
I intend to retire, or at least, phase out my usage of the latter over the next few days. I am also seriously considering changing the name of my website to Post Office Scandal, rather than Post Office Trial. I have bought the relevant domain name, but I have yet to weigh up the implications. If anyone skilled in the Dark Arts has useful knowledge on that, please do get in touch by hitting reply.
Enjoy your day. More soon, no doubt.