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John Scott: Beam Him Up

Former PO Security chief gives evidence

John Scott and some tissues

Hi everyone

It’s sometimes a little bit too easy to watch the Inquiry at home – listening along on double speed catch up whilst doing household chores or taking notes.

I wanted to be in the room today for John Scott – the Post Office’s former Head of Security, who (we were told at the Court of Appeal in 2021), ordered the shredding of documents related to problems with the Horizon IT system.

He’s already begun giving evidence – you can follow along on YouTube here.

ITV News feature 7pm – Wendy Cousins

All being well, a piece I filmed with Wendy Cousins’ family for ITV News will go out at 7pm tonight. Wendy was one of the three Subpostmasters whose appeal failed on 23 April 2021. You can imagine how she and her family felt as they watched the scenes of celebration amongst the other Subpostmasters outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

Sadly Wendy died last year. Wendy’s family have always maintained her innocence, but her appeal failed on the basis that Horizon evidence was not “essential” to her case.

Given what we have heard at the Post Office Inquiry from Duncan Atkinson KC about the Post Office’s prosecution policies and the letter sent by the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, there are concerns the Court of Appeal is applying a formula regarding Horizon’s “essentiality” which potentially stops innocent people from getting their convictions quashed.

It’s a very knotty subject, but I am very grateful to a grieving family for allowing me to come and film them, and ask about Wendy’s life and career.

The Pride of Alan

Alan Bates has been given a Special Recognition Award by the Pride of Britain Awards. Alan was the founder of the Justice for Subpostmasters’ Alliance and is central to this story in fighting for justice and eventually leading 555 Subpostmasters to victory at the High Court, blowing this whole scandal open. Congratulations, Alan. Read the full citation here.

First convictions quashed in Scotland

As well as five more convictions being quashed at Southwark Crown Court in September, the first two Subpostmaster convictions have been quashed in Scotland. William Quarm was one of them and sadly, he is no longer with us. Do read this moving interview which Mr Quarm’s widow, Anne, gave to the Daily Record after her husband’s conviction was quashed.

Christie’s 18,000 word record

Blogger IT expert and former auditor James Christie should be familiar to regular readers of this newsletter. James has put together an epic piece about the removal of Section 69 of the PACE Act. Section 69 (which stated that computer evidence was not admissible in court unless it could be shown the computer was operating properly at the relevant time) was replaced by a Law Commission legal presumption that if mechanical items (including computers, like Horizon) seem to be working okay, then for the purposes of the courts, they are working okay (I paraphrase, but that’s the gist).

This is a terrible piece of non-legislation. It puts the burden on defendants to prove that IT evidence comes from a faulty computer, which is quite tricky if the computer system is owned and operated by the prosecutor.

James has new information which suggests the legal presumption was made on a false premise. He writes:

“In order to justify repeal [of S69] the Law Commission misrepresented the sources it quoted and I have got confirmation of that from the experts concerned. These experts were opposed to the Commission’s recommendation. They rightly thought that a presumption of reliability was ridiculous. The Law Commission’s report and recommendation wrongly and dishonestly implied that they were in favour of repeal and the bonkers presumption.”

I urge you to read Jame’s piece and share it amongst your professional circles.

Incidentally campaigner and journalist Rosie Brocklehurst (who very kindly hosted one of my Post Office talks in Hastings earlier this year), has written an interesting piece for Labour Hub about Tracy Felstead and the repeal of Section 69. Tracy was sent to prison in 2002 at the age of 19 after being prosecuted by the Post Office. Her conviction was not quashed until 2021.

Hearing Neil Hudgell

To my shame, I have not yet found the time to listen to Neil Hudgell’s series of podcasts on the Post Office Horizon Scandal. They were posted up last month. Neil runs Hudgells solicitors and is responsible for getting dozens of Subpostmaster appeals through the courts. He has a clear grasp of this scandal and what it has done to people. Neil is an excellent speaker and I am sure all five podcasts are a fascinating listen. I will catch up with them as soon as I can. if you haven’t stumbled across them already, do give them a try.

The Great Post Office Trial returns

One of the reasons I have been quiet recently is the ITV News piece, the other is that ace producer Robert Nicholson and I have been working hard on putting together another 5 episodes (13 – 17) of the BBC Radio 4 series The Great Post Office Trial. The first ten episodes were broadcast in 2020 and were put together during lockdown, which meant we were able to give it our undivided attention.

Trying to put it together this time round whilst staying on top of what’s happening in the inquiry and all the other life and career stuff has been something of a challenge. We are busting a gut to get it right but at the moment we have no idea how good it will be.

Thank you to everyone who has agreed to be interviewed for the new series. We’re getting there. If you haven’t had a listen to the first 12 episodes, you can find them on BBC Sounds here.

I’ll post another newsletter soon with a link to the ITV news piece (if it goes out).

Very best


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