Calling former Subpostmasters, managers and Post Office employees…

Professor Richard Moorhead will be known to some of you. He writes a well-regarded legal ethics blog (“Lawyer Watch“) and a free substack site dedicated to matters arising from the Post Office Horizon scandal. He is also a member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board. In addition to this Prof Moorhead has been running various research projects looking into the Horizon scandal.

I have news of a new one. This, as it says below – is for any Subpostmaster, branch manager/assistant or Crown Office employee who was threatened with legal action or sued/prosecuted by the Post Office.

The press release reads as follows:

“A research team led by Professor Richard Moorhead at the University of Exeter are inviting you to take part in this research project looking into the Post Office Scandal.

In this study, we will be examining important issues arising from the Post Office Scandal, focusing on potential issues with the management of the Post Office, the criminal justice system, and the behaviour of lawyers. We wish to better understand how wrongful convictions and other injustices occurred on the basis of flawed computer ‘evidence’, and how relevant issues took so long to uncover.

In order to understand more about the scandal, we would like to speak with former sub-postmasters/mistresses or Crown employees that owned or worked in Post Offices, who had experience of the Horizon IT system, and had some form of legal action taken or threatened against them by the Post Office between 2000 and 2015.

This could include those who were convicted after a criminal trial, those who were acquitted after a criminal trial, those who were charged but had the criminal prosecution dropped by the Post Office, or those who experienced any kind of civil justice proceedings brought against them by the Post Office. Taking part will involve being interviewed by a member of our research team.

The interview is expected to take around 60 minutes. If you agree, we will audio record the interview (it will not be videoed). You can choose to take part in a face-to-face interview, which can take place in a location of your choosing, or an interview using Zoom.

You do not need to answer all the questions we ask and can end the interview at any time without giving a reason, should you wish. You may also have someone with you to support you. Your responses will be confidential and will be anonymised for our analysis to prevent you from being identified.

The results of this study will form part of our investigation into the Post Office Scandal and will be disseminated in a number of ways in order to attempt to prevent similar issues occurring in the future. Means of dissemination include, but will not necessarily be limited to, academic publications and policy-related work, and responses to the Horizon IT Inquiry .

If you would like to be involved in this study or would like any further information, please contact Richard Moorhead Professor of Law, University of Exeter Law School, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX44RJ. Email: postofficeproject@exeter.ac.uk

I have no connection to this project, but I can vouch for the professionalism and expertise of Professor Moorhead and his team – and the care they put into their work. Please do share this post in your networks. If you do get involved and don’t mind telling me how it went – please get in touch through the usual channels. All communication will be in confidence.


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2 responses to “Calling former Subpostmasters, managers and Post Office employees…”

  1. Alan M Dransfield avatar
    Alan M Dransfield

    The Gov and Post Office have acted in concert with the ICO via the Dransfield Vexatious Court Precedent to hide the truth about the Post Office Fraud Case

  2. eric schlesinger avatar

    The involvement of Professor Moorhead is much needed. The POL scandal is something i have followed for a number of years – due I think to my interest in how people create and perpetuate error. Computer systems are full of errors – not just in bugs,faulty design,programming etc but in the nature of “information”. Information is never neutral as it is built out the interaction of data and meaning. Meaning is a matter of interpretation and assumptions.
    When a computer system is used by managers,further errors are created. The systems must be ok (experts are expert) and PR,cost pressures and reputational damage compound error. The systems rapidly move from an information machine to an ammunition machine. Management error revolves around bias,unacknowledged assumptions. These are beliefs that become very powerful and deeply buried. Old established organizations develop immensely strong and taken for granted cultures. POL is no exception.
    There are hints here and there about POL culture. Internal promotion up the line with a new tranche of professional
    senior managers above,a risk averse approach,a refusal to admit error (nothing goes wrong,double down on a position),no clear set of values and beliefs,a feudal approach to sub post masters,serious imbalance of power (high power distance),lack of decent investigation procedures,a silo mentality between different departments/divisions,a serious lack of corporate governanace,a reward system that only notices an employee when error occurs (just keep your nose clean),groupthink etc etc. Denial,cover up,undiscussability of uncomfortable truths follow. Learning and change are severely limited when tame routine breaks down and problems go wild.
    What i think is needed is to get a coherent grip on the culture of POL. There are clearly mental maps driving this business. Human beings are designing beings. Recognizing the maps that drive people in groups/organizations is tough and vital. Helping people to recognize and change them is tougher still. If management culture doesnt change,error persists and deepens. Error to blunders then to mistakes to accidents to crisis to disaster to catastrophe. Most organizations are POL waiting to happen.
    I think it would be highly useful to supplement Moorheads approach with a couple of sociologists who are good at examining structure and belief systems. There is plenty of good stuff around in published form. Barry Turner,King and Crewe,Perrow,Hofstede,Argyris offer a great deal. Argyris in particular offers a wide range of examples of working through danger towards human and business effectiveness (he spent 60 years walking the talk to develop practical theories helping organizations stop falling into self-made traps).

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