Letter to Editor: The Post Office must be stripped of their prosecution powers
Politics / Fri 12th Jan 2024 at 07:41am
I WATCHED the Post Office Horizon IT public inquiry this morning (11 Jan) which focused on the testimony of Post Office investigator and security manager Stephen Bradshaw. I was appalled to hear that several paragraphs of one of Mr Bradshaw’s court statements was ultimately written by the Post Office’s press relations officer.
The inquiry is an eye opener into the mindset of the Post Office (PO). The evidence of Mr Bradshaw particularly exposed the PO’s reluctance to fully disclose evidence to defence solicitors. In particular, the computer expert testimony of Professor Charles McLachlan offered in defence of subpostmistress Seema Misra at her trial at Guildford Crown Court in October 2010 was not disclosed in subsequent PO prosecutions.
In fact, a communication by one of the PO’s legal department to Mr Bradshaw used the phrase “they can find it out for themselves” in relation to disclosure of evidence to defence counsel.
The overriding need to protect the PO from a wider fallout from Horizon was additionally exposed in examination of one of Mr Bradshaw’s personal appraisals. The appraisal contains Mr Bradshaw’s own assessment of his job performance and he describes persuading a PO solicitor to persue a prosection in order to “protect the PO from the wider impact of Horizon”.
However, the root of the problem with the PO’s attitude to Horizon difficiencies is exposed in two paragraphs in part 2 of the forensic auditor Second Sight’s report of 9 April 2015.
Firstly, in para 3.9 on page 7 the auditors say: “The Contract transfers most of the risk of doing business to Subpostmasters. Our investigations have shown that this is not a static situation and, over time, Post Office has introduced a number of new products, and revised business processes, that may have transferred further risk to Subpostmasters.” The following para 3.10 states: “Many of these changes seem to have been introduced without adequate consultation.”
Secondly, para 3.11 makes the damning conclusion: “A consequence of the progressive transfer of risk from Post Office to Subpostmasters is that, in our opinion, there is little incentive for Post Office to improve the error repellency of its business systems.”
This outrageous ‘transfer of risk’ should never be repeated in the PO or any other public service. It is an indictment of successive governments outsourcing and privatisation that has its roots in the Ridley Report written by Nicholas Ridley on behalf of the Conservate Party Research Department in 1977. The aim of the report was to “curb the power” of public sector trade unions, reduce the number of strike days and drive down wages through privatisation of the nationalised industries.
Watching the public inquiry ‘seals the deal’ for me that the PO must be stripped of their prosecution powers. Additionally, the gathering of evidence for court cases should in future be conducted by the police service and then handed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The Post Office has violated the trust of the general public and thus justifies senior PO managers and legal officers being prosecuted. I look forward to that day very soon.
1. PO Horizon IT inquiry website:
2. Professor McLachlan’s evidence reference. See 2nd para on page 1 of: https://journals.sas.ac.uk/deeslr/article/download/2303/2256/3530&ved=2ahUKEwi9xo_SotWDAxX2V0EAHcW7Ck8QFnoECAwQAQ&usg=AOvVaw2TxGZfPOgpML5_0bOrvvx7
3. Second Sight Part Two report 9 April 2015:
4. The Ridley Report June 1977:
Former Post Office Telecommunications engineer and former Post Office Engineering Union Overseas Telegraph branch safety officer
The PO must be stripped of any and all prosecution powers. Jewson investigators are exactly the same as the PO ones - mafia bullies. They do not follow PACE guidelines, they falsely and illegally detain victims, they prevent those victims from having food or drinks, they bully them using threats and promises of lesser convictions if the victims agree to take the rap, even when they know they have done nothing wrong. They use the threat of criminal conviction/ criminal record against the victims. The investigators will do or say anything which will gain them a result which they want; not which is beneficial and fair to their victims.