Who Guards the Post Office?

The Romans had a phrase for it: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Roughly, who guards the guards?

The Post Office scandal is not just about the Post Office. It goes far deeper than that; it goes to the very heart of our Constitution; and it isn’t a pretty sight. The Government owns the Post Office; 100%. The Post Office has Crown powers, and private prosecution powers in England where they have proved lethal to the victims of the cataclysmic miscarriage of justice that has now been exposed to the public in plain, understandable terms; but the same method was not used in Scotland, where private prosecutions are not possible; but victims were still prosecuted here, in the tangled web that is British Government and the administration of supposed justice.

Oddly, Anneleise Dodds, Labour MP, and a Scot seems completely unaware of this important Scottish precedent when asked a general question on private prosecutions in England, following from the PO scandal (BBC, Radio 5 live). Quaintly, the Post Office Minster, Kevin Hollinrake seems to know it is different, here but also appears to think this is a “devolved” Scottish power; but it isn’t. It is not part of the Devolution Act. Scottish law and its processes predate the Union, and are part of the foundation of the modern British state. No British government will issue a Section 35 to remove the general jurisdiction of Scottish law in Scotland. He has only just begun consulting with the Lord Chancellor, to liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Service, in Scotland. Nobody in any political party in Westminster seems completely free of the tangled webs of confusion and inertia that have been sown in profusion; and it seems have become the substance of the acrid, calculated, obsolescent, toxic nature of our politics, government, and even the administration of justice in the British State. We seem to have descended into an insidious form of constitutional catalepsy.

This scandal thus goes much deeper than government and Westminster wishes fervently to suppose. Why did it need a TV drama to transform the politics of the scandal, and its resolution? The media are inclined to frame this in terms of the failure of Government to act promptly over 20+ years, even after it became clear something was badly wrong in the Post Office; but I suspect it is far more personal, and more important still. The public watched a well crafted human drama that portrayed graphically, precisely what level of hell was visited on the victims by a corporate institution, backed by the Government and Crown; with no way out. The viewers suddenly realised, for the first time; that if the Crown, Government, Post Office and even the Law can do this with impunity over more than twenty years, on an industrial scale to hundreds of well vetted, generally unimpeachable ordinary people – like them – why would they would not deduce, that if it could happen to them, why should they suppose this could never happen to me and mine? It has been transformational. A beacon was lit; under the government.

At a stroke the actual nature of Britain’s natural process of government administration and the supposed checks and balances we have, were all revealed for what they are; a ritual performance more honoured in the breach than the observance; behind which reclines on green or red benches, a casually vindictive system, noticeably stained by countless recent lurid examples of bullying, harassment or the intimidating threats of a Whip’s office more redolent of the seventeenth century than modern democracy; a Parliamentary system that is arrogant, condescending, vain and above all indifferent to wrongdoing in its dispositions; but perfectly reflecting our antiquated, obsolete constitution and system of government that provides the ordinary person with virtually no protection at all from the tyranny of the relentless grinding of the machinery of administration, over which no central control effectively functions. Kafka never dreamed of anything like this; a democracy that celebrates the exceptionalism of the freedoms that it trashes, at will. Even the KCs are now flapping around in a panic about our justice system, and the damage that has been inflicted on it by the Post Office scandal. This, all of it goes to the heart of Britain’s utter failure of character in Government.

At the heart, of this constitutional squalor is not the Post Office, but the government and Parliament itself. Stephen Flynn made the point in the House of Commons, at PMQs (10th January); and for Sunak, following an all too typical, dismal, pantomime exchange with Starmer at the Despatch Box, proving only there is indeed an endemic, suppurating problem with Parliament and its pointless workings; allowed the mask of concern to slip, and reacted, simply to politicise Flynn’s acute point; by accusing Flynn of politicising the issue (the Trumpian mode of accusing the accuser of being the culprit). The last thing Sunak wants is for the ‘Buck ‘(the ultimate responsibility for the mess he is sinking under), to end pointing at him, with Government, the Political Parties (notably the Conservatives for fourteen years); and with Parliament left to take the blame. But if it wasn’t for government ineptitude – at best – but certainly negligence in their prime political responsibility to the public; the Post Office could not have gone on for over twenty years, with the problem still not fixed, people in their hundreds still suffering, still other uncounted, or an adequate plan fully in place yet, to fix it; and still no definitive timescale adopted. Indeed, The Government stripped the Post Office of most of its huge public responsibilities long ago, in order to feed the profit motive of yet more phoney markets run by private corporate interests; but simply forgot, or didn’t care to divest the Post Office of the influence of the potentially lethal Crown powers granted in the nineteenth century or later, to run and to protect a national service monolith, for a far different age. Thus are we governed today, in an intellectually bankrupt country, given over to corporate greed, and not much else.

Government itself requires to be brought to account; and not solely through an election; by a thorough, independent investigation of Government and Parliamentary responsibility for the scandal. It is simply unforgivable; and all those who failed, including those in Government must be brought to account, and pay the consequences. No special privileges for politicians; and no immunity. We do not have a presidential system. Government is desperate to keep the guilt exclusively fixed on the Post Office alone. Not good enough. Meanwhile, Kevin Hollinrake MP, the Post Office Minister, is floundering, because too little has been achieved by government, for too long. The solutions he wishes to bring forward, even now are constitutionally problematic; and he knows it. His problem is Government and Parliament have wasted 20+ years, and have run out of time, and exhausted public patience. The game is up; but the pretence of effectiveness isn’t.

Allow me to close by examining just one of the many problems outstanding. In order to expedite compensation Hollinrake in his announcement in Parliament today said there was a target for initial compensation offers to (known) victims in 90% of cases, within 40 days of receiving a completed application, with a compensation offer of £600,000 available in one scheme (he admitted yesterday that the three scheme solution was not “ideal” but seems unable to do anything about it). 30 cases only are finalised, with £75,000 upfront to those in the group litigation scheme; however, they may yet continue with the full assessment. He said the Government was in a dilemma about the conviction problem, and how to fix it; because there is an unknown number of people who have genuinely stolen from their Post Office, who might be exonerated. This is an extraordinary proposition, given the circumstances, and the mess he is in; because he goes on to find a solution that is, at best bizarre.

Anyone in receipt of compensation will, it now seems; “have to sign a statement to the effect that they did not commit the crime of which they are accused”. Where did this new principle of law emerge? What are the implications? Does it set a precedent for the future (it would be only too typical of government that in a few years time they are applying it to everyone, over everything). This is exactly the predicament, the mess our Government has made of this appalling tragedy; now being repeated.

It has always seemed to me a first principle, in the case of a crime; that an accused person did not require to sign a statement of innocence. It was for the prosecution alone to prove it, i.e, provide evidence (corroborated evidence in Scotland) that they were guilty. Why should any innocent victim (quite possibly of a crime against them, including stealing their money), have to sign a document declaring their innocence; that will hang over them, carrying perhaps  a risk of further prosecution, throwing them back into a nightmare from which they have not yet emerged; given that their confidence in the Government, Post Office, and even the Law is quite rightly very low. It will not encourage others to come forward.

It will not do. It is too late for declarations, except by Government; and here it is action alone that counts. It is an outrageous condition to set for victims. Worse, there are two other principles Hollinrake ignores. First, justice delayed is justice denied. Justice delayed for decades is already justice denied. This avenue of government condition making for compensation should be time barred (actually it should be financial redress, not just compensation, i.e., damages – the government does not even express that properly); and all this is for a cataclysmic problem through the Government’s own iniquitous delay and prevarication over twenty years, before taking charge of the mess and overruling the Post Office; an institution which is nothing more that the Government’s creature.

Second, is the principle that the individual is innocent, until proved guilty. The problem the government is facing here is that the convictions are all effectively considered unsafe, and the Government is in no position to show otherwise. The idea that someone nevertheless requires to sign a declaration of innocence seems to me outrageous. Who else in this debacle wishes to sign a declaration of innocence; anyone in Parliament?

There is much more that is profoundly wrong, and the government is in no position to defend it’s conduct (or predecessor governments – hence confirmation that Flynn is right); but this article began with a question, that deserves an answer.

Who Guards the Post Office? For the last twenty years, the Government, Parliament and too often, the law; but not to any good effect. Who guards the guards? Nobody. The government is asleep on the job. Not just the Post Office Scandal; nothing is ever finally resolved or reaches a just conclusion in Britain. Hillsborough; blood contamination; Grenfell; Windrush; Orgreave; on and on. Nothing ever ends, until the victims are all dead. Then it goes away, quietly into the night. The list is endless. Nobody anymore should believe that all that is some form of accident, or coincidence.

The Government is in a state of existential panic now, only because a TV drama outraged the public, and it is an election year. That should tell you all you need to know about politicians, and most of all the self-interest that is all that matters to the political parties that direct our dysfunctional, broken political system.

Do not think anything much that comes out of the Post Office scandal will fix anything of enduring substance in our political system either; other than to extricate Government and Parliament from the electoral jam they are all now in. After the General Election this year? Back to Business as Usual.



Comments (37)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Superb argument Thankyou

  2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    I see that The Daily Telegraph is seeking to place blame for the prosecutions on Keir Starmer who was Director of Public Prosecutions in England during part of the time these prosecutions were taking place. However, as you have indicated the Post Office because of its status has the power to prosecute as it did, in fact, do, in England. But, are the readers of the Telegraph aware of this. The answer is that it is probable that many are aware of the Post Office’s powers of prosecution. Many readers of the Telegraph will be lawyers. However, as your article indicates, there are many intermingled strands of responsibility here and there is a panic reaction to push the blame on to someone else, and Starmer is a suitable person, as is Ed Davey – probably more so.

    The requirement that people who receive compensation will be required to sign a declaration that they are innocent, as you describe, beggars belief. The reason being that an unknown number of people have stolen from the Post Office. This number could be zero. This is a mindset that is prepared to punish a large number of people because an unknown number of people might have committed a crime. This is analogous to the trope that because some people are dishonestly in receipt of state benefits, ALL recipients of benefits are suspect and is one of the justifications for benefits in the U.K. being so low. In any case welfare fraud is tiny by comparison to the white collar fraud which the city of London money laundromat and accompanying ‘legal’ services, facilitate.

    Marina Hyde in today’s Guardian painted a similar picture of a habitually corrupt ruling class in Britain, which manages to avoid punishment and gets bonuses. The CEO of the Post Office was also an ordained C of E chaplain, who was put forward by influential people to become Bishop of London, but was unsuccessful. However, she was appointed to, amongst other things, the Cabinet Office – placed at the heart of Government!

  3. SteveH says:

    I don’t recall the SNP standing up for Scottish sub-postmasters the evidence of Horizon failure and PO cover-up was revealed.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      What a petty, precious, cavilling narrow mind you display with your bumptious postings.

    2. John says:

      You are aware that the Post Office is reserved to Westminster.
      From reading your postings probably not but even if you did it wouldn’t stop you posting your hateful ignorance.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    There was a boardgame based on Frank Herbert’s Dune which effectively showed how about seven competing yet collaborating factions (including the Spice-using Spacing Guild, the Spice-controlling Fremen and various Houses and specialist groups) might keep each other in check. In the novels, this system collapses when somebody becomes an influential member of more than one faction, ending up as the God Emperor. This is what happened in the totalitarian origins of the Anglo-British Empire, some powers of which have survived intact since Henry VIII’s time, and others of which have grown and expanded since (like aspects of draconian royal secrecy). The British Empire, a hereditary theocratic monarchy, remains one of the most centralised state-like political systems in the world today. The monarch’s authority and immunity (and by delegation their ministers) stem from their alleged or assumed anointment by an Anglican God.

    I am not suggesting the multi-system pre-God-Emperor Dune model as a template, but I would point out its advantages over Republic’s expressed wish for a single elected Presidential head-of-state defender-of-the-Constitution. That does not even defend against dynastic rule (USAmerican Presidential son succeeding father, for example).

    In systems design, the appropriate principle is called ‘separation of concerns’.
    If we had a modularised, optionalised political system, we could replace and upgrade modules of it (say, the electoral system, or the judiciary, or the diplomatic service, or head of state model etc) without needing to touch other modules. This would have many advantages, including a much greater agility; and is one route towards Scottish independence, as Scotland as a political entity would become such an optional module (as would, say, Gibraltar and other territorial polities in the Empire).

    Under an appropriate design of separation of concerns, the powers of the Post Office would be limited to those required to carry out its function. And any replacement would constitutionally be required to similarly carry out that function in full (this is some protection against asset-stripping and reneging on full-service provision, in the case that the Constitution allowed privatisation, which could be ruled out). Because the modules would have to remain separated over time to maintain the integrity of the system, there would be bans on, say, people switching between them, closing the revolving doors that exist today, plus the end of the honours system, whereby central powers can bribe, reward, promise, buy and protect others at whim.

    So, under that model, the Constitution would have many guards, all with some appropriate motivation to prevent one module accumulating powers to itself.

  5. Jennie says:

    Let us not forget the role of the Post Office Board in all this. A board is not there to give the executive a free pass. It is supposed to question and challenge.
    Alice Perkins and Tim Parker as chairs are as culpable as Vennells but are still barely mentioned, perhaps because they went to Oxford, while Vennells went to Bradford.

  6. Jim Aitken says:

    An excellent understanding of all that is involved in this scandal. What we have in the UK, however, is not anything resembling a constitution, more a way of doing things. This way our ruling class frees itself from proper accountability. The TV drama essentially exposed all this, as did Stephen Flynn.

  7. Deirdre Forsyth says:

    i remember when it was clear from his interview that Jeremy Corbyn, a person i liked, ndid not know that we have a different legal system. A knowledge of history should be compulsory for MPs

  8. Bwriter Bob says:

    [Anyone in receipt of compensation will, it now seems; “have to sign a statement to the effect that they did not commit the crime of which they are accused”.]
    What would happen should a petition alleging innocence be raised for any and all to sign? How many people, politicians included, would fail to declare their innocence? And, consequently, what would that say about those who did not sign it?

  9. George Henry says:

    The prosecutions in Scotland were conducted by the COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service), i.e. the independent public prosecutor, whereas in England and Wales the Post Office acted as victim, investigator and prosecutor. It is perhaps unsurprising that those conflicts of interest have proved to be problematic in England and Wales.
    However, the failure of COPFS to identify the evidential issues at the heart of this scandal is deeply worrying. One is entitled to expect that lawyers should have paused to consider why dozens of apparently law – abiding citizens had decided to engage in embezzlement on a grand scale with all of them apparently being utterly shocked to find themselves so accused. Prima facie no meaningful investigation of the accuseds’ assertions of computer failure appears to have been undertaken.
    The public are entitled to hear a proper explanation from the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government. So far, there is no hint that anyone is prepared to provide one.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Fair questions; requiring answers. I understand the Lord Advocate may (tardily) making an appearance soon.

      It is not helped by postal services being a Reserved matter. The only direct leverage the Scottish government had over this seems to have been the Law. The Law itself may have failed badly on both sides of the border.

      A broader concern to me is the degree to which Westminster standards and culture infects Holyrood. Westminster is a poor model for 21st century democratic Government; obsolete in its processes, closed-minded in process; arrogant and condescending in execution. It is a living fossil, of little value as a model; and certainly defective as an exemplar.

      In addition, too many older institutions in Scotland have accreted centuries of self-regulation; and become complacent, and without adequate scrutiny by Holyrrod. Furthermore, our political parties in Scotland are designed on Westminster principles; and insufficient attention is given to the destructive effect on our democracy that is the prime effect of the political parties that our parliamentary system de facto serves first and last; they are obviously dysfunctional and calamitous institutions; doing something about that failure remains an impregnable problem. politicians and electorate run away from facing..

  10. John says:

    Hopefully tv stations are now commissioning programmes about:
    Contaminated blood scandal
    Grenfell Towers
    WASPI women
    If it is the only way to raise public awareness of injustices facilitated by government and get justice for victims then please do it.
    There are some notable exceptions (Private Eye, Computer Weekly, Nick Wallis etc) but overall the fact that newspapers have not properly investigated, highlighted and campaigned on these issues is a sign of level of journalism in UK today. They are far too invested in political, celebrities, royal and football gossip than holding those in power to account.

    1. Joe Killman says:

      My thoughts, exactly John. Bring it on! (little chance, mind you, brit journo’s and their wealthy, right wing, employers will be backing off now, I fear).

      1. John says:

        I was listening to an interview with Gwyneth Hughes the director of the Mr Bates vs Post Office today. She was saying that getting these type of documentaries commissioned is difficult because they need to be able to sell programme internationally to make a profit.

  11. Paddy Farrington says:

    Dogged campaigning over decades, even against the mightiest in the land, can pay off in the end and bear fruit in the most unexpected ways.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Forgive me, I am sure your comment is well intentioned; but I take very little consolation, either for victims, or for the clrearly deeply disturbed state of Britain and its administration, from that observation.

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        Indeed, taking consolation was not my point at all.

        1. Niemand says:

          It isn’t consolation but a point very well made. Yes we can be up against very strong forces of power but they can be defeated. What would actually be far, far worse is if this scandal had not come out into the broad daylight like it has (whatever the route to that, the mechanisms are still there and that matters). This irony is that at the same time that the justified outrage hits fever pitch due to the TV drama, something genuinely material to try and right the wrongs is happening. But it should not be forgotten that was already happening before the TV show (BBC has done a Panorama and extensive radio documentary series on it over several years, starting in 2015 and the courts have been trying to right wrongs for some time) just not to the same degree.

    2. John says:

      It is testimony to Mr Bates and his fellow post office workers that they have battled for 20 years against a brick wall of cover up and disinterest but it is to the PO & successive governments eternal shame that they have had to show such tenacity and endurance to get action.
      While it looks like that they may finally get some degree of compensation and justice (hopefully) it would be a fitting reward to their efforts if there is a comprehensive change to how governments and organisations are regulated and investigated to avoid repeating such egregious injustices in future.

  12. James Robertson says:

    Superb article, and the discussion below the line is strong and full of good points too. I completely agree that the PO and other scandals are symptomatic of ‘the acrid, calculated, obsolescent, toxic nature of our politics, government, and even the administration of justice in the British State’. In some respects, Scots law saves us from some of the worst aspects of this situation; but it also delivers us into the hands of a state monopoly on criminal prosecution. It’s good to see theSG and Joanna Cherry MP now trying to address the (pre-devolution, pre-Union, but continuing) politicisation of the role of our most senior law officer, but that’s only part of the problem. Devolved Scotland is not immune from the failing decrepitude of the British State: it can’t be. But an independent Scotland will have to work consciously and deliberately to excise those failings before they settle down and are accepted as just the way things have ‘aye been’. To the various scandals mentioned in this discussion, I would add the Lockerbie investigation and trial, still with so many questions unresolved 35 years after the dreadful event.

  13. Mike Parr says:

    A brilliant article.
    “Why did it need a TV drama to transform the politics of the scandal, and its resolution?”
    Because drama has a very important social function. In this case, the drama concerned has antecendants roughly 2500 years old – Greece and the greek playwights and the use of plays to develop empathy (Oedipus Rex is perhaps the best example). The audience realise that – as you note – it could be them in the jaws of moloch.
    The neoliberalism project does not like empathy because that causes people to take common cause – as opposed to be atomised into unit of utility.

  14. Douglas Young says:

    A well thought out and reasoned article. We know what will happen. The current administration needs to deflect the blame. Their lackeys in the msm will attempt to blame everyone but current administration. Sadly I do believe when all is settled ( if it will ever be) there will be no fundamental change.
    Once again great article. Thank you.

  15. Jeel says:

    “The Crown Office” is presumably an integral part of the British State?

  16. florian albert says:

    John S Warren’s article is one more denunciation of the ‘failed British state.’ If Scotland’s own political culture were significantly better, voters in Scotland – rightly disgusted by the Post Office scandal – would be likely to respond with increased support for independence. I would be one of those moving in that direction. (The mass of evidence of Post Office corruption, collated by Computer Weekly and Private Eye, was ignored north of Hadrian’s Wall as south of it.) There is no sign of that happening. Recent opinion polls and the Hamilton West by election show the opposite; increased support of the (unionist) Labour Party, at the expense of the SNP.
    I agree with the author about the bankrupt nature of the present Conservative government. It is only too obvious that the SNP at Holyrood is in no position to offer a better alternative, either as a devolved or an independent government.

  17. Mark Howitt says:

    Great article, thank you.

    Dan Neidle of Tax Policy Associates, who broke the “Post Office owes £100 million in tax” story yesterday, wrote a superb article last week on how the Post Office has adopted a deliberate strategy to make the compensation scheme for sub-postmasters incredibly difficult to navigate. The result is that compensation claims are minimised (in one case the pay out was £15.75) or claimants simply give up. Worth a read https://www.taxpolicy.org.uk/2024/01/11/hss_scandal/

    1. John S Warren says:

      Yes, everybody should read Dan Neidle’s excellent forensic legal analysis of the Postmaster/Mistresses Compensation Application Form.

      The PO Financial Accounts 2022-23 are also worth reading for those who have the stamina; they really do “take the biscuit”. I offer here two excerpts. First the CEO, Nick Read’s Statement is worth reading, and I have taken this excerpt from the end of the statement before he turns to what he terms the ‘legacy’. He writes this first of three paragraphs on it: “Turning now to our legacy responsibilities, we have continued to support Sir Wyn William’s POHIT Inquiry with dedication, energy, and transparency, including by being accountable for things when they have gone wrong. Given past behaviours, it is understandable that some will suspect ill-intent when mistakes occur, as they have more recently in the context of the significant level of disclosure we are providing for the POHIT Inquiry, spanning more than two decades and more than 60 million records. However, and as I have said previously, we fully understand that there can be no new beginning for the Post Office until such time as it has fully reckoned with, and made amends for, its past. Any suggestion that today’s Post Office is deliberately placing obstacles in the way of that outcome is wholly misplaced” (PO Accounts 2022-23, p.7). The CEO statement is dated 11th December, 20213. Let that sink in. Then compare that with the latest revelations in the Horizon Enquiry.

      Second, the Auditor’s report on the PO Accounts by PWC, on the going concern issue, for. the first section, titled ‘Material uncertainty related to going concern’:

      “In forming our opinion on the financial statements, which is not modified, we have considered the adequacy of the disclosure made in note 1 to the Consolidated financial statements and note 1 to the Company financial statements concerning the Group’s and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. For the Group and Company to continue to meet their liabilities as they fall due, continued funding and support is required from the Government. Accordingly, the Directors have received written assurances from the Department for Business and Trade (‘the Shareholder’) of its intention to continue to support Post Office, however, these assurances do not constitute a financial guarantee, and include certain caveats making clear that any funding is subject to His Majesty’s Treasury (‘HMT’) consent and the application of the Subsidy Control Act 2022, namely referral to the Subsidy Advice Unit (‘SAU’) of the Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’), and consideration of the SAU’s report, which is outside the control of the Group and the Shareholder. These processes have been concluded in respect of £252 million of requested funding, however at the time of approving these financial statements the funding is not yet contractually committed by the Shareholder, and required covenant waivers beyond July 2024 are not guaranteed. Management’s base case forecast assumes receipt of the required Government funding and support and, if this is not forthcoming, those forecasts indicate the Group will breach the terms of its borrowing facilities with Government and exhaust those facilities within the going concern period, such that it will not be able to settle its liabilities as they fall due. These conditions, along with the other matters explained in those notes to the financial statements, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the Group’s and the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The financial statements do not include the adjustments that would result if the Group and the Company were unable to continue as a going concern” (PO Accounts, 2022-23 p.69).

      Read the Accounts, and the statements, here: https://corporate.postoffice.co.uk/media/4ozl33c3/post-office-limited-22-23-ara-v2-8-final-signed-pwc.pdf.

      You couldn’t make it up; which is why the ITV Drama was so powerful. The Government will never let anything like insolvency happen. At that point it would all come home to roost; at the door of Rishi Sunak, and the Conservative government. That would never do.; so it will never happen – but it should. It is their problem, and they made it, not least by the way they broke up and sold off the Post Office, but left the virtually empty public shell that was left, with anachronistic Crown powers.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘the way they broke up and sold off the Post Office’

        I take it you mean the privatization of Royal Mail, which is about 12 times as big as the Post Office. Until 2012, they were one business, owned by the state.
        However, Royal Mail was, for a variety of reasons, not in good shape. Its biggest problem, both before and since it was privatized, is the collapse in its traditional core business – delivering letters.
        In 2005, it delivered 22 billion letters; by 2013, it was down to 13 billion; by 2022 it was 8 billion. This was accompanied by a huge increase in parcel deliveries. However, there were, and are, many competitors for parcel business and restructuring the business from letters to parcels has been very difficult and is still ongoing.
        I suspect that, before 2012, the problems involved in running Royal Mail contributed to the scandalous lack of supervision over its ‘little brother’, the Post Office.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Problems with ill-thought through, badly supervised and ill-regulated privatisations (rail, post, energy for example – the list is quite long); typically driven by neoliberal ideology; over pragmatic, evidence based problem solving, when dealing with network bound monopolies, contributed to the problems.

          1. florian albert says:

            You refer to the failures of privatization. However, the Post Office, which has -rightly – been at the heart of a mass of negative publicity this past week, was not privatized.

          2. John S Warren says:

            No, but Royal Mail was privatised. The biggest shareholder is Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský, who owns around 25% of the shares, through Vesa Equity Investment. I also made clear that the Post Office was 100% owned by the Government, at the very beginning of my article; so I have no idea what point you are trying to make; but it is of no great importance to the substantive issues as far as I can see.

            I shall not comment again.

          3. John S Warren says:

            For clarification; pre-privatisation the Royal Mail and Post Office had very strong service interconnections that operationally bound them together as a Postal Service monopoly; and it was in that sense that my comment was made, although I used the term ‘Post Office’ too loosely in a brief closing observation in a long comment, and like most comments, in haste.

            When privatisation of the Royal Mail was pushed through, the Government defended its case by emphasising the potential of both businesses being free and the PO ability to focus on “growing its revenues”; but at the same time claimed the two businesses were “natural partners”, and would always have a “strong commercial relationship” (Dept. of Business, Innovation and Skills; Royal Mail: Myth-Busters’ PR release, 2013); in short, you can have your cake and eat it. The scale of the connection can still be found in the Post Office accounts (2023), where 35% of revenues are from Mails; and the Financial Review comments, there was a £46m decline in Mails; ” driven by lower volumes across labels, stamps and international impacted by volumes migrating directly to Royal Mail, cost-of-living crisis, Royal Mail industrial action, and temporary suspension of international services due to a cyberattack on Royal Mail in January 2023″. The Post Office also participates in Royal Mail pensions schemes. That privatisation went well for the Post Office.

            I have now answered the point more fully; but frankly Mr Albert I have spent too much time answering a point that was, frankly pedantic quibbling over something that was easy to see was a trivial keyboard error.

  18. Norman Phipps says:

    I fail to understand how ANYONE can be prosecuted with out back up proof ie. How did the PO arrive at that figure Any decent system should be able to produce reciepts to back it up

    1. John S Warren says:

      In a Scottish context corroboration of evidence has always been considered critical. Here is the Law society of Scotland:

      “Corroboration, seen by many as the cornerstone of Scots criminal law, looks set to be abolished.

      The proposal, made by Lord Carloway in his review of the Scottish criminal justice system, has been accepted by the Scottish Government despite strong opposition from the legal profession, including the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Senators of the College of Justice (excluding Lord Carloway).
      The requirement under Scots criminal law is that the essential facts of a case be proven by corroborated evidence, that is, evidence from two independent sources. It has long been recognised as a significant safeguard against unjust conviction, contributing to the accused’s right to a fair trial as protected by article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), along with every individual’s article 5 right to liberty and security.”

      The implications of that assessment in the Post Office Scandal context, requires thorough examination and reflection. It is less clear that corroboration, prima facie is as critical in England (it may be the difference between the law in each country stems from the European foundations of much Scottish law in European, indeed Roman Law).

  19. florian albert says:

    John S Warren

    At 9.58 pm, you write ‘I shall not comment again.’ Fair enough.
    At 11.23 pm, you write telling me who owns shares in Royal Mail today, something that has nothing to do with the scandal your article is about.

    1. John S Warren says:

      I relented to explain the incestuous relationship between the Royal Mail and Post Office, and the way one can still profoundly affect the other, privatisation notwithstanding; but you can see that quite easily, so you are simply being obtuse.

      I thought it worth sharing the pointless diversions that sometimes divert writers when they try to engage constructively with readers.

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