The injustice faced by hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, highlighted by ITV’s deeply moving drama ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’, has justifiably caused outrage amongst the public. Those prosecuted were pillars of their local communities and were highly respected. The treatment they received is nothing short of despicable.
Whilst I am glad that the Government responded to the growing publicity of this scandal back in September 2020 by launching a public inquiry on a statutory footing and will now introduce emergency legislation to overturn convictions en masse, I share concerns that it has taken a televised drama to really focus minds at the very highest levels of Government. This is especially so, given that several of my parliamentary colleagues have been fierce campaigners on this issue for some time, including the likes of Duncan Baker, Sir David Davis, Karl Turner and Lucy Allan.
That said, those responsible for the catastrophic and corrupt decisions that destroyed the lives of innocent postmasters must be held to account. It is right, therefore, that Paula Vennells has given back her CBE, and now faces further scrutiny about the evidence she gave to Select Committee during her time as Chief Executive of the Post Office. The role played by Fujitsu, the IT company that delivered the Horizon system, must also be fleshed out. Where taxpayer money is being used to provide compensation to victims of the scandal, there is a moral responsibility to recoup that money from a multinational corporation, who we know routinely told sub-postmasters that they were the only people facing problems with its failing IT system.
Nothing can undo the pain and harm done to the individuals and families of this scandal, which may well go down as the worst miscarriage of justice in British judicial history. However, ensuring that the right lessons are learned, and the correct decisions taken, is rightly of vital importance to my constituents and the wider public.