Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

What Tony Blair knew, and why the unfit Horizon IT system was green-lit

Plus – attempts to adjourn the inquiry…

Hi there

I am writing this update from my desk at home, listening to the inquiry live feed on catch-up at 1.5x speed. This was a very useful option on youtube which I only found when I was covering the Depp trial earlier this year. Simply click on the settings wheel on the video and choose your ‘Playback speed’ option. Hours of fun. Or half hours of fun, if you choose double speed.

Yesterday I got up at 5am and clattered up to London on the 0546 from Walton-on-Thames. As I was in the middle of writing an inquiry preview tweet-thread when my train arrived, I finished it in the Pret at Waterloo Station before strolling along the South Bank (taking the first light photo of St Paul’s and the City below) and crossing the Millennium Bridge. Spotting an opportunity, I made friends with David the security guard working at the Salvation Army HQ just north of the bridge.

David let me sit downstairs in the Sally Ann café before it opened so I could try to do some work on my Depp v Heard book. At 10.20am I high-tailed it to Juxon House, home of the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC) for the Autumn re-start of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry.


Room with no view

On arrival at 10.28am for a 10.30am start I plonked myself down on the media tables next to Tom Witherow from the Daily Mail, and found the media seats gave us a great view of Jason Beer KC’s back and his enormous dais, which completely obscured any view of Sir Wyn Williams, the inquiry’s chair.

Given we were due to hear Mr Beer speak all day, I was not thrilled. Thankfully, the wonderful inquiry team recognised our plight and moved us during the first break to some plum seats on the other side of the room, directly behind the Post Office internal team, which is how I got to meet the Post Office’s current GC Ben Foat. By that stage Rebecca Thomson had arrived so I introduced everyone to Tom and Rebecca and thereafter we watched the inquiry proceed with an excellent view of Mr Beer and Sir Wyn.

The main news lines to come from the day can be found in write ups by:

Tom at the Daily Mail: ‘Tony Blair knew of flaw with Post Office’s Horizon IT system but went ahead anyway, report claims

Karl Flinders, watching proceedings remotely with his leg in plaster: ‘Post Office scandal inquiry restarts with call for a pause amid disclosure controversy

and Matthew Weaver at The Guardian ‘Post Office accused of withholding documents from IT scandal inquiry

There are, I am sure, plenty more. The two main news lines are incapsulated above. In summary they are:

1) The lawyers representing Subpostmasters are deeply unimpressed by the fact the Post Office has failed to disclose all relevant documents to the inquiry despite being required to do so.

2) Tony Blair was aware Horizon was a disaster that didn’t work. He was also told in no uncertain terms (in a message from a Fujitsu Big Boss carried to him by the British Ambassador to Japan) that if the UK govt biffed Horizon, it would cost hundreds of jobs, and do huge untold reputational damage to the government and to Britain’s standing in Europe.

The message subsequently came from Number 10 that Blair did not wish to can Horizon, therefore a way to make it work had to be found. Blair didn’t know it, but he had ordered his team to make the impossible happen. With disastrous consequences.


Essentially Horizon was a bomb. Fujitsu didn’t want it blowing up its organisation and the government didn’t want it to blow up the government. They realised if they could stop it from going off for long enough, they might be able to park it inside the homes and businesses of individual Subpostmasters. Once there, Fujitsu, the government and the Post Office could step back to a place of safety and watch it explode, blaming the Subpostmasters for setting it off through their own incompetence or criminal inclinations.

Another point about yesterday. This was elegantly raised by former Subpostmaster and IT expert Tim McCormack. He notes that although Subpostmasters were being set up for a catastrophe, this did not seem to be explicit in anyone’s thinking. The material effect of manually wrestling with an unwieldy and unfit for purpose IT system was only really discussed in terms of cost to Fujitsu, cost to the government and cost to the Post Office business.

The key piece of information which has hitherto eluded me was what persuaded the Post Office to give the Horizon rollout the green light. Yesterday we found out. It’s in my new blog post here. Incidentally, you can get each post as it is published by putting your email address in the box which appears at the bottom of each blog post. It’s very easy and secure and, as with the secret email, completely confidential.


IT blogger James Christie has been in touch to tell me the Post Office’s internal Ismay report has been published so we can all read it.

James is the author of The Post Office IT scandal –why IT audit is essential for effective corporate governance. That in itself is well worth a read.

Both are published in the (web) pages of the Digital Evidence & Electronic Signature Law Review, whose editor is Stephen Mason. James says: ‘Stephen deserves huge credit for his perseverance in ensuring that material of great public interest relating to the Post Office Scandal is available online.’

I interviewed Stephen in 2013 for a very early blog post on this scandal fisking Second Sight’s first report. Do have a read if you fancy it.

Finally, James brings to my attention some strong blogging game from the lawyer Nick Gould, instrumental in bringing together the dream team of Flora Page, Paul Marshall, Seema Misra, Tracy Felstead and Janet Skinner, who all did so much to change the course of this story’s history. James has published Nick’s piece on his own blog, and it is well worth a read.

Okay that’s it from me, probably until Friday or Saturday. If you want to watch the inquiry in real time, you can find it on the youtube channel here, and you can read the transcripts once the day is over here. Thanks to your funding I’ll be heading up to the inquiry on Friday. I think Rebecca (pictured below with me outside the IDRC yesterday) is there today, again, powered by you.


Incidentally, thanks very much to everyone who has come on board the secret email train in the last few days. It’s great to see some new faces around here (don’t worry, I can’t see your faces).

I am also very grateful to some long-standing secret emailers who have again put their hands in their pockets. My honest request is that I would rather you didn’t. You really have supported me enough.

By all means feel free to invest in as many copies of the book as you like (I still haven’t recouped the money I lost taking time out to write it), or come and see me at a talk, but I really don’t want anyone who has donated once (either to my crowdfunding in the past, or to the Horizon scandal fund) to do so again, if that’s okay.

I would far rather you spread the word about the scandal itself so we can grow the number of secret emailers and the number of people who may only be coming across this horrendous story for the very first time.

Until next time!

Keep well.



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