Trust No One
I have just read a remarkable book, The Great Post Office Scandal by Nick Wallis.
The Post Office, that core member of the establishment – slightly dull, yet a deeply respected British institution – prosecuted around 900 sub-postmasters for theft, false accounting and fraud. After a vast court case, it was found that 99 per cent of those prosecuted were wholly innocent and that many of them were maliciously prosecuted.
The prosecutions were based on evidence drawn from the Post Office’s software system, Horizon. The PO had proclaimed the system to be infallible when in fact it was as full of holes as a rotten Swiss cheese. But it gets worse – the accountants, the solicitors and the managers all went on prosecuting even after the directors had been reliably informed that the system was flawed. The lives of those ensnared in this misery were destroyed – they ended up bankrupt, divorced, disgraced and suicidal. Then, during the trial, the Post Office managers used taxpayer money to try and run the sub-postmasters’ action group out of funds by playing legal games. Of course, none of those responsible for this carnage have been prosecuted. Most are still sitting on their plump arses to this day drawing their wages and seemingly couldn’t care less.
As far as the prosecuted sub-postmasters are concerned, the empirical evidence suggests that those from a minority ethnic background received harsher sentences than their European counterparts.
And, oh yes, I nearly forgot. The Post Office CEO was an Anglican priest. She says she’s “sorry”.
You wouldn’t believe this ghastly story if you had read it in a novel.
I’ve been here before. Years ago, against acute establishment resistance, I founded the Association of Lloyd’s Members (ALM) to represent the investors towards the owners of the enterprises that were meant to make them money. It was, I imagine, rather like starting the first trade union for horny handed mill workers. The mill owners were pissed off.
I was amongst the first to expose the scandal where half the investor market (made up of the posh boys) was dishonestly shafting the other half (the common twits) with the losses.
We litigated and won all the cases. I had to fight two defamation cases personally – thank God I settled both before trial.
But my experience tells me that I’d be better off chancing my luck on the Las Vegas roulette tables than relying on justice in the UK courts. At least in Vegas, they lay on drink and entertainment, more than they do in the High Court – and the odds are better in Vegas.
Those fighting the Post Office mafia found – as we did all those years ago at Lloyd’s – that the first implacable barrier that had to be overcome was the iron curtain of certainty of innocence that prevailed. Both Lloyd’s and the Post Office were at the heart of the establishment and virtually synonymous with “respectability”. Allegations by the plaintiffs alleging greed, corruption, deception, institutional ignorance, ingrained superiority, gross dishonesty and venality on the part of the posh boys seemed simply impossible.
So dear ZANE supporters, I’ve two things to ask of you.
One: Please read the Post Office scandal book and thank God you weren’t a sub post-master under that cruel and wicked regime.
Two: Imagine you are in the office of an institution that’s been around for a generation. You are led through a marble hall into a meeting room with expensive paintings and a crested Latin motto on a wall plaque. The suits are smart, the smiles reassuring, and the overall ambiance is one of deep respectability, honesty and integrity. Before you write the cheque, just remember a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”