The Great Post Office Trial
On Monday at 1.45pm a ten part series called The Great Post Office Trial begins on Radio 4. I have heard the first three episodes, which have now been delivered to the BBC.
The first features Jo Hamilton, the second is about Alan Bates and the third highlights the treatment of Sarah Burgess Boyde – all former Subpostmasters.
This project is unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before, and I certainly don’t remember grafting as hard as this for several years! I am quite proud of it, and immensely grateful to everyone who contributed.
The full episode titles are:
The Imaginary Heist, The Bloodiest Mind in Wales, I Love My Post Office, Navigating the Matrix, Follow the Money, War of Attrition, A Call for Help, The Big Green Button, Extremely Aggressive Litigation, and What the Hell Had Happened.
If you miss any going out live simply click on the links above and you can go directly to each episode page and listen to it there.
By the way, I chose five of titles and producer Bob (who’s been working harder than me on this series) chose the other five. I’m not telling you whose are whose!
Pass it on
If you have a personal interest in this story – and I would suspect you do or you wouldn’t be a secret emailer – please do what you can to spread the word. If you’re not a BBC Radio 4 listener, try to find the station on your radio or computer. I believe nowadays that if you have one of those smart speakers all you have to do is say “Play BBC Radio 4” in suitably authoritative voice and it will do so for you by internet magic.
Thanks to everyone who alerted me to the series trails they’ve been hearing go out on Radio 4 this week. I’ve been listening relatively intently, but it’s been great to get the odd message from secret emailers telling me they’ve heard a trail go out.
The BBC seems to have been pushing The Great Post Office Trial hard on the Today programme, which means it is reaching millions of people.
I am hoping the series will have some impact. Asking people to give up their time to contribute their recollections and then slaving relentlessly over the course of several weeks to put it together is a bit pointless if no one hears it. That said, if the only three people who to listen are Boris Johnson, Alok Sharma and Paul Scully, I’ll be happy, though these people tend to be quite busy. If all you do is ask your local MP to tune in, I’d be incredibly grateful.
Each episode will be available to listen to online after broadcast here and there is an omnibus edition going out on Radio 4 at 9pm on Friday 29 May and Friday 5 June.
Whilst I have been focused on making this series (and I still have four episodes to record!) I haven’t had much chance to publish anything about latest developments. Nonetheless others have been busy, including the indefatigable Karl Flinders, who published a piece on the departure of Angela van den Bogerd from the Post Office.
Two lawyers, Nick Gould and Paul Marshall, have written a piece on the Bates v Post Office litigation (and the practices of the Post Office before then) for influential legal blogger Edward Fennell – click here and then scroll down some way to get to the article entitled: “Commentary of the Week – The Biggest Miscarriage of English Justice of Modern Times?”
And as I write this email, the superb Tony Collins has just published another blog post about the Post Office and public sector accountability.
As soon as I have got this Radio 4 series out of the way I will get back in the news saddle and produce more content myself.
New crowdfunding payment portal
For a long time I have been meaning to do something about the rather clunky PayPal tip jar I set up in 2018 to fund this website. I had run a crowdfunding campaign throughout September and October 2018 in order to see if I could raise the funds to cover the first trial in the Bates v Post Office group litigation. This succeeded, but the week after the crowdfunding window closed I received several emails from people who had heard about what I was up to and wanted to donate. It was only then that I thought “oh – I better find a way of letting people do that” and the PayPal tip jar was rather hurriedly grafted onto the Post Office Trial website.
Whilst it looked eye-catching enough, and it worked for some, many people simply couldn’t get it to function properly and it wasn’t very user friendly. A number of correspondents told me they were suspicious of it and didn’t fancy handing over their card details to something they were suspicious of – rightly so.
I have, therefore, tried to make the experience a little easier to navigate. The system is still operated by PayPal, it still takes credit and debit cards, but hopefully it is a little bit easier to work with as I have inserted a basic e-commerce platform between the blog and the payment portal which is secure and hopefully reassuring. I am delighted to say I have already received a number of donations this week which suggests it is working.
Please don’t donate
Now – I am not telling you about the new payment portal because I want you to donate. If you are a secret emailer you have already donated. You have done your bit. I haven’t actually run any sort of fundraising campaign since 2018 because I have been able to keep the website ticking over through new contributors and the money I’ve earned elsewhere.
What I do want to do is simply tell you this portal exists – potential contributors can either access it directly from the www.postofficetrial.com website or go straight to the “store” itself and donate there. The “donate” button which I hope you can see at the bottom of this email takes you to the relevant page on the www.postofficetrial.com website.
If you have never donated before and you are receiving this email from a friend, please consider joining the secret email list with a small contribution. If you have donated before – please don’t donate. Once is more than enough. If I ever need to do a proper fundraising drive for a specific purpose, I will tell you. Until then, please keep your money in your pockets. There are uncertain times ahead and far better causes than a journalism project which now you are on this list you will continue to receive, in perpetuity, until this story reaches some kind of resolution.
Thanks to all the recent contributors who have braved the new payment portal and welcome to the secret email gang. Updates are irregular, but you tend to get a good heads up on what’s going on in the Post Office Horizon story. If you ever want to contact me, just hit reply to this email, it goes straight to my inbox.
Right – well – if you’ve read this far you deserve some bonus backstage material. Here is a photo of me in my lockdown home studio recording one of several dozen interviews for The Great Post Office Trial in my pyjamas.
I know this is a serious story and a serious business, but sometimes things get a bit ridiculous. All I was trying to do was get the best possible acoustic in somewhat trying (and sweltering) circumstances. I was a little bit worried it wouldn’t be up to the usual Radio 4 standard, but that microphone I’m holding is the business. I’ve had it for more than 15 years. It’s the same microphone I used to interview Davinder Misra – husband of Seema Misra – when I visited him nearly a decade ago. That was the first interview I had ever done about this story, and you can hear a snippet of it on Monday – along with an awful lot more. I hope you can tune in and perhaps persuade one or two other people as well. I’ve always said the single most important thing about this story is the individuals who have been personally affected by it. This series attempts to bring that home.
Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on the other side!