Sam Harrison, former Nawton Postmaster
Sam Harrison was a Subpostmaster in Nawton, North Yorkshire. She was suspended and sacked in the early 2000s over a discrepancy at her tiny one-counter branch.
Sam was one of the 555 claimants in Bates v Post Office. Sadly she died earlier this month after a three year battle with cancer. Sam was 54 years old. She is pictured below. She is the 61st compensation claimant we know about who has died waiting for appropriate compensation from the government or Post Office for the wrongs meted out to them over the last 23 years.
One of Sam’s three sons, Will, got in touch last week. We have been liaising since. I posted this piece on the postofficescandal.uk website, which includes a touching tribute from Will’s younger brother, Charlie. I am grateful to the Harrison family for making contact.
Will also spoke to Tom Witherow at The Times. You can read that piece here.
The Burton Report
We were all rather hoping the Burton report would be published by now. It was ordered by Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister, to be delivered on 26 May, after it transpired the Post Office had proposed bonuses for co-operating with the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry and then awarded itself those bonuses based on a falsehood published in its annual report. I am told the Burton report has been completed and passed to the minister, who is reading it this weekend.
I am pushing the Business Department to try to find out when we are going to get eyes on it. I can’t imagine that won’t be next week, but you never know.
Eleanor Shaikh (pictured above with her former local Subpostmaster, Chirag – a man with his own extraordinary story to tell) is an extraordinary campaigner who works quietly behind the scenes to help Subpostmasters where she can. Her FOI game is second to none. The documents she unearths from the government and Post Office are extremely valuable. These documents are not given up lightly. At times, I can attest, it is like pulling teeth.
Eleanor, nonetheless, never gives up. She remains patient and polite, but she is relentless, diligent, and when she uncovers useful information, she passes it on to journalists and other professionals to publicise as we see fit. Even if we are unable to do anything with the document, all of them are published via the superb What Do They Know? website, so they sit there in the public domain for anyone to read and use.
Eleanor does this without request for a credit or acknowledgment. Her service to public awareness of this scandal is invaluable, and when I get an email from Eleanor, I pay attention.
On Friday, Eleanor emailed to let me know about a couple of interesting documents she’d unearthed.
One was a KPMG report into the Post Office’s suspense accounts which looks very much like the Ismay report – designed to rebut certain allegations and give the Post Office board false comfort.
The other was the document which went viral on twitter, leaving many of its readers open-mouthed. It is the Post Office Security Operations Team Case Compliance instruction form for when they come across Subpostmasters they consider suspects.
The form requires investigators to use an “Identification Code” for each suspect Subpostmaster. This is a racial identification code. There are six “types”, including “White Skinned European Tyes”, “Dark Skinned European Types” and “Negroid Types”.
This document was in use in 2008 and may have been used more recently. In publishing the document the Post Office apologised for the unacceptable language. In a reply to my tweet publicising Eleanor’s find, the Post Office acknowledged it was racist (the first time i can recall them ever acknowledging one of my tweets), and by yesterday had launched an investigation. You can read more in my blog post here, or you can read today’s Sunday Times piece which I wrote when I had hoped to be putting together this newsletter!
There have been a lot more reports about the document all over the media, as a quick google seaarch will reveal, so forgive me for not listing them all here.
After toiling away for many months and eventually coming up with a solution which involved using AI, the postofficescandal.uk Master of the Dark Arts and secret emailer Andrew Neale has come up with a way of given paid-for content away for free! Trebles all round!
Allow me to explain. I have always put quite a bit of context and extra content in these secret emails, some of which I think might be of use if it were made searchable and published somewhere.
This is exactly what Andrew has cast a spell (sorry, written a programme) to do. Every secret email which is six months or older now sits on its own very special page on postofficescandal.uk, going back to when they started in 2018. This hopefully preserves the value that secret email subscribers get in receiving newsletters as they drop whilst also making them available as a free resource for anyone who wants to know what I was thinking about and linking to during the litigation, recusal, court of appeal hearing and subsequent shenanigans.
This body of work, and Andrew’s extraordinarily diligent effort in making it happen would not be possible without you. Your donations created the Secret Email, and have allowed me to a) pay Andrew some money and b) continue writing newsletters to this day.
Andrew has never asked for anything like the going rate for his superb work, I simply give him some cash when the crowdfunding pot is full enough to make it feasible. Like Eleanor, he is another quiet star working in the background to get more information about the Post Office scandal into the public domain. I know there are many more of you reading this email doing exactly the same in your own fields of endeavour. It doesn’t make up for what happened, but it does give us all comfort to know there are some good people out there.
A final plug for False Accounts, the play, which is being re-staged for a five day, six show run at the OSO Arts Theatre in Barnes West London, starting this Tuesday.
I spoke to Lance Nielsen (the playwright) last night and he told me he had been rehearsing with the cast when the news about the Post Office’s compliance form came through. They’ve managed to work it into the script. Tickets are selling well, but there’s still around 30% capacity in all shows, so if you want to go along, you can book here. I have nothing to do with the play whatsoever, but had a great evening when I went to see it last year.
Sir Wyn is unwell
Phase 4 of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry was due to start next month, but on Friday we heard Sir Wyn Williams, the retired judge who chairs the inquiry, had been “taken ill“. Phase 4 has now been pushed back to July and will take place either side of the summer break. I am sure there will be many people wishing Sir Wyn well and hoping he recovers soon.
It would not be a secret email newsletter without offering my thanks to all the new subscribers who have been signing up recently. I am glad you found us, you are very welcome here. If you ever want to send me a personal email with an observation, or information or just want to say hi and tell me how you became interested in this story – people often do have a personal connection – please just hit reply to one of these newsletters. Every response lands directly in my email inbox. All correspondence is dealt with in absolute confidence. Apologies if I cannot reply personally to everyone, it can get a bit hectic at times.
Enjoy the rest of the bank holiday weekend!