Friday 22 May 2020

Subpostmasters & Horizon Litigation etc - updates

From freelance reporter Nick Wallis
Work has been continuing apace to finish the ten-part documentary I am making with Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio 4. It is a landmark series (Whistledown only do landmark series) and I hope it has some effect.

If you're not already an avid Radio 4 listener, now is the time to start switching over as the station trails (adverts) for The Great Post Office Trial start going out today.

The series begins on Monday 25 May at 1.45 (Episode 1 is called "The Imaginary Heist") and continues at the same time each day for the next 10 working days. Please tell your friends.
Although TV is restricted to domestic viewers, radio is available worldwide so everybody ought to be able to hear this on this link when it is broadcast.   (Remember Monday is a public holiday in the UK).

You don't have to listen daily, in fact I may wait until Friday to listen to the first week's programmes. The BBC Sounds App (on smart devices and desktops) defaults to autoplay series. But many broadcasts are only available for 7 days. This seems silly for a 10 day programme, but a warning in case that applies here.

The episode guide shows 12 episodes, but 11 & 12 are 57 minutes and are omnibus editions broadcast on Fridays, which will be shorter to listen to and avoid all the headers and footers that often accompanies these programmes.


Private Eye Special Report free pdf download

That Lord Gnome is a public-spirited proprietor after all. He has made the Private Eye Special Report, "Justice Lost in the Post" available for you to download here as a free pdf!

What a man.

Profound thanks to Eye staffer Richard Brooks who was first among equals on this project. I've been working with Richard on the Post Office story since 2011 and his nose for the telling detail and killer fact is second to none. It would be less than half the piece it is without him and the brilliant designers who made it look so good on the page.


Historical Shortfall Scheme announced

Have you seen this advertisement in your local newspaper?

Post Office Ltd has launched its Historical Shortfall Scheme for "current and former postmasters who believe they have experienced shortfalls related to previous versions of its computer system Horizon."

This is apparently a great leap forward, until you see the eligibility criteria, of which number 6 reads:
6. You must not have been part of the group litigation against Post Office that settled in December 2019.The settlement reached by the parties was full and final. You must also not have entered into a settlement agreement with Post Office other than as part of the Initial Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme commenced in 2013 or as a result of Network Transformation or other scheme.
So the scheme, which Post Office Ltd is only now compelled to introduce by so much publicity as a result of the litigation means that people not involved in that litigation will be well compensated (maybe not 'adequately' but time will tell).

But this could not have happened without the actions and effort of the litigants, who will get no more - and the most any of them has had appears to be about £20,000 - to cover all the payments wrongly taken from them, as well as any damages.

Meanwhile the government has had things to consider other than a judicial enquiry to the 'greatest miscarriage of justice' ever seen.


Thanks to Chris, I am reminded that the BBC tv Panorama programme on this scandal has been rescheduled.  Readers outside the UK are unlikely to be able to watch it.  Nick Wallis writes:
The "lost" Panorama: Scandal at the Post Office, has been rescheduled for 8 June, 7.30pm, BBC 1. Given our strange times, that might change. I am very much hoping it doesn't. This is what the BBC says about it:
"Hundreds of sub-postmasters were jailed or financially ruined after computers said money was missing from their branches, but the Post Office has admitted that its Horizon system can make mistakes. But when did senior managers find this out, and did they continue to prosecute postmasters for stealing when they knew technology could be to blame? Reporter Nick Wallis investigates what could be Britain's biggest-ever miscarriage of justice scandal and uncovers evidence of a cover-up at the Post Office."

The JFSA fights back!
Again, from Nick Wallis - 
The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance has launched a crowdfunding campaign with a view to making a complaint to the parliamentary ombudsman about the behaviour of the government in essentially letting the Post Office go rogue for the last two decades.
In a circular to JFSA members, founder Alan Bates says:

"As you know, due to the terms of the Settlement Agreement we are not able to take further civil litigation action against the Post Office; however our focus presently is on the Post Office's only shareholder, the Government."
Bates says the JFSA got advice from a "specialist QC" about taking the government to court:
"His advice was that it might be possible, but it would be very expensive and we would be looking at years again, so realistically that wasn’t looking to be a practicable option.  However... he suggested that there might be a better, quicker and cheaper route to follow, a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman."
The Parliamentary Ombudsman was established by an act of parliament in 1967. S/he can investigate complaints from members of the public who believe that they have suffered "injustice" because of "maladministration" by government departments or certain public bodies.

However, the downside is that:
If the Ombudsman finds in favour of the complainant, and against a department, the Ombudsman has no executive powers to alter a department’s decision or award compensation." Oh.
Nonetheless the ombudsman can suggest a remedy, which might include financial compensation. In 2009, a former ombudsman, Ann Abraham, published her "principles for remedy", which state:

"our underlying principle is to ensure that the public body restores the complainant to the position they would have been in if the maladministration or poor service had not occurred. If that is not possible, the public body should compensate them appropriately."
But the ombudsman has no power to enforce a remedy and the government can ignore its recommendations. If the government chooses to ignore the ombudsman, the ombudsman has the power to lay a special report before parliament. This the government can also ignore, although backbench MPs would be entitled to jump up and down about it.
And the JFSA has launched a Crownfunding campaign for nigh-on £100,000 because although complaining is free, proper preparation of all the documents by lawyers won't come cheap.  Read more at the link at the head of this section, and if you believe in justice and can afford to, please contribute.


  1. According to the BBC Sounds app, 'The Great Post Office Trial' is "[a]vailable for over a year"

  2. I have listened to this for the last five days and it has been put together very well by Nick Wallis. It must have been terrible for all those postmasters involved.

  3. Listed in the Radio Times for Monday 08/06/2020 at 7.30pm on BBC1 is the postponed Panorama programme from 30/03/2020 - Scandal at the Post Office reported by Nick Wallis

    1. Thanks Chris, I didn;t remember to update the blog when I first heard. Will do so now.

    2. This link on the BBC website lists all showings (it's on later in Wales), and you'll also be able to watch it on iPlayer for up to a year:


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