Noel’s campaign is nearly there
Thanks to everyone who put their hands into their pockets to help Noel get his book translated and hopefully read by a wider audience. When I sent yesterday’s newsletter the total raised was £815. Right now it stands at £5,929!!
Both Sian, who is running the crowdfunding campaign, and Aled, who hopes to translate the book, have been in touch to express their deep gratitude to every secret emailer who donated to Noel’s campaign and to those who forwarded the donation link into their own networks. It’s had an effect.
If you have not yet donated and you are able to spare a few quid, please attempt to be the donation which gets Noel over the line. I am quite sure Noel’s personal story will become an important historical document, and as I said yesterday, the more literature in the public domain about this scandal, the longer it will echo through history.
If you have £4 to spare after your donation to Noel’s cause, do pick up a copy of this week’s Radio Times. They have made The Great Post Office Trial, Episode 12 the “pick of this week’s radio”, so they have. I had a listen to a rough cut last night. Bob, our genius producer, is still slaving over the edit, but we are on course to deliver you a decent listen which will hopefully match the rest of the series’ standards. 4pm Tuesday 27 June on BBC Radio 4, then soon afterwards here on BBC Sounds. Sorry to bang on about it, but it has taken up a disproportionate amount of time.
I am, it goes without saying, enormously grateful to everyone we interviewed for the doc. For those who listened to the first eleven episodes of the series, there will be some familiar voices (Ron Warmington from Second Sight, former Subpostmaster Wendy Buffrey, barrister Paul Marshall) and some new ones (former Subpostmaster Parmod Kalia, tax lawyer Dan Neidle*, campaigner Eleanor Shaikh**).
Please accept my profound apologies to those whose contributions didn’t quite make the final cut. The on-spec interview with Nick Read meant quite a serious re-edit as we had to give that a good chunk of time. As a result some voices were lost. Even without Read we were trying to squeeze more than a dozen interviews into 27 minutes… editing can be a brutal process sometimes.
* Speaking of Dan Neidle, he had another Thunderer column in The Times yesterday addressing the remarkable slow down in Postmaster criminal appeals, which is worth reading if you have a subscription.
** Speaking of Eleanor Shaikh, her elegantly extracted racist compliance form via Freedom of Information Request has had serious implications for the Post Office’s General Counsel, Ben Foat. Sir Wyn Williams’ Inquiry is carpeting him on 4 July to find out why they weren’t given the form during the inquiry disclosure process.
Ben Foat, you may remember, was named solicitor of the year by the legal profession in 2018, during the period the Post Office was trying to systematically deny people it had destroyed access to justice. The Post Office’s in-house legal team were also highly commended that year for “excellence”, which gives you some idea as to how good the legal establishment is at spotting bad practice.
Tuesday’s Business select committee hearing.
There were a couple of things which stood out for me in Darren Jones’ (Chair of the Business Select Committee) pursual of the Post Office’s decision to award themselves bonuses for working on the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry despite knowing their own originally stated target metric had not been achieved (watch the whole committee hearing here).
Amanda Burton’s shoddy report into the affair fails to get to the bottom of lots of things. In the inquiry room neither she nor her predecessor at the Post Office Lisa Harrington were able to tell Jones who was responsible for making the discretionary decision to award the bonuses in lieu of the stated target being achieved.
How Burton could put together a report without even working out this basic fact is almost mystically incompetent. Jones wanted to know the identity of this person because if they made the decision knowing the metric could not and had not been achieved according to the terms stated, and yet allowed the annual report to say that it had, well… then that’s potentially false accounting, m’lud. Which, as many readers of this email will know, is a criminal offence. The Post Office has promised to deliver that person’s name to the committee. I hope the committee calls them in.
Haven’t we all done a brilliant job?!
The second point was that the Post Office told the committee that they relied on a review by an external body to tell them that they had done all the necessary inquiry work to justify their bonuses. That external body was… (drum roll)… Herbert Smith Freehills, who just so happened to be the Post Office’s lawyers to the Inquiry.
HSF were essentially marking their and their clients’ homework. I think this is exceptionally serious and makes the corporate governance cock up over Bonusgate even worse. Putting aside the rank incompetence which led to the false statement in the annual accounts, we now know the Post Office used its own lawyers to the inquiry to tell the Post Office that they were doing a brilliant job and no one at any level queried the blindingly obvious conflict of interest. What else were HSF going to say?!
Despite Burton’s report, no one has yet been identified as being responsible, let alone held to account. it begs the question how **** you have to be as a company director before anyone takes notice.
Professor Richard Moorhead has an interesting take on the marking-their-own homework issue, specifically HSF’s failure to inform the inquiry that it had a role in deciding the Post Office’s bonus target had been achieved. Read it here.
The rest of the media all had slightly different takes on the hearing:
Computer Weekly – Post Office will not oppose potential Horizon conviction appellants
Evening Standard – Post Office boss expects sub-postmaster compensation scheme to conclude soon [cough]
Speaking of managerial incompetence
I spent some time this morning travelling down memory lane in the old Post Office Trial blog, retrieving Dr Minh Alexander’s formal complaint to the CQC about The Revd Paula Vennells’ fitness to run an NHS Trust. This was back in 2019, the same year Vennells had sailed away from the Post Office with a CBE, a seat on the Cabinet Board and a lovely sinecure as Chair of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
The reason for doing this is because Dr Alexander is back! In a blog post I had to stop myself from calling “Dr Minh rides again”, Dr Alexander has written a very interesting letter to the Post Office, hoping to winkle out more information about the ethnic identity of the people it prosecuted. As the letter contains a lot of information which might be useful to students of this scandal, I have published it here.
Lord Neuberger’s decision to advise the Post Office board that Mr Justice Fraser was coming across as biased (ie not very good at his job) and should be advised to recuse himself from Bates v Post Office has been the subject of some debate (and subtle shade) between estimable legal bloggers Joshua Rozenberg and Richard Moorhead. Here’s Rozenberg’s salvo. And this is Moorhead’s response. Both are worth reading and subscribing to.
Good lord this is a long newsletter
I agree, so I will go. My daughter is having her delayed 18th birthday party this evening (she sensibly waited until her A-levels were over) and the house is going to be full of boisterous teenagers. We are going to buy some them some low-strength booze and then barricade ourselves in the front room.
Do look out for the Mail on Sunday this weekend. I’ve written quite a long piece on the Post Office scandal and don’t forget to listen on Tuesday. Bob, I know, would be very grateful. Oh, and look out for more news about Noel’s book. Looks like it’s going to happen!