Friday 12 November 2021

The Definitive History of the Horizon Scandal, Trials and so on.

I've written at length here and elsewhere about the 'greatest miscarriage of justice' in modern times. Most of this has been reporting the progress and results of the Civil Litigation instigated by the Sub-Postmasters against Post Office Ltd., the follow up from that, the Court of Appeal hearings and what this means for Post Office, Governments, the legal system, and lawyers and auditors in general.

If you are only interested in new stamps and philatelic news, so be it.  If you are not interested in the means of getting those products to the public, and the operational and management failings behind the retail chain of PO branches originally part of Royal Mail and then split off to be in Post Office Ltd, well that's fine too.  

But if you also wonder why you can't find post offices where you used to, and why post office branches close but nobody wants to take on the onerous and dangerous task of running a branch, then the Horizon problems are certainly part of the answer.  


I haven't written much recently, although there has been more progress, not least in the form of The Post Office Horizon IT Enquiry, conducted by retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams.   If you've been receiving Nick Wallis's emails on this you will be up to date.  

Earlier this week the Enquiry held what Sir Wyn described as the first "truly open session" of the inquiry. The hearing was attended by representatives of the Government, the Post Office, Fujitsu, the Metropolitan Police, Paula Vennells (former POL CEO), the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, the Communications Workers Union, as well as legal representatives of very many Subpostmasters.

The recording of the hearing is now available here.  

The day started with a recognition from Sir Wyn that the issue of legal professional privilege was extremely important and needed to be addressed.  Legal professional privilege protects all communications between a professional legal adviser (a solicitor, barrister or attorney) and his or her clients from being disclosed without the permission of the client. The privilege is that of the client and not that of the lawyer. 

Immediately after the session was concluded, Sir Wyn wrote to the Post Office, government and Fujitsu demanding they provide him with full access to hitherto secret documents in their possession. [Within a week, and if not, why not.]  He wants "a waiver of privilege in respect [of] legally privileged material" held by the three groups "dated from the date of the first pilot of the Horizon IT System to the Prime Minister’s announcement to hold an inquiry on 26 February 2020."

Clearly he had hear enough from the Sub-postmasters, the Unions, Professor Richard Moorhead, a leading legal ethicist who raised the matter of Paula Vennels lying to parliament in 2015, and Paul Marshall, the barrister who was key in getting the Court of Appeal to rule that the prosecutions were “an affront to justice”.

Prof Moorhead concluded by saying:

"Considering the Horizon saga without considering the lawyering would be a bit like considering Watergate without considering the White House Tapes. Telling, perhaps vital information will be missing. The abuses of power. The injustice… who did it and why will not be properly understood. Sir, to discharge the inquiry’s remit you must do the equivalent of listening to those tapes."

Paul Marshall raised several issues - the need for full disclosure of privileged material (of course), the "aggressive delay" the Post Office has deployed, stopping his former clients from receiving timely justice, and the curious possible case of a conflict of interest with regard to Brian Altman QC, who both wrote the secret Altman Review back in 2013 and represented the Post Office during the Court of Appeal hearing in 2020 and 2021.

Further hearings will be held next year.

And if all this leaves you puzzled and confused about just what went on an when, and who was involved and maybe ought to be held accountable, then freelance journalist Nick Wallis, whose reports have formed the basis of much of what many people have written so far, has written 'the book'.  

In his latest report Nick writes:

I have written a book called The Great Post Office Scandal, which will be in shops on 18 November 2021. If you would like to buy a pre-sale copy, please click here. This is what people are saying about it:

Editor of Private Eye and broadcaster, Ian Hislop: “An extraordinary journalistic exposé of a huge miscarriage of justice.”

BBC News anchor, Mishal Husain: “The definitive account of the scandal.”

Journalist, broadcaster, musician and vicar, Rev Richard Coles: “A tale brilliantly told. I urge you to read it.”

Journalist, broadcaster, and peer Baroness Joan Bakewell: “Nick’s narrative has the power of a great thriller.”

10% of the book's revenue will go into a fund help Subpostmasters who need help


Although the story is far from over, this is the story of how innocent people fought back to clear their names against a background of institutional arrogance and obfuscation, a fight dragged out by the Post Office’s refusal to accept responsibility for its failings. Nick exposes the secrecy and mistrust at the heart of the story, and the impact that had on the victims.  

You can pre-order the book from the publishers or from your local book store.

  • 544  250; pages approx.
  • Prices:
    • Hardback: £25 + £4 p&p
    • Digital (pdf + epub): £8.99
    • Hardback + digital bundle: £30 + p&p 
  • ISBN 978-1-9163023-8-9


1 comment:

  1. More good news today with more convictions overturned. 736 convictions in 16 years is almost one conviction evry week of those 16 years! Incredible! It will be interesting to see when those who are REALLY crimninally guilty start going to jail.


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