Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Chirag’s story

Hello friends

Chirag Sidphura (pictured above) is going to become an interesting player in the Post Office story. He suffered a £57,000 discrepancy at his Farncombe branch in 2017 – after the closing date for applications to the High Court group litigation.

He was sacked but not prosecuted. Rather than walk away Chirag has continued to challenge the Post Office over his termination (despite there being no formal process for doing so) and is determined to get an explanation for the discrepancy. If one isn’t forthcoming, he wants his job and his £57K back.

The picture of Chirag above is when he first came to see me in my “office” at the Knights Templar pub just round the corner from the High Court. It was two days before the first trial started back in November 2018.

Chirag struck me as someone who was deeply committed to his shop and his community. He was utterly bewildered as to how he could have been treated in the way he described by the Post Office. I’ll leave you to read the rest of his story on the website.

Other news

I have been busy script-writing and starting interviews for the next Post Office-related endeavour, a ten-part Radio 4 series which is due to go out in late May. It is the biggest project I have been involved with so far.

It was why I asked secret emailers for tales of being interrogated by the Post Office’s security team. I am grateful to all those who got in touch.

I hopefully have enough contributors on that point, but I may come back to you with other requests as the series takes shape.

This project will have a different kind of texture to everything else I’ve done recently (the Private Eye special, the File on 4, the Panorama and the Inside Out South piece) and will hopefully result in a powerful series about what is still a growing scandal.

As the series develops I am particularly interested in archive audio – did you ever get a recording of your interview under caution – or record a conversation yourself with someone, a call to the helpline, or have a contemporaneous radio or television interview in your possession which tells your story. I’ve got most of the stuff I’ve made, but there will be plenty of other broadcasts out there.

With regard to the biffed Panorama, which was due to go out on 23 March, I am afraid it still doesn’t have a rescheduled transmission date. There’s no guarantee it will ever see the light of day, but I hope it does.

Inquiry or not inquiry

Thank you to everyone who has been writing letters to various authorities and forwarding me the replies. I have read a series of interesting responses from the Cabinet Office, the National Audit Office, BEIS, the Bishop of St Albans and the CQC. The latter two relate to Paula Vennells fitness for her remaining offices and the first three are about a proper investigation into the actions of the Post Office over the last two decades.

From the responses there appears to be some confusion at government level over what sort of inquiry may or may not take place in the next few months (if any).

It comes down to whether or not the government wants one and which department should pay for it.

Paul Scully, the relevant BEIS minister, is taking the public lead on this, but he is beholden to his boss, Alok Sharma, various senior mandarins (in his department, at UKGI and the Cabinet Office), the ministers and bean-counters at treasury and ultimately the Prime Minister. The eloquent anger of backbench MPs (I think) will only go so far, and of course, right now, the government is dealing with a story which makes Brexit look like a parish council discussion about bin collections.

I can tell you from long and bitter experience the key people responsible for the Post Office’s actions over last two decades have no intention of being held to account by journalists.

Legal News

It seems action is a-foot behind the scenes to try to help those criminalised Subpostmasters who now find themselves referred (or not-yet-referred) to the Court of Appeal. It will no doubt be a bewildering, byzantine process and I feel for those who have got this far and are now left wondering what happens next. Expect some sort of movement on this shortly.

We are barreling towards May, which means claimant Subpostmasters should start soon receiving more tranches of cash from Freeths. If you are a recipient, please do get in touch in confidence. Let me know what you got and if you got any explanation as to why you got the amount you did. The information I received on the day the emergency payments came through provided a very helpful barometer, so thank you.

And finally…

Thanks to the recent subscribers to this mailing list. It’s always great to welcome new secret emailers and I hope you’ll make yourselves at home. The continued exchange of information between us all keeps the website ticking over and the flow of content coming. That, in turn, generates wider public interest in this story. And the amazing thing about all this is that there’s almost always another dramatic revelation just round the corner.

Till then, bon courage, mes amis – and yay… it’s the weekend.


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