Post Office Scandal
Usually when a horrible thing happens in the United Kingdom, they have a scandal. The severity of the scandal is usually in relation to how this event or series of events would probably not happen elsewhere, for whatever reason. It is my view that the differences are usually legislative. The Post Office Scandal is particularly mesmerising, in that people were convicted of crimes that did not happen. So they were not “innocent” of a crime, but the crime did not occur, and yet, still they where prosecuted and in most cases, convicted.
In the nation that produced Rumpole, I was interested in the dynamic that rendered the dispute resolution mechanism of the courts and justice system unable to detect the lack of a crime in its convictions.
The previously mentioned details motivated me to listen to the 10 part podcast and read the 543 page book on the subject. Turns out changes to a law to prevent nuisance defence of speeding tickets, the expected behaviour of Post Office investigators lying during questioning suspects, and failing to disclose flaws of the acounting system during prosecution, timid defence and institution deference for the Post Office all contributed to an startling case of abuse of power.
Scandals usually have villains and victims and this one in particular is heavy on the victims. At final count approximately 700 convictions were found. It turns out, on close inspection. The Post Office was tasked to make a profit, like other former national institutions in other nations, and they had an old contract with the people running the post offices, and a new system for accounting the transactions in those offices. When the point of sale devices failed the errors they produced were taken as accurate. They were always accurate in the eyes of the Post Office and the recovery of imaginary assets were pursued vigorously. This system while large was also awful, the smoking gun in this case.
The villain in this case is lining up to be Paula Vennells, though like James Bond, she was given a licence to make an ancient institution make money and succeeded, she got awards, but all of the carnage it took to make that happen is now winning court cases and most importantly, writing a better more compelling story. She has yet to be thrown onto the bonfire, but an inquiry is forthcoming.