Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Mr Bates vs The Post Office to kick off a big year

plus: More Serious Compensation Concerns

Hello,

How are we all then? Christmas break going well? Ready for 2024? It’s certainly going to be a big year in terms of public awareness of the Post Office scandal.

Firstly there is Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which goes out on ITV1 at 9pm for four nights starting tomorrow. The ITV press office has done a staggering job of promoting the drama, and the all-star cast (see pic above) have gone out of their way to use their profiles to raise awareness of the series and the story itself.

Some examples here:

Will Mellor on This Morning

Toby Jones on BBC Breakfast

The Times interviews the Mr Bates… cast and writer, Gwyneth Hughes

There’s also a piece by the Daily Mail which notes something first raised about the drama by the Popbitch weekly email. It’s basically having a pop at ITV. All I can say is a) all publicity is good publicity b) I hope Mr Crozier is called to give evidence before the Inquiry.

Episodes of Mr Bates… will also become available on the ITVX streaming platform presumably shortly after they have been broadcast on linear telly. Then on 4 Jan, after the final episode, there is a documentary called Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The Real Story, which will go out at 10.45pm after the news.

Although I was series consultant on the drama, I didn’t have anything to do with the documentary, but I’ll be watching it with interest to see if there are any new lines.

Speaking of new lines, Tom Witherow had an interesting one in his comprehensive Times article which came out on 28 Dec. He reported that Tom Little KC had been appointed by the Crown Prosecution Service to watch the evidence coming out of the inquiry with a view to possibly building a criminal case against some of the individuals (or, conceivably, organisations) responsible for so many disastrous failings.

50c7fb4a15da51a0e6a8a45818f91d445064b3e2.png
Tom Little KC

By 31 Dec (today), the line about Mr Little’s appointment had disappeared from Tom’s article. I asked around, and after speaking to one person close to all this, it is my understanding that Mr Little has been asked by the CPS to keep a “close eye” on the information coming out of the Inquiry.

Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. Maybe Mr Little hasn’t been formally appointed/instructed. He is certainly eminently qualified to advise on the likelihood of laying successful charges against the various characters who have come to the fore inside Fujitsu and the Post Office over the course of the Inquiry. Either way It is odd that the line about him disappeared from Tom’s article.

I certainly hope someone from the CPS is paying attention over the next few months. We’ll have the joy of watching Paula Vennells blame her legal advisors give evidence over the course of a few days, and we’ll finally get to meet Fujitsu’s own Scarlet Pimpernel, Gareth Jenkins.

Incidentally, an email to Paula Vennells from one of her vicar mates has come to light, after it was inadvertently sent to Ian Straughan, a Subpostmaster who has suffered more than most.

Mr Straughan can be a little intemperate at times on social media and there are some of his tweets I would not seek to defend, but his email to the Bishop of St Albans (cc’d to the Reverend Di Harpham from the Bromham Benefice – the same parish as Paula Venellls) in February 2020 was a model of angry restraint. Don’t forget this was shortly after the Subpostmasters had been vindicated by a High Court judge and passions were understandably running high.

Without an apparently thought for what the Subpostmasters had been through, the Reverend Harpham emailed Vennells to describe Mr Straughan as a “thoughtless cruel person”. She then disparaged his email as “badly written”. Unfortunately for her, she sent her message straight to Ian. It demonstrates the Church of England is no different to any institution – the first instinct is always to get behind its own at the expense of the abused. Have a read.

Compensation concerns

It pains me to report that applicants to the GLO compensation scheme (this is the scheme for the 490-odd GLO claimants who don’t have criminal convictions to quash) appear to be receiving small offers relative to their losses and the hurt they have suffered.

Chris Head is a former Subpostmaster and campaigner who has gone out of his way to be helpful, reasonable and collaborative whilst dealing with the government, the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, the media and his local MP Kate Osborne.

c649b3b0c088d9bd31fa8f9daf1015dd114b85e7.jpeg
Chris Head with Kate Osborne MP outside 10 Downing St in 2020

He has also worked tirelessly to help and advise other Subpostmasters.

Chris has just had the government’s first response to his compensation claim on the GLO scheme. It is less than 15% of the headline figure he claimed for. Chris has posted a series of tweets about this.

There is also a very concerning calculation to be made with regard to the total amount of compensation handed over to claimants in the Overturned Conviction scheme.

It goes like this:

The government published its latest figures on compensation just before Christmas (19 Dec). It noted that:

a) 27 previously convicted claimants have agreed “full and final” compensation,

b) the total amount of compensation paid out to those with overturned convictions, including interim payments, amounts to £24m,

c) the total number of people with overturned convictions is 93.

Here’s the concerning calculation. We know that most people with overturned convictions have been given the basic £163,000 interim payment. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that £163k figure is the maximum every claimant who hasn’t agreed full and final compensation has received. That makes:

93 – 27 = 66 x £163,000 = £10,758,000

This leaves the remaining 27 who have agreed full and final compensation to share £13,242,000 – an average of £490,444 each.

This average figure is below the £600,000 guaranteed to each claimant (minus the 5 so-called “public interest” victims) who has had their conviction overturned.

That seems low. It suggests that the end of the road for Subpostmasters who have been to hell and back, fighting every step of the way, is a relatively miserable compensation sum. Or that those who have been given full and final compensation were not hugely affected by their criminal convictions. Or they were desperate to settle and therefore accepted sums much lower than they were entitled to.

Maths really isn’t my specialist subject, though, so if anyone wants to check my figures before I make this issue more widely known, please do.

Podcast plug

Just a quick reminder that Rebecca and I managed to crank out two special podcasts this month. One with Ron Warmington and Mark Baker which attempts to answer the question Where Did All The Money Go? and the other with former Post Office minister Paul Scully MP, which I hoped would offer some insight on the inner workings of government. I’ve written up some of the key quotes from the Scully interview here. Hopefully Rebecca and I will be able to put together some more audio offerings soon.

Happy New Year!

Right, my wife has already asked me why I am working on a Sunday whilst we’re meant to be on holiday, and I am afraid I do not have a good answer.

May I wish every single secret emailer the very best for 2024. Whether you’ve been getting these newsletters since they started in 2018 or you have just joined in the last week, I am deeply grateful to you all for the support, correspondence, information and advice. It keeps me going. I hope the next twelve months brings you everything you need and more.

Very best

Nick


If you have been forwarded this newsletter and would like to get it delivered directly to your inbox when it is published, please consider making a donation to fund the journalism behind it. Anyone who donates any selected amount will be added to the secret email mailing list. This newsletter will keep you informed about developements at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry and the wider scandal. Thanks.

www.PostOfficeScandal.uk