A Lot of Criminals in Society

Paula Vennells, Chirag Sidhpura, Jeremy Hunt MP

In 2017, the Farncombe Subpostmaster, Chirag Sidhpura, was sacked over a £57,000 discrepancy at his Post Office branch. Chirag’s case was taken up by his MP, Jeremy Hunt, and the campaigner Eleanor Shaikh.

In a recent newsletter to constituents, Jeremy Hunt wrote:

“In 2017 the tail end of one of the biggest miscarriages in British legal history struck at the core of Farncombe, devastating the life of our ex Sub-Postmaster Chirag Sidhpura and his family.

“Chirag was accused of stealing £57,000 on account of a faulty IT system, just as Post Office Directors were gearing up to fight 555 ex-sub-postmasters at the High Court who all faced a similar fate to Chirag: some were convicted, bankrupted, imprisoned; others lost homes, marriages, their sanity or their lives.

“I remember meeting the then Post Office CEO Paula Vennells about Chirag’s case – she looked me in the eye and said chillingly I just needed to accept there were a lot of criminals in society even amongst sub-postmasters.”

The inference, I think, is clear. I have written to Ms Vennells’ legal representatives to see if she has a different recollection of events.

Chirag was never prosecuted. In fear of losing his job, he borrowed the money to cover the £57,000 hole in his accounts and paid it to the Post Office. He was sacked anyway. You can read more detail about Chirag’s situation here. Maybe Ms Vennells believes she is privy to more information than Chirag has given me, but if the Post Office thinks Mr Sidhpura is a thief, it should say so. If it doesn’t, they should give him his job back and return the £57,000. It is wholly unacceptable that this has still not been resolved.

On 18 March at St John’s Church in Farncombe, South West Surrey, I am doing a book reading/signing and Q&A. I hope it will serve to highlight Chirag’s situation and I do hope you can come along. Tickets are available here – one option includes a free signed book.

My thanks to Eleanor for her efforts in organising the event and also for spotting the above paragraph in Jeremy Hunt’s email newsletter.

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