I hope you’re in fine festive fettle. I had a day away from the laptop yesterday and it was wonderful. I’m going to try to do more of that over the next few days.
The main recent news of note is that – to the complete surprise of no-one – Sir Wyn Williams has announced he will not be able to conclude his inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT disaster by the government’s initial deadline of Autumn 2022.
Sir Wyn has published a 2022 schedule for the inquiry which aims to conclude its oral evidence-gathering phase by November 2022. The way the schedule is set, suggests to me that we are unlikely to see any serving or former Post Office board members being cross-examined before next summer.
I might be wrong, but if you look at the schedule (or at least the order of Sir Wyn’s “phases”), I don’t really see the likes of Paula Vennells (former Post Office CEO) et al appearing before Phase 4 (“Redress: access to justice, Second Sight, Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme, conduct of the group litigation…”).
Phase 1 (“The Horizon IT System: procurement, design, pilot, roll out and modifications”) is only set to begin at a “suitable date” in June.
February’s “human impact” hearings will still be going ahead, albeit remotely.
I had a good chat with Amit Roy, editor-at-large at Eastern Eye, about the possibility of someone doing a proper study of the sentences handed out to white and non-white Subpostmasters over the course of the Post Office’s Horizon prosecution spree (click here and turn to page 5). I can’t shake the suspicion that non-white Subpostmasters convicted of similar crimes (for similar amounts of allegedly missing money) seemed to receive harsher sentences.
This is about the justice system rather than the Post Office, and it may be a badly-informed suspicion, but there is now in existence a pool of recently-collated information about a very large group of convictions of very similar people for very similar crimes over a tightly defined period. Someone should be analysing that data. You’ll note at the end of the Eastern Eye piece the Post Office says it won’t disclose any information to the Eye for data protection reasons. If journalists can’t get hold of it, maybe academics should maybe have a go.
The first promotional cycle for the book is over. I have been overwhelmed by the kind words and enthusiasm of secret emailers, friends and strangers who have been kind enough to buy it, review it and/or email me to tell me what they think.
It was nice to be listed as one of The Times Law section’s books of the year and it remains rated at 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, despite the number of reviews heading towards three figures. Thank you for everything you have done to spread the word.
If you are still haring around this Christmas Eve trying to buy Christmas presents, it’s possible to buy an e-book/kindle copy of The Great Post Office Scandal right now for the bargain price of £8.99. Or buy a voucher from Amazon to let someone else download the e-book on Christmas Day.
I am hoping a second promotional cycle will materialise over the first three months of next year. We will (I am assured) finally get the blimmin’ thing up-and-running on Amazon Prime, there will be a couple of ads in Private Eye, and I’m hoping to do some readings and signings, possibly in the home towns of various former Subpostmasters who have kindly offered to help.
If I can read a few passages from the book and then share a stage with a former Subpostmaster for a Q&A, it might help local communities understand a little more about what happened to their local Post Office. If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved with, do give me a shout. The difficulty is doing something like this without losing too much money!
I’ve had a little tidy of the Post Office Scandal website. It should now be a lot easier to read on a mobile phone, for a start.
When I get a few moments of downtime I am going to try to add a search box and refine the tagging and category-sorting elements. I am also going to ensure the old Post Office Trial website points to Scandal. At the moment it just abruptly stops with no indication another website has sprung up as its successor.
I have been thrilled by the multiple photographs of The Great Post Office Scandal in the wild, which you have kindly sent me. I’ll try to collate them into some kind of gallery on the new website, but I’ve also put a couple of recent submissions below. If you would like to send me a shot or two, please do! Toys, pets, extraordinary locations and/or a bit of festive dressing seem to work best.
I am likely to be spending most of January working on a BBC Radio 4 investigation which isn’t connected to the Post Office so the secret emails may tail off a bit, but I’ll try to keep a good eye on everything bubbling away beneath the surface to give you a heads up on any new developments.
In February and March the “impact” hearings of the Post Office Horizon Inquiry will begin, so I’ll be monitoring those whilst helping pull together a third Panorama.
Over April I’m contemplating a trip to the US to see if I can cover the Depp v Heard trial in Virginia, which may or may not provide the material for another book. A lot of things have to fall into place to make that happen. Even if I do get all my ducks in a row there may be a settlement a day or two before the trial starts. Add to that the uncertainty over COVID and I’m probably best not to think too far ahead.
Once again – thanks so much for the multiple emails, tweets, DMs, PMs and enthusiastic communiqués in various guises. I am sorry I can’t respond to every one, but I do read them all, and I do appreciate them.
I hope you and your family have a relaxing and joyous Christmas break whatever your (possibly recently altered) plans, and thanks for being so supportive. It means a lot.
Here’s to an interesting 2022…!
A scandal unwrapped! Thanks to Tim Brentnall for this one.
The Ravenscraig bear gets a close reading of the text.
Anne Page conducts a guerilla-reading outside Post Office HQ in Finsbury Dials, London.
Lisa Kear makes the prose sparkle…
Alan F’s Postie Bear is engrossed. And appalled.
Finally – one of my favourite images so far. Hard-working NHS employees take a brief break to catch up on the scandal as they put in the hours to help the sick this Christmas. My hat is off to Jané and her two colleagues for the work they do.
Merry Christmas everyone!
The Post Office Horizon scandal is available for £25 as a hardback and £8.99 for an ebook (or £30 for both) from Bath Publishing. Please click here to buy it. Alternatively, please do forward this email to a friend. Everyone who buys a copy of the book through Bath Publishing will automatically be invited to join the “secret” email list.