I cannot believe it has been three years!

(I cannot write up these blogs without the continued efforts of Nick Wallis who reports on all court dates in this ongoing litigation.  He can only do so by continued financial support so please assist him via his website http://www.postofficetrial.com)

Yesterday’s revelations in court (www.postofficetrial.com) with regard to the ongoing litigation in the Alan Bates and Others v Post Office Ltd rang some alarm bells in my head.   In what was only a cost management hearing, POL elected to reveal that they had come across some further Known Error Log entries that predated the ones highlighting the same errors that had been disclosed to the claimants.  The details of these are of little consequence to my thoughts.  What is significant is that POL are, even now after the Horizon trial is over, continuing to look for possible evidence that may or may not assist the claimants and/or their own defence.

As most readers will know I have a particular interest in the Seema Misra conviction (https://journals.sas.ac.uk/index.php/deeslr/article/view/2303/2256) and that interest will be maintained until her conviction is quashed and those responsible for ensuring the unsafe conviction are punished.

It is absolutely astonishing then that I wrote this open letter (below) to Paula Vennells three years ago in December yet Seema’s conviction remains with the CCRC when all POL had to do was pick up the phone, call the CCRC and advise them that they concur with my findings and of course more importantly Seema’s knowledge that she was unjustly imprisoned.  Three additional years that Seema has had to live and deal with the unnecessary pain and suffering that being a convicted felon must bring.

The Horizon trial produced in disclosure overwhelming prima facie evidence that POL and Fujitsu had deliberately withheld evidence of other errors in Horizon in order to secure Seema’s conviction.

Post Office as a prosecutor has a continuing duty to disclose immediately any information that subsequently comes to light which might undermine its prosecution case or support the case of the defendant.  

Post Office Ltd has failed miserably in its ‘continuing duty’ and it has failed Seema as well as every other former SPMR accused of and convicted of theft.

 

December 22, 2016

https://problemswithpol.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/an-open-letter-to-paula-vennells/

Dear Paula

Unsound convictions are part and parcel of the work of our Judiciary.  We allow for the possibilities of mistakes and new evidence coming to light with our Appeal system.  Even Post Office Ltd acknowledge this possibility and state that they have a duty to release new evidence to the defence even after a successful conviction.

In Post Office’s rebuttal of the Second Sight Report you stated:

Post Office as a prosecutor has a continuing duty to disclose immediately any information that subsequently comes to light which might undermine its prosecution case or support the case of the defendant.  

It is the duty of the defence lawyers to identify to the Court where there is insufficient evidence to sustain a charge, or to seek further information from the Post Office which might assist the defendant’s case. If the Court agrees, then the Judge must dismiss that charge. Thus a charge upon which there is no evidence will inevitably fail. 

Now I will admit that you, as the CEO, have to rely on the information you are provided with by your employees.  You cannot be expected to investigate personally every issue that is put before you BUT and this is most important, as CEO you accept the responsibility for the consequences of their actions and iinactions as the case may be.  As CEO you stand by the statements you make to the Media and your company’s owners, the Government.

However it is not only your employees who provide you with information.  External sources do to and I am one of them.  I have provided you with details for instance of where to look for and read the transcript of the trial of Seema Misra.  She was the subpostmistress at West Byfleet Post Office who your team had convicted of theft.   In fairness you could not have known that this transcript would enter into the public domain but the fact is that it has, and I have urged you to read it in the past.   You must read this transcript and compare it to not only what you have been told about how your team obtained this conviction but also compare it to the statements that POL have made about this whole sorry mess and the behaviour you must and should have expected from your employees who have now very visibly and publicly let you down.

You don’t have to read very far into the transcript before it becomes obvious that your team has been responsible for securing a conviction against Ms Misra by duplicitous means.  You state yourself above that it is the defence lawyers duty to seek further information from the Post Office which might assist the defendant’s case.  Well the defence asked right at the beginning for more details of errors in Horizon and your team argued against the defence team having access to them.   Your prosecution team argued that any errors in Horizon would be noticeable by the SPMR so there was no need for further disclosure.

3 years after the trial of Seema Misra, Second Sight reported on an error that had occurred in Horizon.  This error first occurred in 2011 and was not noticed by any of the branches affected.   The consequences of this error were that branches had deducted from their accounts an amount of money which POL were not entitled to.   Now tell me was this theft or just a silly mistake?   During the course of the year (2011) you and your auditors signed off your accounts and proudly reported to the public and the Government a decrease in the company’s losses.  Was this False Accounting or a simple mistake?

In 2012 the same error re-occurred and a subpostmaster at last noticed it.   When POL checked they found that 14 branches had been affected.   13 of them didn’t notice it.  Some of these branches actually owed money to POL.   Were these branches guilty of Theft Paula or was it just a stupid mistake?   For over a year they had wrongly signed off on their accounts.   Were they guilty of false accounting or just too stupid to notice?

Eventually POL wrote off the money that some of these branches owed POL and refunded the ones that POL owed money to.   You actually paid cash to these branches when the error was generated by the computer system and as you will know no computer knows how to steal physical cash.   Did Seema Misra actually steal all that money in cash?  The amounts concerned in the error were not very large by all accounts in comparison with the amount Seema was charged with stealing.  Do you think that should make a difference?  Well if you think it should then I suggest you read the transcript in full and see what the prosecution had to say about that particular point.

It gets worse – a whole lot worse – because several of these branches that did not notice this error – the error that the prosecution in the Misra Trial said would be so obvious to the Seema that it was totally impossible for it to happen – were CROWN offices Paula – the offices that your company runs – the offices that have produced most of your management staff.   POL would have actually recovered from these branches an amount or paid to the accounts of these branches an amount as a result of a computer error that sometimes you say never happens and sometimes your company says when trying to find an innocent person guilty of theft would be so obvious to the user that it would be spotted and rectified immediately.

And of course it keeps getting worse.  Even when you spotted this error in 2012 and tried to fix it you didn’t even manage to do that so when the SAME error occurred yet again in 2013 it proved that even when you know about an error it can remain in the system for three years or more – iwe have no way of telling whether or not it re-occurred in 2014 – my bet though is that it did.   You compound all of these errors and inconsistencies by failing  to notify the branch network to look out for these errors even when you know them to exist.  In private emails your team decide not to tell anyone about them to protect the reputation of the system yet you prosecute someone on the premise that the losses that occurred at her branch could not have been the result of computer error because she would have noticed it.

So there we have it – it is not all of the story, there is a lot more evidence to suggest that Seema Misra was incarcerated unjustly.    You just need to read the transcript to see that.   I am truly and utterly gobsmacked that had the transcript not been made public I would not have been in a position to ensure Seema’s conviction is overturned which it will be – if you can’t see that now then I truly pity you.

Seema’s case is before the CCRC now for review.  They have been sitting on it for 18 months (NOW OVER FOUR YEARS as at 24/10/19)  and from what I hear they will sit on it for another 18 months, but it is not going away.  It will be returned to the appeal court and you and your company will be publicly humiliated.

 

After the trial is over, after the break of day?

Mediation

I have read with interest Nick Wallis’s summary of the mediation procedures (www.postofficetrial.com) now being put in place in the current litigation between Alan Bates & Co (JFSA) versus Post Office Ltd (POL).

As far as I can tell there is nothing sinister about this as it appears to be quite common during prolonged litigation to address the possibility that both sides may be relieved for the legal process to be curtailed.

I am not party to the litigation just an interested observer and I can see the merits of mediation from both sides.   However there are some issues that remain extremely concerning to me with regard to how it came to pass that litigation was the only avenue open to Alan Bates and his co-claimants to resolve their concerns with POL.

Successful mediation would bring the matter to a close for the claimants and allow them to get on with their lives, but for POL the door to a wide variety of issues raised during the litigation will remain open until such time as they themselves choose to tackle them.  This will also be the case as and when the litigation comes to a conclusion, mediation or not.

The courtroom drama unfolding in Court 26 at the Rolls Building in London has had many side effects for POL but from my point of view the main one is that it has prevented POL from publicly acknowledging their faults.   If they had chosen to do so it could well have compromised their case and to be fair it appears that senior POL management were not aware of some of the many faults now being exposed in court.   Of course some of the faults they were clearly aware of and chose to bury these in court procedures designed to limit disclosure to the claimants.   I can’t imagine any other reason to withhold reasonable requests by the claimants for disclosure other than to hide something they did not want exposed.

Hiding from the truth does not help anyone get better.

There are three outstanding issue that I would like to mention here that need to be resolved once the matter of Bates and Others v POL has been resolved:

  1. Accountability
  2. Re-organisation
  3. Criminal Behaviour

Accountability

Over the last few years, I and many others have fought to expose the distinct lack of accountability of POL to independent scrutiny.  No one in the higher echelons of the civil service or the government seems to be concerned about this despite POL being the recipient over recent years of over £2 billion in state aid funding.  The National Audit Office denies it has any responsibility to monitor the expenditure of such a vast amount yet before Royal Mail was nationalised it was certainly involved in scrutiny of that organisation.

One of the major questions still to be answered by POL is why the forensic auditors, Second Sight, were removed from their contract to investigate matters pertinent to the current litigation and for them to be silenced with a non disclosure agreement.  They wanted to scrutinise the legendary suspense accounts but were turned away.  Why?

There is perhaps the possibility that at the end of this trial, such will be the revelations made public that a call for a public or judicial inquiry will succeed.  This perhaps may be the only way to finally ensure that POL are subject to the independent scrutiny they so richly deserve.  This would perhaps be one of the key orders to be made to ensure that similar events that led to this trial be prevented from occurring again.

Re-organisation

It is my belief (very strong belief) that Alan Bates and Co will emerge victorious from this court case.  I can imagine that there will be some very harsh and dramatic conclusions made public by the judge in his final summing up.  At that point it surely cannot escape attention that many of the POL employees who allowed all of this mess to happen in the first place are still employed by POL.  They need to go.   As I have mentioned before the people who should be running the senior management of this company should be existing or former subpostmasters not former counter clerks in Post Office operated Crown Post Offices.   Failure to expedite this re-organisation can only encourage suspicion that POL are never going to change.

Criminal Behaviour

There is no escaping the fact that it is highly likely that criminal behaviour by certain Fujitsu and Post Office Ltd employees has been exposed in court.  It is for the police to investigate and the CPS to decide what crimes those responsible should be charged with.  However the first stage is for these crimes to be reported and it should not fall to the likes of me to do so.  It is clearly the responsibility of POL management and failing to do so is possible in itself a criminal offence because as I have pointed out to them before, they seem unable to acknowledge that senior management in Post Office Ltd are classed as Public Officers and as such fall under the law of Misconduct in Public Office.

One very good example of such alleged criminal behaviour is found in the case of Seema Misra (reported elsewhere in this blog).   POL and a certain Fujitsu employee failed to notify the court of evidence that could have supported her case that possible Horizon errors were to blame for the losses in her branch.  Evidence produced in the current trial has shown that that was a deliberate action on POL’s part to ensure Seema’s conviction.

Perhaps Nick Reed, POL’s new CEO should be asked why POL have yet to report their own employees to the police on this matter?  If he does not then he himself becomes implicated in the misdemeanours of the past.

Climate Change and how to stop it – an alternative viewpoint

Let’s be clear from the off.  I believe Climate Change is real, it is happening and that there is a real danger, if the cause of Climate Change is not tackled soon, that it will cause grave harm to mankind.

I was spurred into writing this because of the mass hysteria around at the moment, which has clearly some merit but the hysteria also has the consequence of affecting the opinion of journalists.  It was a very badly written article on the BBC News website last week that made me realise this.   The journalist must have been in a rush or read the report that gave rise to the article in such a way that he saw only what he wanted to see.

The report in question was from the EIA, the US Energy Information Adminstration.  Their researchers advised that they had adjusted their forecast for Global Oil demand down by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd).   That is what the BBC journalist read, but what he missed was that it was a reduction in the estimated growth in demand, down from 1.4m bpd.  That is growth, not what the world needs every day.    Right now the world demands that the big oil companies produce about 100m bpd and next year that is likely, according to the report, to increase to 101.3m bpd.

Despite the climate change warnings and the move to renewable energy the world still wants to use more hydrocarbons to fuel its economy.   I think it is pretty clear that this increased use of hydrocarbons is down to population growth and mapping the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere against world population supports that premise.

If population growth is the cause then climate change and increased use of hydrocarbons are both effects of the cause.   Therefore to tackle climate change the world needs to consider tackling population growth first.

In 1968 Dr Paul Erlich published the book, The Population Bomb.    I read it in the early 70s and got the drift.   The world just cannot sustain exponential population growth and climate change now goes to show just how right he was 50 years ago.

I don’t know how the activists came to be known as Extinction Rebellion but it does seem to me to be a rather self fulfilling concept.   They want to save the planet for their children but having children is causing the problem.   Extinction of the human race would almost certainly stop that part of global warming down to carbon use but of course long before the entire race was wiped out the need for hydrocarbons would diminish and climate change would possibly result in reversion to the mean temperature of the world.

That leads me to a rather basic and simple question that I would love the Climate Change activists to answer.  What temperature do they want?  What kind of climate is acceptable?  Should we not hold a global referendum to find out what everybody wants?

The thing is, the human race has not been on this planet long enough to make any sort of impression on mean climate/temperature measured over the Earth’s geological time scale.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

 

With or without human beings the chart above shows that the world has pretty much survived through a wide range of global temperature phases and surely it remains to be seen which mean temperature suits us best?

But I suppose the activists want an immediate solution to the problem (as they see it).    Well one answer would be to allow hydrocarbon production and use to continue to grow until it all runs out, after all, hydrocarbons are classed as a non-renewable energy source (which has always confused me because as long as trees continue to shed leaves in the autumn and mammals and aquatic creatures continue to die, the source is continually being renewed).   Another answer to the problem though could be a short term fix which we humans have relatively recent experience of.

When the volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883 it lowered Northern Hemisphere temperatures by up to 2 degrees for a year or so  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1883_eruption_of_Krakatoa)  I am sure we could trigger a similar event now with the added benefit for these activists of having a significant impact on air travel.

Seriously though, Ehrlich was right.  Too many people on this planet of ours causes too many problems for us all.   Perhaps if the present day activists changed their approach and demanded we all abstain from sex for a couple of decades then the world will be saved.   My ex wife adopted that approach with me although I didn’t realise at the time it was part of her plan to save the world.