Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Double anniversary: Bates v Post Office settled two years ago today, first six convictions quashed a year ago today

Plus: more appeals declined

Morning all

It’s a year since the first six Postmaster convictions were quashed at Southwark Crown Court and two years since the surprise settlement announcement in Bates v Post Office.

None of the six Subpostmasters have received proper compensation for their false prosecutions, and as we know, neither Alan Bates nor the Post Office think the settlement agreement was fair.

I cover both events in my book, but if you want an immediate take, click on the links above.

I may or may not be on BBC Breakfast tomorrow with one or more former Subpostmasters talking about this and the latest developments in the story.

Select Committe oral hearing

Next Tuesday Alan Bates, Jo Hamilton, Dr Neil Hudgell and Paul Harry will appear before the BEIS parliamentary select committee to discuss the Post Office Horizon Scandal. This is somewhat unexpected. The inquiry started in March 2020, and I understood it was going to pause while all eyes were on Sir Wyn Williams’ Statutory Inquiry. Apparently not. At 10.30am on 14 Dec things crank up once more.

Most of those speaking will be well known to secret emailers. Alan Bates is the founder of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, and Jo Hamilton is a campaigning stalwart who was at the first meeting of the JFSA back in 2009. Her name was on the historic judgment Hamilton v Post Office, handed down by the Court of Appeal on 23 April this year.

Paul Harry is a former Subpostmaster, and Dr Neil Hudgell is the executive chairman of Hudgell Solicitors, who have been doing stunning work in getting so many convictions quashed.

I am hoping Dr Hudgell will make some comment about his clients’ quest for compensation. I have heard from other legal sources that the delay is coming from government, not the Post Office. This, combined with the government’s latest insistence that compensation for the 555 civil litigants is “full and final” suggests the mandarins at the Treasury have decided to play hardball.


Don’t for one moment think that many people in Whitehall care about the Subpostmasters’ plight. They’re playing a political game, and so long there is no public pressure on them to do anything, they’ll do everything possible to delay and minimise the Postmasters’ progress.

In this way, the government’s announcement of interim compensation of £100k to some Postmasters was a PR masterstroke.

Accepting, of course, the interim payments were very much welcomed by and necessary to those who received them, most casual observers now think that because of the judgment on 23 April, all campaigning Postmasters have got justice, and because of the announcement of interim payments on 22 July they’ve all got compensation.

I know it’s tiring, and thankless, and at times tedious, but as a journalist, I would recommend anyone who cares about this to keep banging away in the media. It’s what holds ministers to account and forces them to put pressure on own civil servants to actually do something.

Just by-the-by, as well as his work for Subpostmasters, Neil Hudgell represented the families of the victims of the murderer Stephen Port, and what he said about the police failings (on behalf of the families) in yesterday’s press conference was very powerful. It’s worth reading the full statement here.

Westminster Hall

Whilst Messrs Bates, Hudgell et al will be telling the BEIS select committee about their travails in getting compensation from the government, Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding a debate in Westminster Hall about the Historical Shortfall Scheme. This scheme was set up in May last year to provide compensation to Postmasters (outside the 555 civil litigants) who had been forced to pay the Post Office money for holes in their accounts caused by Horizon.

All but advertising how clueless they were as to the scale and depth of the scandal even by 2020, the Post Office put aside £35m to deal with claims to the scheme. It received well in excess of 2400 applicants with claims totalling more than £300m. It was this which forced Nick Read to admit that these claims effectively meant the Post Office was no longer a going concern, and that he was going to ask the government to step in.

I’ve been told most of the small value claims are being or have been settled, but there are delays for those asking for more than £5000. From my limited knowledge of parliamentary procedure, Mr Carmichael’s debate, starting at 11am on Tuesday, will require a response from a minister, so we will at least get some kind of statistical update, though when Peter Grant MP asked Paul Scully three written questions about compensation via the Historical Shortfall Scheme, Scully refused to answer, telling Grant: “While Post Office Limited is publicly owned, it operates as an independent business. Decisions on making awards under the Historical Shortfall Scheme are for the Post Office to make.”

This answer is deliberately unhelpful and possibly misleading. The government must have (or could immediately get) the figures Mr Grant was asking for, and it certainly has – at the very least – an interest in the scheme, because it is now paying for it.

Appeals declined

Two more Subpostmaster appeals were refused by the Court of Appeal yesterday, bringing the total to five. There is a pattern emerging.

The Court of Appeal has so far allowed all unopposed appeals on both grounds (despite resistance from the Post Office on ground 2), but has also refused to allow any fully opposed appeals. Read the full story on here.

Mark Baker ONRecord

Jill and George at ONRecord have continued to produce long form video interviews with various commentators and people affected by the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Serving Subpostmaster Mark Baker has represented countless Subpostmasters and heard hundreds of horror stories involving the Horizon system. For anyone wanting to understand what it’s like to be on the frontline, dealing with that shonky IT system (massive deficits, massive surpluses, hopeless helpline operators, dodgy electrical connections, duff pinpads, screwed-up label printers, duplicate back-end transactions, the lot) I would recommend watching.

Mark also takes several pot shots at the NFSP, including raising some worrying questions about its status as a legal entity.

It’s a fascinating interview and one I would recommend to all students of this scandal.

A review in the FT

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to those of you who have been kind enough to post comments about The Great Post Office Scandal on twitter. Thanks also to those of you who have posted reviews on Amazon (still 5 out of 5 stars). I am told they definitely have an effect on how Amazon’s algorithms market the book to its mailing lists.

I am now delighted to tell you that the book has received its first formal review in a mainstream newspaper. The Financial Times has put it in the paper today in its Best Books of the Week section. You can read the review here if you have a subscription, or you can pop out to your local newsagent to buy a copy. I hoping there will be more reviews in the broadsheets to come.

The trade

I am really intrigued as to how the book is reaching people (and how quickly). I realise most people reading this newsletter will have received their books direct from Bath Publishing, but if you did order via another route, or you know of people who have tried more traditional channels, it would be good to know how long it took and/or if, god forbid, anyone is still waiting for a copy.

Despite Bath Publishing advising booksellers to make large advance orders for the book, none did (first time author, niche publisher, tiny marketing budget, never heard of the story etc etc).

As a result, they’ve all been caught on the hop by the demand. Combined with supply chain problems, a distributor moving warehouse and the pre-Christmas rush, the response to the book from the trade has been disappointing shambolic. I dread to think how many hundreds of sales we have lost. Nonetheless, determined sorts have been able to get their hands on a copy – and it is your enthusiasm for the project which has kept me afloat in recent weeks. At this rate I’ll never break even on the money I’ve lost putting the book together, but I am glad it exists.

No picture gallery #4

Thanks again to everyone who has sent in a photo – I am very grateful. Do keep them coming – I’ll do another gallery in the next newsletter. This one is already a bit of a monster and it’s time to sign off and do some family things, starting with the weekly shop. Tonight I’m off to my brother-in-law’s annual pre-Christmas Christmas dinner, but driving home after so I can get up at some godawful time in the morning to take child 2 to her football match on a windswept wintry playing field somewhere in Hampshire. Thermals ahoy.

Have a great weekend, whatever you’re doing.


The Post Office Horizon scandal is available for £25 as a hardback and £8.99 for an ebook (or £30 for both) from Bath Publishing. Please click here to buy it. Alternatively, please do forward this email to a friend. Everyone who buys a copy of the book through Bath Publishing will automatically be invited to join the “secret” email list.

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