Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Sir Wyn’s Post Office Horizon IT inquiry to get powers to cross-examine witnesses under oath

Wyn Win – Scully to reverse ferret

Sky News today broke an exclusive that other journalists, campaigners and even MPs on the hop.

According to “Whitehall sources“, the Business minister Paul Scully will tomorrow announce to the House of Commons that Sir Wyn Williams Post Office Horizon IT inquiry will be given statutory powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and be cross-examined under oath.

This is what the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance, MPs and many others have been campaigning for for months.

The JFSA has boycotted the inquiry on grounds of its limited scope and lack of statutory powers. I would hope this change to the latter has been done in consultation with the JFSA, which might explain why Alan Bates has been a bit quiet recently, but we’ll see. Bates has not responded to my request for comment thus far. It will be interesting to see if the JFSA does now agree to co-operate or whether it will wait to see if and how the scope of the inquiry changes before committing.

You can read the reaction from some of the other interested parties on here. I am particularly delighted for Chris Head, the former Subpostmaster and High Court claimant who took a petition to Downing Street calling for a proper inquiry in March last year. (He was accompanied by his MP, Kate Osborne, who was promptly struck down with coronavirus – I am glad to say she seems to have made a full recovery). Chris is quoted in my piece, as is Lord Arbuthnot, Chi Onwurah and Kevan Jones MP.

Wynning the argument

Oh the puns. The reason given in the Sky piece for the government making the inquiry statutory is apparently because Sir Wyn Williams approached Kwasi Kwarteng, the BEIS Secretary (and Paul Scully’s boss) and asked him to.

I suspect (if that is true – Sir Wyn refused to comment tonight) it was was the final talent to tip the scales. Sir Wyn’s approach gave the government a reason to do it which didn’t just look like it was caving in to pressure.

But there’s no doubt that pressure has been immense – the voices of Subpostmasters on social media and their letters to MPs, the MPs themselves and their fellow parliamentary peers, the sheer number of FOI inquiries made by journalists and campaigners, the recent avalanche of written questions to Mr Scully from MPs and of course, let’s not forget the stunning ruling from the Court of Appeal. I suspect the upgrading of inquiry would not have happened were it not for the CoA deciding Horizon prosecutions were an affront to the public conscience. It was an impressive legal feat to get that over the line.

What happens now?

Well that is the million-dollar question. All eyes will be on Minister Scully tomorrow afternoon as he sets out the timescale, scope and technical specification of rocket-boosters he is about to tie to Sir Wyn’s ankles.

If he tries to fudge anything in his statement I suspect there will be plenty of MPs willing to pounce and demand clarity. I wrote this quick tweet thread, which you might find interesting, and dozens of campaigning Subpostmasters are weighing in on social media. If it is your sort of thing, it’s all under the hashtag #PostOfficeScandal.

I’ll leave you with a comment from Varchas Patel, son of the mighty Vipin Patel, one of the first six Subpostmasters to have his conviction quashed on 11 December last year.

“This is a massive step” says Varchas “to acquiring the truth, and everybody who played their part, and as a collective will inspire generations to come. A step in the right direction for justice and truth.”

Let’s see what happens next, eh?

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