Justice and Truth for the Sub-Postmasters

For many years Liberal Democrats, like me, campaigned against the closure of Post Office branches, as we believed that every community which loses its local Post Office is poorer in a number of ways. They provided not only essential postal and banking services, but also a social hub and a lifeline for many, who did not have a bank account or access to the internet.

Ironically, those Sub-Postmasters whose Post Offices did close escaped the risk of being caught up in what has been described as the greatest ever miscarriage of justice in Britain, with several hundred innocent people losing their life savings, being made bankrupt and homeless, and in some cases losing their lives, because of the lies told and outdated powers that the Post Office used to prosecute – without the involvement of the Police. Many were falsely accused of fraud because of the determination by the Post Office to cover up an IT problem, which was known about for years.

This long running saga has once again come to the public’s attention with the broadcast of the television series, Mr Bates v The Post Office, which has retold the story as a drama which has left people shocked and outraged at the action of the Post Office, the Government and the legal system. With a number of heroes and leading the villains, the Post Office’s CEO at the time, Paula Vennells.  

Even when the compensation of nearly £57 million was agreed in 2018, nearly 20 years after the horizon system was installed, nearly £45 million was charged in legal fees, leaving the Sub-Postmasters with £12 million to be divided amongst 500 people giving them around £20,000 for each life ruined.

It has taken far too long to deliver justice and the truth has never been admitted, with a number of Sub-Postmasters having died waiting for their name to be cleared, convictions quashed and compensation paid. Not one of those responsible for the suffering of  more than 700 Post Office workers has ever been held accountable. Innocent people were found guilty of charges of theft and false accounting caused by those who wanted to protect the reputation of the Post Office who had invested over £1.5 billion in the flawed Horizon computer system, which was at the heart of the problem.

In the run up to the next election, it is time for every political party to commit to a speedy, fair and just settlement for everyone who has suffered from this miscarriage of justice.

 

 

* John Barrett was a Liberal Democrat Member for 40 years and is a former, Edinburgh City Councillor and Member of Parliament for Edinburgh West.

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12 Comments

  • Paul Barker 6th Jan '24 - 4:54pm

    We should be demanding that all the Convictions be overturned, including those who lost their appeals.
    All those convicted plus those who paid their own money to The Post Office should be compensated for all the Money lost & for their suffering.
    We should be glad that the Police are finally looking into the behaviour of PO Management – some of them should be facing Prison.

  • Robert SAYER 7th Jan '24 - 8:45am

    Unfortunately Lib Dem ministers are being caught up in this fiasco.. perhaps Lib Dem Voice can publish their comments etc

  • Hugh Manning 7th Jan '24 - 9:39am

    Today’s Sunday Times article about Davey, Cable and Swinson’s involvment during the coalition appears to be an attempt to smear the Libdems as the article does point out that Conservative ministers bahaved in the same way after the end of the coalition.

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jan '24 - 10:00am
  • Neil James Sandison 7th Jan '24 - 10:15am

    Agree with Robert Sayer lets make sure our own house is in order and that the actions or non-actions of Ed Davey do not come back to haunt us as the general election approaches

  • Martin Gray 7th Jan '24 - 11:24am

    It’s the opening salvos of a long & drawn out election campaign. We shouldn’t expect anything less from the Tories and it’s media backers . Having said that – most political parties have engaged in those type of tactics at some point.

  • Problem is that the involvement of Ministers with responsibility for the Post Office has been in the public domain for years and has involved our own appointments. We may have to change the leader to be able to go into the election with a clean slate, after all we claim integrity etc etc.
    At the same time I cannot believe that this issue did not reach Cabinet and/or number 10 level during the period of Labour, Coalition and Conservative governments. The involvement could go right to the top.
    Was there some corruption between the Post Office and the IT Company in the gaining of contracts etc and that is what led to the constant and let us face it continuing attempts to cover up at the Public Enquiry, by the constant delays and witness responses that say they do not recall , remember or recollect what happened.

  • John Barrett 7th Jan '24 - 12:11pm

    Having watched all four parts of the tv drama, Mr Bates v The Post Office, and the interview with the real Mr Bates (not Toby jones) and this morning read the Sunday Times article detailing the correspondence between Mr Bates and the Lib Dem Ministers involved; Ed Davey, Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson, the concern must be how our ministers accepted the word of the Post Office over the concerns of the Sub-postmasters, with Jo stating in the House of Commons that the problem only affected a “minute proportion” of the workforce. Also, that it took Mr Bates to find Ed’s reply “offensive” before the pair met. Clearly all political parties were not completely innocent and could have done better, but it appears that, our Ministers, once in Government, could have done much better. What it needs now is for all convictions to be quashed and compensation paid quickly – before the next election.

  • David Franks 7th Jan '24 - 12:27pm

    Why are the senior Post Office managers who knew about this problem not in jail? Will the coalition Post Office ministers please explain why they are not in jail on this platform?

  • Suzanne Fletcher 7th Jan '24 - 12:48pm

    It would be very helpful to have a good response from those Lib Dem former ministers as to what they say. Afraid that smears stick, and we need good info to combat.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 7th Jan '24 - 12:52pm
  • John Barrett 7th Jan '24 - 5:23pm

    Credit to David Allen for posting the link below on another thread. It’s well worth reading on the day the Prime Minister has committed to ending this outrage. Hopefully he will realise that dealing with this matter is one of the few good things he can do in the remaining months left of this Government.

    https://www.private-eye.co.uk/pictures/special_reports/justice-lost-in-the-post.pdf

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