Settlement news and quite a bit more…
Good morning. I was up and at ’em on the 0555 Walton to Waterloo commuter rocket this morning to to talk to Vanessa Feltz on BBC London about the Post Office story.
When I last went on I recommended the programme get in touch with Peter (not his real name) who ran a Post Office in London many moons ago. Peter ended up being sent to prison, and suffered horribly as a result.
I met Peter at the High Court during the first trial in the Bates v Post Office group litigation. He sat on his own at the back of the court and didn’t talk to anyone in the breaks.
I guessed he was a claimant and introduced myself. Peter was the loveliest man and one of the gentlest souls I think I’ve ever met. He hadn’t been involved in the campaign leading up to the court case and had only found he wasn’t alone in experiencing problems with Horizon when he saw the Panorama in 2015.
I asked Peter if he would consider telling his story, and though he was very polite he was quite adamant he couldn’t. I could tell Peter’s experience still remained deeply personal to him and his reluctance to go public was understandable. Many members of his own family weren’t aware he’d been to prison.
We agreed to stay in touch.
Shortly after the litigation settlement I was approached by BBC London to go on the radio to speak about what happened in the court case. They asked if I knew any claimants who had a Post Office in London. I did. Peter.
So I called him up, asked him again and he graciously agreed to take part in a phone interview with Vanessa. The result was a harrowing and moving piece of radio. I can’t imagine what it took to allow himself to make that decision, but he told me afterwards he felt it was worth it.
Peter came on again today and was very articulate about his situation. I was able to tell Vanessa that Freeths, the solicitors who brought the group litigation on behalf of the claimants, are hoping to make the first payments from December’s settlement in the first half of April. They told me “the apportionment exercise is complex so it has taken some time, given the number of claimants.”
Seema and Jo have ’em for (BBC) Breakfast
At the exact same time Peter and I were on BBC London this morning, Jo Hamilton and Seema Misra were talking to Dan Walker and Louise Minchin on BBC Breakfast on BBC1.
Seema and Jo featured in my first ever BBC piece back in 2011 and we went deep into their stories for the 2015 Panorama. Whilst it is obviously great to see the mainstream attention they are getting in 2020, it is extraordinary that right now both still have criminal convictions and neither have received a penny in recompense for what they were put through.
I’m looking forward to watching their interviews on the BBC Breakfast sofa back when I get a bit of free time this afternoon.
I’m grateful to Maria the secret emailer for taking a photo of her TV screen this morning to provide us with the snaps!
Postmaster petition goes to Downing Street
Chris Head, who has organised a very effective campaign for an indpendent inquiry into the Post Office scandal will today, alongside his MP and other campaigners, hand in a petition to Downing Street. The official handover time is at 3.30pm. Chris is gathering the troops on Whitehall from 3pm. I have said I will try to be there to take some snaps for the blog, but Chris tells me the BBC and ITV News will be there in some capacity to record it for posterity.
As well as running an extraordinary social media campaign, Chris actually went out with several thousand flyers, pounding the pavement close to where he lives in order to raise awareness of the petition and the Subpostmasters’ campaign. He said the t-shirt below is what he wore whilst doing it. It’ll be a collectors’ item one day…!
Parliamentary activity part 10
There are two debates taking place at the Palace of Westminster tomorrow. One is at the House of Lords, initiated by Lord Arbuthnot. The other is in Westminster Hall, initiated by Lucy Allan MP. The government response in each debate will be crucial. Last week the Prime Minister at PMQs agreed with Kate Osborne MP that an independent inquiry should take place into what has been happening over the last 20 years. If he meant that, we should hear exactly how the government proposes any inquiry should be structured and when it might take place.
Select Committee inquiry is officially go
Further to the heads up I gave you in Sunday’s secret email, I can tell you there will be a BEIS select committee inquiry into the Post Office which will sit on both 10 and 24 March.
The sitting on 10 March (that’s next Tuesday for anyone wondering where this year has already gone) will hear from Wendy Buffrey and Tracy Felstead. Wendy is a former Subpostmaster who was advised to plead guilty to false accounting and now has a criminal record as a result (read her story here) and Tracy Felstead is a former post office counter worker who refused to plead guilty to anything and was convicted of theft by a jury and sent to prison. Both were prosecuted on Horizon evidence by the Post Office. Both have their cases lodged at the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Also taking part in the hearing is Alan Bates, lead claimant in Bates v Post Office and founder of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, reprising his role in the inquiry in 2015 (with a LOT more to say, no doubt).
I understand there will also be contributions from Andy Furey at the CWU and Calum Greenhow at the NFSP.
Media round up
Yesterday the Daily Mail printed a piece which may well have been the reason I was called by TalkRadio and BBC London to go on their radio shows. I just happened to be filming with Seema Misra yesterday (see pic taken by Davinder Misra below) so I handed the phone to her and she gave her story to Kevin O’Sullivan.
There is a superb piece published by Tony Collins on his blog which would be a great crib sheet for any MP reading this ahead of tomorrow’s debate.
I have also just taken a call from a TV production company who are trying to turn this story into a drama-doc. Now, that would be interesting…
Once more thanks again to everyone who tells me anything about this story in whatever capacity. Please never think there is something I would already know – I am entirely reliant on the people involved to tell me what is going on and if everyone assumes I know what’s happening, I won’t know anything. Please keep the information coming – something you think might be trivial could be crucial. Documents always help, too!
I am also so grateful to everyone who has recently donated to the crowdfunding pot. Welcome to the ranks of the secret emailers – a growing and influential bunch.
Please please do not donate again if you’ve already done so. I’m seeing a few repeat offenders, and whilst I am extremely grateful to you for the gesture and your generosity, I am managing to do all my blog posts and secret emails in and around other work at the moment, so I really don’t need the money. New subscribers, however, are always welcome, so please do keep forwarding this email to anyone who you think would be interested.
Have a great day.