I hope all is well with you. I’m writing to you from a hotel terrace in sunny Budapest, overlooking the beautiful Eiffel (yes that Eiffel) designed railway station.
Yesterday I had to give an introduction to the Post Office Scandal to a room full of European Vodafone lawyers. I have not been so intimidated since I co-presented a paper on media outreach to a room full of rocket scientists with Alex James from Blur at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (NB this actually happened – see below).
After my talk yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to Richard Moorhead from Exeter University and Paul Gilbert from LBC Wise Counsel give their perspective on what happened and the legal/personal/ethical things lawyers should be thinking about as a result. I’m frankly grateful that Vodafone’s top team decided to dedicate such a large chunk of their collective time to learning more about the scandal. I would become a Vodafone customer, but I already am.
Prepping for the talk pushed me back into thinking about all things Post Office-related and the fact I should be writing you an update. So here it is.
Paul Marshall’s letter to the DPP
Yesterday I published barrister Paul Marshall’s letter to the DPP. Mr Marshall attached to his letter the text of his speech at Queens University, Belfast earlier this year. It is a detailed, forensic read and I commend them both, as I commended them to Vodafone’s lawyers yesterday.
Four more podcasts since the last newsletter!
Recent guests/interviewees include Postmaster John O’Sullivan, Professor Richard Moorhead (him again), Paul Marshall (him again), former Subpostmaster Richard Hawkes and Dr Hannah Quirk, an expert in miscarriages of justice.
The podcasts are available just by clicking on this link but you can also find them on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, just search for Investigating the Post Office Scandal and you should find it instantly.
The Court of Appeal judgment explaining the decision to quash five more convictions on 25 July this year was handed down last week (thanks to Mel at the Post Office for alerting me to it and for providing the transcript of the hearing). The judgment is short, online and there is some very interesting detail in it. Congratulations to the five Subpostmasters who got their convictions quashed, and to Hudgells, who represented them. 81 successful Subpostmaster appeals have now gone through the courts.
New walking tour date
Last month’s planned walking tour of central London in aid of the Horizon Scandal Fund sadly had to be postponed, as our tour leader came down with COVID.
This was a shame as we were nearly at “capacity”. I am delighted to say that Ian Fagelson has recovered and we have picked 4.30pm on 29 September as the new date.
As there will no doubt be some people signed up to the previous date who can no longer make it, please do book a place for 29 September if you fancy it. All we ask is a minimum £1 donation to the Horizon Scandal Fund. The walk will be short, flat, informative and may end up in a pub. Active-wear is discouraged.
Horizon Scandal Fund
Speaking of the Horizon Scandal Fund, we are now recognised by HMRC which means we can take gift aid from donations. We are a whisker away from getting a nice wee portal up on our website which will offer a simple gift aid tick box for every donation.
David Chaplin from Bath Publishing has been doing some work on choosing the relevant online widget, which will also allow backers to give a regular donation, should they wish to do so.
We have a trustee meeting on Monday to dot the eyes and cross the tees and I am hopeful we will be able to formally announce our launch as a registered, hmrc-d, easily gift-aided charity this or next month along with news of a rather substantial donation made earlier this year by a lawyer working closely on this scandal.
I am acutely aware many secret emailers have already kindly donated to the fund, and I am grateful to everyone who has done so. You are helping a growing number of people in a variety of ways. By far and away the biggest need appears to be mental health support.
I know it has taken a lot of courage for some people to approach the fund and ask to be put in touch with a mental health professional who can help, but believe me it is something were are delighted to be able to do – it happens quickly and confidentially and all costs are taken care of.
If you happen to know someone who might want or need support or you feel it could be something which might help you, please contact us via the fund’s website. Everything is treated in the strictest confidence.
Post Office Inquiry
The inquiry is due to re-start public hearings in just over a month. Rebecca and I recently had a meeting to discuss how or if we are going to cover it. Both of us are keen to, but it depends on our other work commitments. I have an ongoing project which is going to be formally announced (and therefore ramped up) later this week. This is not great timing, I realise.
Speaking of Rebecca, Ms Thomson contributed material to Sabah Meddings’ recent Sunday Times piece which featured the first interview with Jarnail Singh, the Post Office prosecution lawyer. Mr Singh was the lead prosecutor in Seema Misra’s case. He was sent information about a bug in Horizon which would not have been obvious to an end user three days before Seema Misra’s trial started. The jury in Seema Misra’s case was told any bug in Horizon would be obvious to an end user. I have heard the source interview with Mr Singh. He struggles to recognise he has not exactly covered himself in glory on this matter. I hope to write more about this soon.
Shaikh’s rattling of POL
Eleanor Shaikh’s relentless FOI campaign continues to bear fruit. In August she finally got the Business department to tell us what Jonathan Swift QC was doing sitting in on a meeting between Second Sight and incoming Post Office chairman Tim Parker in December 2015. He was writing a report, which Parker then kept secret from the Post Office board. Read the full astounding story here.
Tour date cancellation apologies
Due to poor ticket sales, my production partners have been forced to cancel tomorrow’s book talk date in Stamford. I’m sorry to everyone who did buy a ticket. Full refunds have already been given. We’re looking at how the sales are going for next week’s dates in Sheringham and Sudbury but they’re looking shaky unless we can get more bums on seats. Norwich on 19 September is definitely happening and I am delighted to say that we will be joined by former Subpostmaster Ian Warren. The Norwich Playhouse is a big theatre, so if you fancy a trip to see us, we would be thrilled to see you. Please book your tickets here. If you can share the link with any Norwich based group of contacts you have, I would be very grateful.
We are learning lots of lessons in how to do this and how not to do this. Future events will be scheduled accordingly. Every event which does happen is, from my perspective at least, very powerful – not due to anything I’m saying, but because we get to hear from Subpostmasters who’ve lived it and because we hear from other people in the room who share their connection to the story or their anger or shame at how we as a country can be responsible for this disaster. The other good purpose it serves is that it spreads the word.
Right – time for some Coffee and TV…
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