and a parliamentary call for Read’s sacking
It’s been a busy few days involving quite a bit of work and travel, so forgive me for not posting this until now.
I got a call yesterday asking if I’d go to Salford to sit on the BBC Breakfast sofa with former Subpostmaster Lee Castleton to talk about Sir Wyn Williams’ Interim Compensation report and the wider issues facing Subpostmasters. You can watch the seven minute segment here on BBC iplayer, 1hr 20m into the programme. Sir Wyn’s report is a solid piece of work, suggesting (among other things) more powers for Lord Arbuthnot and Professor Richard Moorhead’s Horizon Compensation Advisory Board and the abolition of the Group Litigation (GLO) compensation scheme’s August 2024 hard deadline.
Since publication, Sir Wyn’s report has received a significant amount of coverage.
Seema Misra spoke to BBC Radio 4’s The World At One. Noel Thomas has done some filming with ITV Wales. Chris Head was on Sky News at 2.30pm and Wendy Buffrey has been filmed for Channel 4 News tonight. I did Sky News at 1.30pm, BBC Radio 5 live at 4.35pm with Chris this afternoon and I’m doing the BBC News Channel (this time from home) at 7pm tonight.
Lee and his wife Lisa drove three hours to get to Salford last night and faced the same drive back this morning. Lee is working a night shift tonight. I know every Subpostmaster who contributed to the media requests will have put themselves out in some way to accommodate the demands of the broadcast news beast. I hope they continue to feel it is worth it.
Another notable contributor to the The World at One was Post Office Chief Executive Nick Read. It’s interesting the Post Office (after more than a decade of refusing to let their CEOs anywhere near a microphone) have finally decided to let Nick Read speak to journalists. I welcome it, for obvious reasons.
You may remember in the last newsletter I told you the BBC had kindly decided to post up the entirety of my interview with Nick Read, recorded with him at the House of Commons after the Business Select Committee hearing on 20 June. I’m delighted to say that is now live and part of the permanent Great Post Office Trial archive.
Sunday Times piece
On the strength of a tweet-thread I sent whilst watching the inquiry grind to a halt on Tuesday, the Sunday Times commissioned me to write a 2,000 word where-are-we-now article, which went into the online version of the paper yesterday.
There were two new pieces of information in the Sunday Times piece:
1) the reason the 72-year old Sir Wyn was taken ill in late May was due to a bout of pneumonia, from which it is evident to anyone who has seen him (eg in the video above) he still hasn’t fully recovered. Sir Wyn has three more days of hearings to attend this month. I am sure I am not alone in wishing him a restful summer to properly recuperate.
2) there has been a criminal complaint to the Metropolitan Police against Nick Read and other executives who received bonuses for their work on the inquiry. The complainant believes that by refusing to return the entirety of their bonuses relating to their Inquiry work, Read and his fellow recipients should be investigated for fraud, theft and misconduct in public office. The Post Office have acknowledged the complaint has been made, but I have no idea how seriously Operation Olympos (the investigation into criminality at Fujitsu and the Post Office set up in Jan 2020) is taking the complaint, as the police press office will not even acknowledge my enquiries, let alone confirm anything. If you are a journalist with more clout than me, by all means badger the Met for a statement. I’ve tried three times.
In my efforts to get everything the Sunday Times editor asked for, I interviewed and/or requested written answers from a number of Subpostmasters, lawyers and politicians. All came back to me with timely and thoughtful responses. I am embarrassed at how few quotes made it into the final piece. I am determined not to waste the information and opinions I have been given, and hope to publish at least two of these interviews on my website in the near future. If you spoke to me on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday last week whilst I was sweating on writing the best possible piece I could – thank you. I am so grateful and I am really sorry I could not get everything into the finished article.
Jones wants Read sacked
Kevan Jones MP, another member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, spoke in parliament on Wednesday at a debate arranged by the Chair of the Post Office All Party Parliamentary Group, Marion Fellowes.
It is set up in a powerful speech by Ms Fellowes with a very strong contribution from Tracy Felstead’s MP Lucy Allan. Kevin Hollinrake gives his response on behalf of the government and some important issues are ventilated. The most striking line comes from Kevan Jones who (along with Lord Arbuthnot) has been raising this scandal at Westminster for more than a decade. Mr Jones summed things up by saying:
“There needs to be an emergency situation and the current board, including Nick Read, needs to go.”
The criminal hares are running
As well as the new police complaint against Nick Read et al, and the ongoing investigation into historic criminality at Fujitsu and the Post Office, the Inquiry has now raised the threat of criminal sanction if the Post Office fails to (without reasonable excuse) hand over all relevant documents.
As we discovered on Tuesday, the Post Office’s failure to properly look for relevant documents has put a spanner in the public inquiry’s works. Sir Wyn has clearly had enough. On Friday he laid out some Further Directions to his previous Stern Bollocking stating that he need to “guard against” the possibility that some person or persons at the Post Office might be “unwilling” to hand over incriminating documentation.
This was written up by:
Karl at Computer Weekly “Horizon inquiry chief threatens Post Office with ‘criminal sanctions’ over disclosure failures“
The Daily Telegraph: “Post Office will face ‘criminal sanctions’ if it causes inquiry delays“
… among others.
The Podcast is back!
I am delighted to tell you that Rebecca Thomson (the journalist who broke this story in Computer Weekly in 2009) and I are planning to record a new episode of Investigating the Post Office Scandal tomorrow. We have been partly inspired to return by the deposit in my account of $99, which represents our share of the advertising revenue from our podcast. This revenue (a whopping $3.20 per episode, or £1.22 each) covers all 31 episodes we have made so far.
Digital media. It’s the future, I tells ya.
If all goes well a freshly-baked episode should be dropping in your inbox tomorrow evening.
Thank you once again for your contributions which power the prodigal pod, this newsletter and the postofficescandal.uk website. I’m on TalkTV tomorrow morning at 8.30am talking again about this story and then again on TalkTV on Jeremy Kyle’s show at 7pm for what I hope will be a longer slot.
Until next time,