This is the piece I said I’d write about the Post Office Scandal; it’s not nice nor cosy nor comfy.

These views are my own although Aria Grace Law, is assisting (please note that word), various people involved in this Scandal. Some were jailed and some weren’t. All were metaphorically if not actually “beaten up”. At least one person is still waiting to see whether their conviction will be overturned.

I’ve written it to make you wonder, how and why? And so you understand something similar could happen to someone you know.

This is not intended to be an academic piece or indeed a piece about the abject failures of the criminal justice system or of the Establishment closing ranks – but you might pick up those thoughts as an aside. It is selective in its comments – it must be. There is much more and I’m looking forward to numerous books coming out.


 I’m sure that, last week, some people were perhaps delighted to find that, having waited for years and even decades, they would get some sort of initial recompense for the life changes caused by the #PostOfficeScandal. That is for another day.

But now let’s look at the dark side of all this. The Scandal happened because some (many?) of a key group of individuals connected with Post Office Limited (POL) – including, perhaps, some of the previous and current chairmen, directors (executive and non-executive), senior management, internal and external legal advisors, and internal and external auditors thought -- what precisely?

That they were above the law? That the rules of litigation, when it came to disclosure, didn’t apply to them? That shredding document was somehow acceptable? That lying was, ok? That POL governance systems were fit for purpose? That brand protection was all that mattered. Or perhaps that they would be able to keep the Scandal under wraps for ever? On that last point, they succeeded for a long time, although not quite for ever.

And as we consider the key players in the Scandal, let’s not forget Fujitsu which (for reasons some can perhaps guess but have yet to be discussed) has manged to keep its head far below the spotlight down over the last couple of years. Except of course that two of its former employees were referred to the Director of Public Prosecution by Sir Peter Fraser more than 18 months ago and then on to the Metropolitan police. In this country, “justice” moves extremely slowly.

I have written about all this over the last 15 months or so. I knew nothing about the Post Office Scandal until late 2019. But, of course, POL and certain of those who advised it, were expert in making sure it was kept under wraps. Otherwise, a few people might have thought that prosecuting more than 730 sub-postmasters, would raise a few eyebrows. If you average it out, it was about one each week, for 14 years.  

None of this makes comfortable reading – I don’t necessarily enjoy writing it either. I’m a lawyer, I used to think more of the law than I do these days. But, for reasons I’m also not clear about, not many in the legal world seem to want to discuss it.

Just to repeat because it can’t be repeated enough:

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of sub postmasters were sacked or prosecuted, many were jailed. They blamed flaws in the IT system, Horizon, but the Post Office denied there was a problem. Some might say there was a deliberate cover-up.

The Post Office bullied postmasters into pleading guilty to crimes they knew they hadn’t committed.

Others who weren’t convicted, were pushed out of their jobs, or forced to pay back thousands of pounds of 'missing' money. Some had to move homes and sometimes move villages or towns because the Post Office had trashed their reputations (ironic that–when you read the last sentence of this piece); they were spat on, and their children abused. Some were forced into bankruptcy when lawyers for the Post Office submitted legal bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Here is an even more concise summary: The Post Office Scandal is a major British business, legal, ethical and political scandal involving the prosecution and conviction of hundreds of sub-postmasters, for alleged theft, false accounting and/or fraud, resulting in imprisonment, loss of reputation and livelihood, bankruptcy, divorce, and even suicide amongst those involved

A legal, political and ethical scandal…

I get asked numerous questions about the Scandal and most often it’s something like this. “Why isn’t anyone in jail”?  Here is the thought process. “Crimes” were committed and covered up over a long period. As a result, people got sick, are still sick, at least one person committed suicide, people gave up and some died, they lost their livelihoods and years of their lives disappeared. No wonder there is palpable anger among so many people.

Did any auditors (internal or external) wonder about any of this? All those missing funds in all those dozens and hundreds of post offices.  There were numerous lawyers / law firms involved. What did they think? Where were they or as has been written previously, where weren’t they?

When Vince Cable—the Department of Business Cabinet Miniser with ultimate responsibility for POL over several years, was interviewed recently about some of these issues, he seemed on particularly shaky ground. Did this go high up into the government—how high? Did he and any of his junior ministers know? If yes, why didn’t they do something and if not, who was covering up and for how long?  And of course, the ultimate owner of Post Office Limited is the Department of Business—which is perhaps about to put its hand in its pocket to maybe make the first compensation payments that I mentioned at the start. What else could it do? Once those 39 appeals were granted by the Court of Appeal on 23rd April, it had little choice. But there is much, much more to be done.

Finally, as some people know, I have an interest in #corporate governance. Post Office Limited, must be a case study for use in all those hundreds of organisations, university and other faculties which attempt to teach it, “how to do it all wrong”. Another obvious question that has been raised. Why is the Chairman of POL, appointed in 2016, still in office—what is needed for him to be removed? He remains strangely silent over these matters. Others have asked, why are any of the current executive directors or any of the senior executives still in place? A quick look at the Companies House website shows that the CFO was appointed in 2015 and at least four other directors were appointed more than two years ago- perhaps before the judgements by Sir Peter Fraser at the end of 2019.

Where are those two words we so often hear about or read about, “responsibility” and “accountability “, hiding? It’s easy to write/ lecture / teach about them—I know, I do it too. But look what happens when they are ignored utterly, I showed you above—and saying “sorry, sorry”, doesn’t really cut it.

I have read several times, that ultimately POL decided it had to protect its brand at all costs. Were all those hundreds of wrongful convictions, dozens of people wrongly jailed, the deaths, the losses, the sicknesses worth it?

Just one quote from Tracy Felstead also bears repeating – I make no apologies for doing so either. In 2002, Tracy was just 19 years old when she was jailed. She finally had her conviction overturned on 23rd April 2021.

“In prison I had a job in there taking hot drinks to the cells, but in this one cell there was a girl, she was hanging, she was dead.”


Epitaph: I’ve asked numerous people what they think about the Post Office brand today--- they think the Post Office brand is trashed.