Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

The Answer(s) to the Question: Where did all the money go?

plus: Gary’s years of hurt(ing people)

G’morning,

The most common question I get asked about this scandal is “Where did all the money go?“, occasionally accompanied by “It must have gone somewhere. Money isn’t created out of thin air. In a double-entry accounting system, it has to show up somewhere. It can always be properly traced.”

This question is usually asked by qualified, well-meaning individuals who are often new to the scandal. They have no idea how inept the Post Office is or how bad the Horizon system was. They assume the same professional standards that exist in their working environments were applied within the Post Office.

Nonetheless “Where Did All The Money Go?” is a good question.

In order to at least start to answer it, I asked Ron Warmington, forensic accountant, fraud investigator and Chairman of Second Sight, to do an Investigating the Post Office Scandal podcast episode with me. Ron is one of the many heroes of the Post Office scandal. Between 2012 and 2015 Second Sight blew a hole in the Post Office’s corporate delusion about its own business processes and the Horizon IT system.

Ron agreed and immediately suggested I ask Mark Baker to join us. Mark is a former long-serving Subpostmaster, who, as a union rep, helped other Subpostmasters investigate mysterious deficits at their branch, which the Post Office was only too ready to hold them liable for.

Mark is another hero of this story. He has been relentlessly helpful to me over the last decade whenever I come up with damn fool questions about the frontline operation of a Horizon terminal, amongst many, many other things.

I am deeply grateful to both Ron and Mark for sparing their time on Thursday and for completing all the homework I asked them to do in the run-up to the recording.

Between us we settled on a (non-exhaustive) list of 14 answers to the question Where Did All The Money Go?

During the recording we went through these answers point-by-point. Over an hour and seventeen minutes.

The podcast has now been edited and published and you are the first to know about it, because your donations have paid for me to be able to do it.

And the next time somebody asks me Where Did All The Money Go? I can politely incline my head and indicate the existence of this podcast.

If you want to know where all the money went, start here.

The H-Bomb

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Today, yesterday

Professor Chris Hodges (Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems within the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford University AND Chair of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, doncha know) has written a short letter with a very long appendix to the Lord Chancellor suggesting that ALL Post Office convictions should be preremptorily quashed on the basis that everything about the Post Office’s prosecution racket was inadequate to the point of being corrupt.

He obviously doesn’t put it that way, but the basic gist is that IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT HORIZON. Yes Horizon created discrepancies out of thin air, and for the first 17 years of its existence could not be relied on to add up properly, but IT WAS THE POST OFFICE and its processes and people (as so elegantly articulated by former Subpostmaster Tim Brentnall in his short closing statement to the Inquiry) which really did for the Subpostmasters, and, as such, no prosecution should be considered safe.

Being an ace journalist, I completely missed it when the letter was published on the government’s website. Thankfully, a business correspondent at the BBC picked it up, wrote a web article, which was spotted by someone at BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, who then called me.

I ended up doing a short hit on Today yesterday at 6.47am (before heading up to Norwich to cover a very sad missing persons story) and then at 8.10am, Paul Cousins, son of the deceased Subpostmaster Wendy Cousins spoke to Nick Robinson, followed by the barrister Flora Page, who represents several Subpostmasters at the Inquiry.

Both were brilliant and if you have a chance, click on this link and scroll forward through the programme 2hrs 10mins to have a listen.

The 8.10am interview is the prestige slot on Today, and I think it’s a measure of the importance of both Prof Hodges’ letter and the story itself that the item was run then.

More staggering ineptitude

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It really has been quite the couple of months. Various hopeless incompetents have been paraded through the inquiry’s witness chair over the past few weeks. I wrote a piece about Gary Thomas’s evidence and Karl Flinders has covered Christopher Knight who, despite being responsible for pushing several innocent people towards criminal convictions remains employed by the Post Office. How bad at your job do you have to be to sacked by that place?

The house style at Computer Weekly is pretty straight down the line (unless it’s an opinion piece), but you can almost feel Karl seethe with anger as he’s writing about Knight. I had stop and put my phone down after reading the report as my blood was boiling. Incidentally Karl’s boss, Bryan Glick, has posted a good op-ed on the scandal, which is worth picking up.

John Hyde at the Law Gazette has written up former Post Office Head of Criminal Law Rob Wilson’s second crack at giving evidence to the Inquiry. This revealed that a barrister (who I guess could be Brian Altman) recommended Wilson and his fellow Post Office prosecutors, Jarnail Singh and Juliet McFarlane had failed so miserably at their jobs they should probably be referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The barrister cited: “inadequate investigation, including a failure to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry whether they pointed towards or away from the guilt of the defendant and [a failure] to establish that an actual financial loss had occurred in theft cases”.

The Inquiry (inexplicably) did not establish whether this had actually happened to Wilson by not asking him. Maybe they have Reasons.

By the way, I published my piece on Gary Thomas on Tuesday, but did not send out a newsletter about it to avoid Secret Email Fatigue. If you want to get each blog post as it drops on the Post Office Scandal website, just put your email in the sign-up box which is on virtually every page (eg here) of the website and you’ll get a freshly baked nugget of Post Office Scandal news delivered to your inbox.

Paperback publisher

Good news! The English Language paperback version of Noel and Sian Thomas’s book The Stamp of Innocence – ably ghostwritten and translated by Aled Gwyn Job – is, as we speak, being warehoused at Amazon, who have it on pre-sale for shipping on Monday. It’s a great book about a wonderful family and I thoroughly recommend it as a Christmas gift. If you would like to hear Noel and Aled read aloud from both the Welsh and English versions of Noel’s book(s), you can, because Rebecca and I interviewed them both for episode 33 of the podcast.

More live guests announced

The number of Subpostmasters who have kindly agreed to speak at the various theatre events I’m doing next year continues to grow. Lee Castleton will join me on stage at the Darlington Hippodrome.

The same evening will also feature an appearance from the man I call “Clint”, the mysterious Fujitsu whistleblower who features in the opening few chapters of my book. Clint has agreed to come on stage and reveal who he is in the first half of the talk, and I will do a Q&A with Lee in the second.

Lee’s story features heavily in the upcoming ITV drama, and you can read what Will Mellor has to say about playing Lee in a Radio Times exclusive. Incidentally, Toby Jones, who plays Alan Bates, was on BBC Breakfast once more recording his shame about not knowing much about the Post Office Scandal before he got the part. It’s fine, Toby – most people don’t know about the story, but thanks to you, they soon will…

Other live guests I am delighted to announce include Scott Darlington, Michael Rudkin (whose story also features heavily in the ITV drama), Sami Sabet, Parmod Kalia, and Bal Gill. Click here to find out more about my guests, where they will be joining me and how to buy tickets.

I am deeply indebted to every former Subpostmaster (and “Clint”) for agreeing to give up their evenings to do this, and I hope to be able to announce another round of guests in the New Year.

If you are a former Subpostmaster directly affected by this scandal and you live near any of the theatres which have not yet got guest names attached to them (and don’t mind explaining what happened to you to a live audience), please get in touch by hitting reply. I’d love to hear from you.

Wilkommen am Sekret Email

Thanks to everyone who has signed up to the secret email newsletter over the past few days. The funds raised recently have allowed me to be more productive on the journalism front – both covering the inquiry and working on a couple of podcasts.

You now know where all the money went – next week Rebecca and I hope to bring you a special guest who I think will provide some real insight into this story from an unexpected angle. I don’t want to say any more as the interview isn’t in the can yet, and Things can Change, but I’m confident it will happen and I think it’ll be an eye-opener.

Thanks very much for all the correspondence – please keep it coming and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Nick


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