Privilege to be waived
Whilst I was inspecting copies of The Great Post Office Scandal at my publishers in Bath yesterday, Sir Wyn Williams announced he had received a response from Fujitsu, the government and the Post Office on the subject of privilege, and it seems that in most substantive areas, all three organisations have agreed to open their vaults. I managed to bash out this blog post on the train home.
I have heard plenty about Sir Wyn since I wrote my report of last week’s hearing, and all of it has been positive.
One correspondent who worked with him said he was “highly regarded… I never heard a bad word spoken against him. This is rare because the legal profession has its fair share of backstabbers.”
Another who knows him even better says: “there is no way on earth that Sir Wyn will allow himself to be pushed around by any interested parties, or have his professional integrity called into question.”
Sir Wyn seems a fair man, but being fair when you’re dealing with people who don’t always play nice (and who have some dirty laundry to wash) isn’t always enough. I’m not saying for one moment that last week’s hearing was contrived to set up a headwind over privilege, allowing Sir Wyn to issue an ultimatum and then box the Post Office, Fujitsu and the government into a very public corner, but it had exactly that effect.
There is still a long way to go. In the excitement over privilege, redress (the major concern of the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance and many individual Subpostmasters) has not been dealt with, and of course accountability lurks in the background, but it does at least look like we are going to find out a lot more “who knew what when”, and crucially, what they did about it.
Scottish and Northern Irish Horizon cases
The Inquiry’s interest in Post Office-initiated prosecutions in NI and Scotland has prompted work by some diligent journalists, and it is something I am keeping an eye on.
It’s always been a difficult nut for me to crack as I’ve usually had my hands full with the Post Office’s activities in England and Wales, but some very interesting things are starting to emerge about the manner of NI and Scottish prosecutions and the numbers involved.
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, Karl at Computer Weekly has picked up on the latest development with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, and there is an excellent journalist, Janet Boyle, doing some digging around for the Scottish Sunday Post.
Tobermory Post Office, on the tiny Hebridean Island of Mull, was hit by not one, but two frauds by subsequent Postmasters just when the Post Office’s prosecution frenzy was at its height. They might both be bang to rights, and when you read the Scottish Daily Mail write-up, that’s certainly how it seems.
But it also reads exactly the same as all the other write-ups of the Subpostmasters alleged crimes before everyone realised these prosecutions were an affront to the public conscience and the Post Office had gone rogue.
Both these people seem to have had spotless records before turning to crime late in life. Maybe it was something in the air. Or the wires. As I say, curious. My thanks to the secret emailer who raised it.
I am going to attend both the hearings at Southwark Crown Court tomorrow and at the Court of Appeal on Monday and Tuesday. Tomorrow is the publication date for the book and I have lined up around 20 radio interviews, which I would normally be doing from home, but am now going to have to find somewhere quiet close to Southwark Crown Court which is open at 7.30am so I can finish my last morning interview at 10am and then dive into court.
Monday at the Court of Appeal is a little easier as I don’t have any commitments apart from a small launch party for the book in the evening. Please forgive me if I have not been able to invite you to the launch. I prioritised everyone who is featured in or helped me with the book, those who kindly provided quotes for its cover, and then media people, who I hope will be kind enough to spread the word about the book through their networks.
If you are a former Subpostmaster and you are reading this and you haven’t received an invite, please please please hit reply and let me know. You would be a guest of honour and I would like you to be there to witness the launch of the Horizon Scandal Fund, which will (once it’s up and running and has some cash in its coffers) be able to provide advice, help and grants to those who have been hit hardest by this scandal. I’ve tried to reach out to every former Subpostmaster I know, but if you’re sitting there thinking “what about me, mate??”, please get in touch.
Proof I have never done a day’s proper work in my life came yesterday when my back seized up after sitting cross-legged on the floor of my publishers’ house writing messages in and signing several hundred books (see below). Despite managing to avoid doing any heavy-lifting and doing little more than drinking all David (in the background in the photo below) and Helen’s tea and coffee, I found the whole process exhausting.
It also made me realise that years of bashing away at a phone and laptop has rendered my handwriting unrecognisable. If you do get a book with a message in, I apologise for its illegibility. Send me a photo of it and I will provide a translation service.
I am afraid the vast majority of the books I wrote in just have a bare signature scrawled on the flyleaf. It turns out seven hours isn’t enough to write personal messages to everyone. I am hoping to go on a little book tour early next year so if you want me to add further strange hieroglyphics to your personal copy, watch this space.
Amazon wants your views
I remain, of course, immensely grateful to every pre-saler and crowdfunder who bought the book – you should have your copy very shortly (e-book download instructions will definitely be dropping in your inbox tomorrow), and the crowdfunding element of the cash you gave me which wasn’t expended during all the Court of Appeal shenanigans earlier this year has been carefully conserved so I can attend and report from the Inquiry, tomorrow’s hearing and the CoA hearing next week.
I doubt I am going to do another Post Office crowdfunder, but if you do want to continue supporting my work, please do buy the book as a Christmas gift for all your relatives (there is an automatic 20% discount applied for multiple copies), politely ask your local bookstore to stock it and then once you’ve actually read the blimmin’ thing, do write a review on the Amazon website, even if you didn’t buy it from Amazon!
Apparently the more reviews on a book’s Amazon webpage, the more it triggers various Amazon algorithms. These algorithms then place the book in various Amazon newsletters and promotional spaces on the website itself, which gets it in front of thousands and thousands of eyeballs. I know everyone reading this newsletter is invested in the story, but 95% of the country either has no idea or only a vague idea of the true extent of this scandal. I am hoping this book facilitates a wider conversation, raises cash for good causes and persuades Mrs Wallis to let me write an updated paperback version when the inquiry finally concludes!
Thanks for reading all this way. Have a wonderful day and I’ll be back with a write-up of what happened in court tomorrow.
My book, The Great Post Office Scandal is published by Bath Publishing on 18 November 2021. If you would like to buy a pre-sale copy, I would be very grateful. For more information, please click here.