Plus – Flinders on Fire and full Nick Read iv
Last night, those of us looking forward to seeing the Post Office Inquiry get underway this week were surprised to see an email from the Inquiry drop in our inboxes.
It told us that due to the Post Office’s failure to disclose documents in good time, the Chair of the Inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams:
“is considering whether to adjourn hearing oral evidence scheduled for weeks commencing 10 and 17 July 2023, and instead call these witnesses after the Summer break; or to proceed to hear oral evidence from these witnesses, in which case he would not hesitate to re-call any of them if new relevant documentation was provided that should be put to them.”
I’ve just spent the morning watching lawyers for the subpostmasters make a series of powerful submissions to the inquiry. As a result of what they had to say, Sir Wyn has not only agreed to postpone the next two weeks’ oral hearings, he’s now considering postponing ALL the oral hearings due to take place this month until September.
Very serious, very quickly
Some of the language used by Jason Beer KC, counsel to the inquiry was devastating. He raised the prospect of criminal charges being laid against the Post Office or a named individual therein over their failure to get a grip with their disclosure responsibilities.
The hearing was also striking for the submission from the National Federation of Subpostmasters, which has turned on its paymaster (the Post Office, if you are new to this scandal) and gone full bore against it.
Don’t forget none of this would have come about had campaigner Eleanor Shaikh not used the Freedom of Information Act to extract the Post Office’s Security Team Compliance Form containing racist classification codes.
The Inquiry team had a look, and discovered the Post Office had not disclosed the form to them. Cue the carpeting of the Post Office General Counsel Ben Foat, the realisation the Post Office was involved in a “mechanistic” disclosure exercise and the subsequent Directions issued by Sir Wyn. The Law Gazette has written this up here.
All hail the Mighty Karl Flinders
Computer Weekly’s Karl Flinders has been pulling up trees this last couple of weeks.
First he wrote this excellent article about the evidence of Tony Marsh, former Head of Security at the Post Office whilst its false prosecution spree was in full swing.
Mr Marsh is another over-promoted postie who seemed to have very little understanding of, or grip on, his job.
In his piece, Karl lays out Jason Beer KC’s elegant dissection of the failures which happened on Marsh’s watch, which he seemed neither to be aware of or take responsibility for.
Yesterday, Karl turned his attention to the presumption in law that if computers look like they’re working properly, then they are working properly. Many IT experts, lawyers and politicians have been making noises about this dreadful presumption for years. Karl outlines the arguments here.
Finally, today, Karl has published a call from Lord Arbuthnot to have the courts re-examine ALL Post Office prosecutions. At the moment the Court of Appeal has turned down every appeal the Post Office has resisted, using a somewhat spurious definition of Horizon evidence and how “essential” or otherwise it might be to the prosecution case. Today, in Karl’s piece, Arbuthnot says:
“No Post Office prosecution is safe unless there is the clearest of evidence that the person convicted has committed a crime… All of the Post Office’s convictions need to be reviewed with the presumption of innocence at the forefront of those reviews.”
Read the article in full, here.
Marshall on Jenkins
A couple of secret emailers have got in touch to say that in my last newsletter, my second link to Paul Marshall’s longer submission to the Inquiry highlighting (among other things) the importance of Fujitsu engineer Gareth Jenkins was broken.
I do apologise. Here is the correct link. As I said before, it’s long, but it’s worth a read, and not just on the subject of Jenkins, but the Post Office’s failures on compensation, which are multitudinous.
Finally, a secret email exclusive – the BBC has kindly agreed that a fuller version of my interview about the Post Office scandal with the Post Office Chief Executive Nick Read can be posted up as a special “bonus” episode of The Great Post Office Trial series on BBC Sounds. As soon as it’s available I’ll let you know.
Thanks again for your correspondence and kind words and I’ll be in touch soon.