Sabah Meddings (in the Sunday Times) and Rebecca Thomson (in both the Sunday Times and on our podcast, Investigating the Post Office Scandal) have already reported that the barrister Paul Marshall (pictured) has written to Max Hill QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, asking him to consider bringing one or more charges of Perverting the Course of Justice (a criminal offence) against the Post Office or persons within it.
I am now in possession of that letter, which I have uploaded below so you can read it in full, alongside the text of Mr Marshall’s speech at Queens University in Belfast earlier this year. The text of the speech was attached to the letter sent to the DPP (cc’d to various parties, including Lord Arbuthnot and the chair of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams).
The letter is concise. Conisder it a primer into a lot of the things that might be unlawful or illegal in the Post Office’s approach to perpetuating and then trying to cover up this scandal.
The text of the speech will take you half an hour or so to read, but is well worth it if you are a campaigner, lawyer, politicain or journalist, or have an interest in corporate governance, or the Post Office itself.
Reading the speech this morning a number of things leapt out at me, including one really important point I didn’t notice when I wrote a post drawing attention to the Swift report, which campaigner Eleanor Shaikh so skilfully extracted from the Business department last month.
Parker in the middle
On the advice of the Post Office General Counsel, Jane McLeod, Parker refused to show/failed to reveal the existence/contents of the report to the Post Office board (something for which he was later, privately, censured by the government).
As we know from the Swift report, Tim Parker, chairman of the Post Office (pictured), was directly alerted to potential miscarriages of justice. Swift said the Post Office had “bullied” Subpostmasters “into pleading guilty to offences by unjustifiably overloading the charge sheet”, calling this “a stain on the character of the business”. Swift suggests the Post Office wheel in Brian Altman QC to have another (his fourth?) look at things.
During the Bates v Post Office litigation, Marshall notes in his Queens Uni speech that Parker was chair of the Post Office litigation steering committee. When, in 2019, it came to the issue of attempting to recuse a High Court judge, Marshall reminds us the decision to apply to recuse had been taken at board level within the Post Office.
Having spoken to three senior/middle-management people working in the Post Office at the time of the first trial judgment (which prompted the board’s recusal decision), I think it’s fair to say the general reaction within the business to Fraser J’s conclusions was one of astonishment. This was for one of two closely-related reasons.
More possible perversion
Either the Post Office, from top to bottom, had successfully rinsed itself in denial about the truth of what was happening and what it had done. Or the six year cover-up put in place by senior executives (since the Clarke Advice in 2013), and the Post Office’s Chairman, Tim Parker (by keeping the Swift review secret), had been so successful that the Post Office, including its own board, was not sufficiently prepared for Mr Justice Fraser’s detailed, damning, public evisceration of its behaviour.
How else to explain the decision to apply to recuse? This was described, lest we forget, by Lord Justice Coulson as “misconceived”, “fatally flawed”, “untenable” and “absurd.”
The only other explanation for the recusal application was that the Post Office board realised Fraser’s judgment meant the company was doomed unless they could use their limitless resources to try to blow everything up. If that was the case, it’s hard not to conclude this was a deliberate attempt to pervert the course of justice.
Either way Mr Parker’s possible role in perpetuating the scandal and its cover-up has become a lot more interesting.