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:
- Criminal Behaviour
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.
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.
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.