Show them some money
It is the final humiliation.
Years after being hounded out of their life-savings and livelihoods, years after beings shunned by their communities, and in many cases their own families, the finally victorious, finally vindicated Subpostmasters are finding out a brutal truth. Justice is a miserable, fleeting thing.
When Alan Bates, his fellow claimants and their extraordinary legal team finally won a High Court settlemt, three years ago, on 11 Dec 2019, the government had a genuine and historic opportunity to put matters right.
The Post Office go to the criminal criminal courts, tell all, and proactively set up an efficient and meaningful way to get financial redress to those who needed it as soon as possible. It didn’t happen, and here we are.
Professor Richard Moorhead has written a technical breakdown of the legal and corporate failings which got us here. Mine, I am afraid, is more emotional.
Imagine how some Subpostmasters feel – still living in poverty, still facing another Christmas with no money, having their kids hide their problems from them because they don’t want to be extra burdens.
We heard a little about that yesterday at the special compensation hearing at the IDRC in central London (see above) hundreds of people and their families, waiting and hoping that the Post Office and government are both willing and capable of doing the right thing: giving them enough cash to live out the rest of their lives with a bit of dignity.
It’s horrendous. And bleak. I feel complicit, somehow, too. Isn’t Britain Great? Aren’t we really decent after all? Isn’t our legal and corporate governance system admired throughout the world? Won’t justice ultimately prevail?
Ask Parmod Kalia, one of the kindest, gentlest human beings you will ever meet, broken by the Post Office twenty years ago. He still hasn’t received a penny in compensation despite having his conviction quashed last year. His is what the Post Office call one of their “public interest only” cases. That means they acknowledged their initial case relied on unsound IT evidence and did not contest his re-trial at a crown court, but the only reason they say they chose not to do so was because it wasn’t in the public interest.
Parmod’s problem is that after being told back in 2002 that to avoid prison he needed to plead guilty to stealing money from his Post Office (despite no actual evidence of theft), he was also told he needed to come up with a reason for the shortfalls in his account so that his explanation might mitigate his sentence. So Parmod concocted an easily disproved reason, which was, in effect, his confession. He went to prison anyway.
The Post Office doesn’t see why it should compensate someone who pleaded guilty and confessed (and on a prima facie level, you can take their point), but have they bothered to sit down and speak to Parmod to understand his story? Do they have any idea what this man has been through, and is now going through and has yet to face? Parmod is innocent – in the eyes of the CCRC and in the eyes of his solicitors. Forget about them – Parmod has had his name cleared in a court of law. And still they fight. Still they want to grind people into the dust. And to what purpose? Who is going to pat them on the back for doing that? The lads at the Tresury? The Post Office board? The public.
Another kind and gentle former Subpostmaster, who has the personal support of one of the most powerful politicians in the country, is currently in hospital with a suspected stroke. His life has been blighted too. He waits for vindication and compensation. He’s been diligently waiting for years. How long has he got left?
Okay enough journalistic self-indulgence, though it does creep in a little bit to our latest podcast, (on my part, of course. Rebecca is impeccably professional as usual) recorded this morning after trying to pull together everything we saw and heard yesterday.
This episode features wise words from Lee Castleton, Nicki Arch, Wendy Buffrey, Parmod Kalia, Richard Walker, Siema Kamran, Alison Hall as well as them KCs, Tim Moloney, Ed Henry and Sam Stein.
The campaigners are p*****-off, tired and exasperated, but remarkably stoic and good humoured, and the barristers are doing their best.
In short, the compensation schemes and non-schemes are a partially-realised mess and moving far too slowly. If you don’t trust the analysis in the podcast, I would recommend reading the transcript of yesterday’s hearings or watching the video of proceedings. Both can be found here.
It was great to see Jane Croft from the FT come down to cover yesterday’s hearing. The live feed was on the blink but as she was only over the road, she came to have a look for herself – you can read her piece here.
Elsehwere, Legal Futures have posted a piece on Herbert Smith Freehills work for the Post Office in this matter and why it might be problematic.
Hudgells’ client Stefan Fountain has spoken to YorkshireLive about the problems bankrupt Subpostmasters have been dealing with when trying to get compensation.
And if you missed it, I wrote a bit about the new GLO compensation scheme when it was announced on Wednesday.
I had better go as my son needs collecting from his Christmas Disco at school – the first of four trips the Dad Taxi will be making this evening.
The Investigating the Post Office Scandal Podcast will be taking a break until the new year, but I have a couple of Post Office stories I am itching to put up on the website, so I’ll probably tackle them next week.
Have a great weekend and if you’re going out for festive fun, wrap up warm – it’s going to be really chilly over the next few days.