Have decency! Even now the post will not do the right thing, says PAUL BALDWIN | Express commentary | Comment
In short, the post office installed a new computer system called Horizon and this computer system wrongly said that many postmasters and postmistresses were stealing money. They weren’t. The expensive computer system was simply broken. But rather than admit this embarrassing dysfunction, the Post sued its own employees for theft, fraud and false accounting.
Many have gone to jail. At least one committed suicide. Some have had nervous breakdowns. All of them suffered the shame and ignominy of being brand criminals.
They were all innocent.
And at the Royal Courts of Justice today, Lord Justice Holroyde concluded that senior post office officials knew what they were doing. They knew the data was wrong – but they went ahead and ruined the lives of their own people anyway.
It’s breathtaking. And it’s hard not to be really angry on behalf of the victims.
So I asked the press office the only question worth asking: “Is someone at the post office going to have the decency to stand up and say” it was me, I am responsible and I am sorry “.
(I spoke to “Dylan” in the press office – that’s not his real name of course, my lawyers said if I told you his name people might be mean to him. The irony of being advised to use anonymity to protect someone paid to defend people who have cynically ruined lives and remain anonymous is not lost on me. But lawyers are lawyers, so “Dylan” is .)
Poor old “Dylan” from the press office blamed something about it being on the government’s public inquiry to determine it – reading a script he had just read to God knows how many other reporters.
But this is not the case?
Someone in the post knows exactly who is in charge – but he has neither the courage nor the human decency to stand up.
I pushed him and said, “Why do we have to spend millions and millions of public funds to figure out something that someone in the post already knows?”
“Some of the victims have already gone to their graves still feeling ashamed – why should those who are still alive wait any longer?”
I pointed out that public inquiries take years – that’s half the reason politicians and public bodies love them because by the time the result is released everyone has long forgotten to what it was.
I added, “Is there no one out there who has the decency to do the right thing? Take responsibility for the morally correct thing to do?”
“Dylan,” God bless him, fell silent. He knew the correct answer to that.
Everyone knows the correct answer to this question.
He proposed: “There is a lot of debate about our former CEO … this maybe something that emerges from the investigation.”
And indeed, there is a clamor for ex-CEO Paula Vennells, who would have known that Horizon could show missing money, to be stripped of its CBE.
And Post General Manager Nick Read and Post Chairman Tim Parker have issued a cautious and legally watertight apology – but both spoke of “historic failures” … what they say, c is “that has nothing to do with us buddy anymore!”
And that’s not enough is it?
We live in a world where everyone claims their rights but few are decent enough to face their responsibilities.
We frequently accuse the young and the awakened of this – but this is a great grown-up business and we expect better. Much better.
As I pointed out to “Dylan,” the Post Office brand is in the bathroom today and what could, could, could, save some public respect is if someone, maybe few people, had the courage and decency to save the victims from over years of suffering and the public from spending millions on an investigation we don’t need.
Someone at the post office knows the names of the culprits.
Neil Hudgell, who represented 29 of the former postmasters, said after the affair: “The Post still seems to care little about the people whose lives it destroyed.
“In the end, it turned out to be an organization that not only turned a blind eye to the failures of its hugely expensive computer system, but positively promoted a culture of cover-up and subterfuge. in the pursuit of reputation and profit.
“They readily accepted this loss of life, freedom and sanity for many ordinary people as a price to pay in this lawsuit.”
This culture of concealment and subterfuge still seems very much alive at the post office, historical failures or no historical failures.