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How the Post Office wrecked the lives of its own workers

14 Jun 2020, 15:49

How the Post Office wrecked the lives of its own workers

Click on the link above for the full article. Required reading for all CWU members, especially those at the Post Office Ltd. Andy Furey, CWU Assistant Secretary for POL must be fully commended for his dedication to pursuing justice for all workers impacted by this disgraceful scandal.

The following is an excerpt only from the article:

Misleading parliamentarians was a measure of the arrogance in the Post Office boardroom. But the MPs did get Vennells to commission a review of the Horizon system from forensic IT firm Second Sight. For Arbuthnot it gave hope of getting some answers. For Vennells, who was preoccupied with the Post Office’s financial bottom line after it split from Royal Mail that year and its target of financial independence from government by 2020, the review provided a handy patch of long grass into which to kick the matter. One Post Office insider told the Eye that “meeting the 2020 objective became the relentless focus... Anything that could get in the way of ‘2020’ as it became known, was logged as a risk to be managed and minimised carefully”.

Defying Post Office attempts to frustrate them by blocking access to information such as error logs, Second Sight’s investigators Ron Warmington and Ian Henderson soon found some real nasties under the stones. An interim report in the summer of 2013 showed that they had diagnosed the two core issues: faulty IT and the victimisation of sub-postmasters. It was now understood even at Post Office HQ that prosecuting entirely on IT evidence was unsafe. Although the Post Office was not going to admit that, it spoke volumes that the number of sub- postmaster prosecutions fell from 42 in 2012/13 to just two in 2013/14 and zero the next year. Not that this was much consolation for the 60 sub-postmasters convicted on Horizon evidence, of whom 20 were imprisoned.

There were two ways Paula Vennells could react to Second Sight’s emerging findings. One was to accept them and open the way to justice for the sub-postmasters. The other was to feign concern while trying to bury what could be an expensive problem. Vennells and her executives were now earning bumper bonuses by shaving £30m a year off the Post Office’s losses in pursuit of the 2020 goal (see ‘The Post Office Hall of Shame’, p5). If the commercial partners – including banks, energy companies and public bodies – on which the Post Office’s commercial plan depended were to be kept onside, the illusion of Horizon’s infallibility could not be shattered. The financial imperatives duly trumped fairness for sub-postmasters.
Professing a desire to get to the bottom of the affair, Vennells initially agreed to retain Second Sight to look at individual cases as part of a mediation scheme under the chairmanship of former appeal court judge Sir Anthony Hooper. But when sub-postmasters began to ask for more than just warm words from the mediation, the tone hardened. Out went the Post Office’s relatively conciliatory general counsel (ie top lawyer) Susan Crichton, replaced by the more commercial Chris Aujard from the City via a gold-mining company.

Aujard, the sort of lawyer who talked about “adding value” for his corporate employers, took responsibility for the mediation scheme. It quickly proved to be another trap.

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