Anyone watch Mr Bates vs The Post Office ?

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optimusprime

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f you can get to see this , it is an eye opener .Just goes to show how bent the post office is , and the people that run it .700 Postmasters were scammed out of their life savings, most lost their homes. and some even committed suicide . All through a system that was corrupt This as been going on for 20 years a lot have died in this time .. Only thing wrong, is the barsteward that left , and went to work at ITV i recon thats why he is not in it .
 
I’ve been following the case for a few years now but hadn't realised the absolute vindictiveness and criminality of the PO until the series.
I see now the mainstream media have piled on the case, it’s just a shame they didn’t investigate the PO and their leaders with the same intent they harassed politicians and celebrities none of whom were involved in sending decent honest people to jail.
 
700 Postmasters were scammed out of their life savings, most lost their homes

Complete sympathy with the case but

What makes you think that 700 were scammed out of their life savings?

And that “most lost their homes?”

Don’t want to sound like a judge, but both statements are obviously false.

Wrong doing? For sure

Idiots? Certainly

Who failed? Certainly the IT guys, the Accountants, the post office clerks and managers and the solicitors, barristers and general legal system that prosecuted them.

But let’s not exaggerate what actually happened “for effect.”

If you know that the 700 who were prosecuted ALL lost their life savings and that “most lost their homes” do give more detail.
 
I'm baffled how the PO chief executive could be so indifferent to the suffering, and yet... she used to be a vicar and even now still a chief exec in an nhs trust. Baffling.

The whole thing is utterly deplorable. People at the top should be in prison.

I'm not baffled.

People at the top of large organisations can be very detached from the actual workings - and they depend on the reporting systems *and culture* to allow them to determine what is going on.

The responsibility for an organisation behaving in an evil or malicious way resides with all tiers. Quite often its the people in the middle who are actually the perpetrators but the figureheads are visibly to blame. (That said the figureheads get paid huge amounts of money and you'd think it should be their job to deal with problems in their organisations.)

When there is a problem with a large enterprise computer system then once it is deployed and being used then nobody wants it questioned. Particularly where there are advocates in the organisation to promote and defend it. People in technical and middle management stop speaking up. If they did then it becomes career damaging. Subcontractors who might raise issues or criticise get sidelined or learn to play ball because for the same reasons.

So in an innocuous world you end up with an troubled setup that nobody likes on the ground like but management officially like. People work around it and just accept there are quirks. And 10 years on it gets replaced with something 'better' that sorts out some misery and adds new misery.

The PO world wasn't innocuous because it went legal - and users of the IT system who were having technical issues became criminalised.

But that aside the underlying systemic failure at all levels wasn't - at its heart - any different.
 
Complete sympathy with the case but

Let’s not forget that the nature of the business involves cash handling, skimming and all kinds of fraud. No different to your local pub, market stall, restaurant, car wash, or small scale service garage.

The Post Office will have had systems in balance to control the cash but its routine for there to be bookkeeping problems.

What went wrong here - at EVERY level - is a failure to have identified and called out the problem LONG before it went to court.

Cash handling gets “easier” as time goes by and “digitisation” gets more common, but in this era there was still a lot of physical cash washing round.
 
This is fascinating and alarming at least from one other perspective: if all those innocent people signed confessions to crimes they never committed, how many more innocent people are in our prisons as we speak? See for example Sub-postmaster jailed for three years 'was forced to sign confession':

"Former sub-postmaster Senepathy Narenthiran, 68, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 after the Horizon system showed there was a shortfall of £275,000... Mr Narenthiran told the MailOnline: 'I gave up. I said, 'what do you want me to write? Whatever you want, you tell me, I will write it'' "
 
Regardless of who did(n’t) do what and when, I cannot understand why the bosses - at any level - in the PO didn’t question that 700 previously unblemished sub-postmasters suddenly went rogue at approximately the same time, all not long after the installation of a new computer system.

Why did no-one ask if there was a common factor?
 
If you know that the 700 who were prosecuted ALL lost their life savings and that “most lost their homes” do give more detail.
Taking the example of Alan Bates, the leader of the campaign, he "seems" to have lost £60k, being the value of the Sub-Post Office business, but that's it, financially.

Frustrating, infuriating and a huge waste of energy in fighting all those lawyers and accountants, but not 700 people losing their life savings and homes.

 
Regardless of who did(n’t) do what and when, I cannot understand why the bosses - at any level - in the PO didn’t question that 700 previously unblemished sub-postmasters suddenly went rogue at approximately the same time, all not long after the installation of a new computer system.

Why did no-one ask if there was a common factor?
Six percent of post offices, over a period of 13 years (2000 - 2013? Might have gone on longer) .

Call it half a percent of all outlets, per year. In a business that turns over a billion a year. (unclear what that means per post office branch)

Isn't the more interesting question what happened to the other 94%? Did those postmasters cover up, out of their own pockets? Did they quietly go out of business? Were they making money out of the computer errors?
 
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Whether it's 700, 550 or just 10 victims is not the point. It's still a national disgrace. Victims were clearly poorly represented, were lied to, and their defence counsels were prevented from getting access to all the relevant documents (which is surely illegal on it's own). The board takes ultimate responsibility and must have known what was going on ("We didn't know" doesn't hack it), no matter what level the scam was being operated at. And yes I do regard it as a scam. Those at the PO involved should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and the heads of the CPS who allowed the prosecutions to proceed should be removed. Vennells in particular should be prevented at the very least from holding any directorship or position of trust. JMO obviously but the whole sordid affair is a classic example of what large organizations get up to. And boy have I come up with similar sleaze in such places.
 
Taking the example of Alan Bates, the leader of the campaign, he "seems" to have lost £60k, being the value of the Sub-Post Office business, but that's it, financially.

Frustrating, infuriating and a huge waste of energy in fighting all those lawyers and accountants, but not 700 people losing their life savings and homes.


Many thanks - A rather interesting read.
 
Whether it's 700, 550 or just 10 victims is not the point. It's still a national disgrace. Victims were clearly poorly represented, were lied to, and their defence counsels were prevented from getting access to all the relevant documents (which is surely illegal on it's own). The board takes ultimate responsibility and must have known what was going on ("We didn't know" doesn't hack it), no matter what level the scam was being operated at. And yes I do regard it as a scam. Those at the PO involved should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice and the heads of the CPS who allowed the prosecutions to proceed should be removed. Vennells in particular should be prevented at the very least from holding any directorship or position of trust. JMO obviously but the whole sordid affair is a classic example of what large organizations get up to. And boy have I come up with similar sleaze in such places.
Sorry, but I didn't say it was "the point." I just pointed out that - to be blunt - hysterically exaggerating the issue - doesn't do much towards getting it fixed.

And... as I pointed out later on, if the system was faulty, what happened to the other 10,300 Post Offices over that ten years? They weren't taken to court, but were there claims? Did other Postmasters NOT have a problem, did other Postmasters HAVE a problem but hid it, by subsidising it from their own pockets?

Skimming and fraud is common in post offices, banks and in any cash handling retail business. Both at owner and employee level. Most cases don't reach court - it's not to anyone's benefit to publish or fight a case. Watch the young, and the old, and everyone in between, not checking the cash they receive. Yes, the majority do, but a significant minority don't.

It's ridiculous to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury should be fired because a Churchwarden or Curate skims a few hundred out of the plate down in Cornwall. The responsibility sits much lower down to actually manage the transactions, monitor the numbers, and take action when things appear to be be going wrong.

IT systems like this are rife with imbalances on accounts, in every form of business. It's grist to the mill for junior accountants (aka bookkeepers). Even your local self employed taxi driver knows that the accounts never add up correctly.

Is it a scam that the accounts in your local Coop don't add up? Nope. It's routine retail.

At the market, or in a small bar, on the weekend? Watch out for the staff skimming the takings, and short-changing people who they spot aren't noticing what's going on.
 
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Even your local self employed taxi driver knows that the accounts never add up correctly.
Excuse me! My, self administered, accounts always add up correctly!!!! Although, I wouldn't trust any other taxi driver in any way shape or form! 😁
 
The comments here ignore the stress suffered during an investigation.
Seemingly it was impossible for the innocent to prove or demonstrate their innocence, the outcome was engineered by the P.O.
Then the cost of any defence is feasibly massive. Even if that is designed to reduce the penalty, and hope to avoid incarceration.

Am I naive in thinking that the P.O. systems will have seen profits that were from nowhere? That is before these accusations of shortfalls the balance (we / or I / assume) will have been zero after the 'recovery' of these many significant amounts the P.O. balance should have been showing an unaccounted for positive balance.
Why didn't this (as well as many other aspects) ring bells that some thing serious was amiss?

(I assume) many at the P.O. were happy to sit back while so many lives were ruined by this. Accountability should be significant and public.
I see this as another example of how our world is broken.

Was it just the UK P.O. that used Horizon?
Are there other organisations that may have suffered from the inept design?
 
The comments here ignore the stress suffered during an investigation.
Seemingly it was impossible for the innocent to prove or demonstrate their innocence, the outcome was engineered by the P.O.
Then the cost of any defence is feasibly massive. Even if that is designed to reduce the penalty, and hope to avoid incarceration.

Am I naive in thinking that the P.O. systems will have seen profits that were from nowhere? That is before these accusations of shortfalls the balance (we / or I / assume) will have been zero after the 'recovery' of these many significant amounts the P.O. balance should have been showing an unaccounted for positive balance.
Why didn't this (as well as many other aspects) ring bells that some thing serious was amiss?

(I assume) many at the P.O. were happy to sit back while so many lives were ruined by this. Accountability should be significant and public.
I see this as another example of how our world is broken.

Was it just the UK P.O. that used Horizon?
Are there other organisations that may have suffered from the inept design?
Every organisation suffers from inept software design. Huge, huge write offs and adjustments occur in any bank or accounting system.

Horizon was bespoke to the UK Post Office - no other company has a need for it. (OK, it's built on generic standard software packages and tools, but really their problem comes from the overall Horizon system design and implementation).

As you point out, these guys lost money on rounding and adjustments, and that triggered alarm bells. What you can be equally sure of is that others MADE money on rounding and adjustments, and - perhaps strangely - they didn't complain about it. It's unlikely that the Post office HQ "made the money" that the sub-postmasters lost.

The 700 cases were about relatively tiny sums of money - a few million, in the context of a whole business that turned over around £10,000,000,000 during that decade. "A billion here, a billion there, soon you're talking significant sums of money" compared to a handful of million.

The Accountants and Lawyers at the Post Office should have sorted this out more than a decade ago. That much is clear. But watch out when you write that cheque for £150 million to pay off everyone involved: the main beneficiaries will be a lot of lawyers and accountants, on both sides, who'll be buying holiday homes in Southern Spain on the profits that they're now making from the payoff.
 
The responsibility for an organisation behaving in an evil or malicious way resides with all tiers. Quite often its the people in the middle who are actually the perpetrators but the figureheads are visibly to blame.
^ This. It's neatly wrapped up in the term "organisational culture" and it can be extraordinarily difficult to root out and change, even when those at the top recognise it as an issue and commit to resolving it. Why's that? Because too many people in the organisation stand to lose much - including their career in egregious cases - so do everything in their power to obfuscate the unsavoury practices, deny all responsibility, and obstruct change.
When there is a problem with a large enterprise computer system then once it is deployed and being used then nobody wants it questioned. Particularly where there are advocates in the organisation to promote and defend it. People in technical and middle management stop speaking up. If they did then it becomes career damaging.
...and ^this.

I suspect that most people have had little exposure to to the deployment of large enterprise computer systems other than as end users where the pain and misery of failures in business analysis, solution design and - perhaps - botched implementation manifest themselves. By that stage, too many senior people in the responsibility chain find themselves in a career-limiting position if they speak out and question the failures and disconnects between what the business needs to operate effectively and what the system delivers, so the easiest path is to blame the end users and pretend all is fine and dandy. With luck, they also work behind the scenes to steadily improve the solution fit which in time reduces the pain and misery of the end users.
Let’s not forget that the nature of the business involves cash handling, skimming and all kinds of fraud.
I watched this case from the early days when it was first brought to public attention in Computer Weekly and a few things stood out:
  1. It was clear that PO management were of the view (probably correctly) that a minority of sub-postmasters were guilty of skimming and fraud but had lacked the information to prove it. That Horizon seemed to be identifying cases - to them, with that mindset - was expected and proved the point. It's called confirmation bias
  2. Fujitsu ran a secret "data correction" operation because they knew there were specific operating circumstances that would cause recorded balances to be incorrect. That this process lacked a transaction audit trail is inexcusable
  3. The PO, in conjunction with Fujitsu, did not provide proper helpdesk support and indeed deliberately set out to mislead those reporting balance issues by insisting that they were "the only one reporting this issue", effectively isolating those with genuine problems
  4. Apparently no-one within the PO had the nous to request the helpdesk logs from Fujitsu and analyse / audit them, preferring instead to believe that fraud had been identified (see point #1)
  5. The PO engaged in a campaign of secrecy in order to frustrate all efforts to get to the bottom of the sub-postmasters complaints
Latterly, it's come out that the PO deliberately lied to those it had in its cross-hairs, to the extent of issuing charges of theft when their own investigators had established that there was no evidence to support the charge simply in order to extract a guilty plea to a lesser charge of false accounting. This is a corrupt (and illegal) practice.

Ultimately, there are a number of people within both the PO and Fujitsu who bear responsibility for this. They should be identified and - more importantly - be appropriately sanctioned for their actions. Going after the CEO as figurehead of the organisation may sound appealingly simple, but there are many others who bear probably greater responsibility.

As far as the affected sub-postmasters go, I'm not in favour of a blanket amnesty because some will genuinely have been guilty of skimming and fraud, but responsibility for reviewing each case should be removed from the PO and be adequately resourced to reach a timely outcome. In support of this the PO must be compelled to hand over all information in each case, unredacted. This will also assist in identifying those within that organisation who should be held accountable.
 
Dryce said:

The responsibility for an organisation behaving in an evil or malicious way resides with all tiers. Quite often its the people in the middle who are actually the perpetrators but the figureheads are visibly to blame. (That said the figureheads get paid huge amounts of money and you'd think it should be their job to deal with problems in their organisations.)

Turning to the Knight of the Realm Sir Keir Starmer, it was his personal decision as then the DPP, not to prosecute Savile nor the Northern rape gangs. Should this not be reviewed as he puts himself forward to become PM?
 
As far as the affected sub-postmasters go, I'm not in favour of a blanket amnesty
I would imagine that'if' there are sub post masters identified as deserving investigation in the nearish future, that there will be a fear of doing this energetically for fear of media backlash.
If proven guilty I also imagine the courts would tend toward leniency.
So to investigate becomes expensive for little progressive outcome. After all a main purpose for prosecution and penalty is to deter others from the same. I would imagine that the hi lighting of the life wrecking of so many sub post masters by the TV drama will have served that purpose for a while yet.

My view is to ignore any but the staringly obvious guilty parties, to remove all criminal records from those that have been prosecuted.
Forget retrials that feed the vultures, that would load the courts that already can't handle their workload.
Write off any recoverable sums, as surely that would be cheaper.
All of those wrongly accused, and worse prosecuted, could at least take a deep breath and look forward with, hopefully, some optimism.
If I understand correctly, compensation is still another matter the P.O. seems to be acting in a corrupt manner over.

A more relevant issue that I see, as it becomes increasingly apparent that the little people are run in circles by larger organisations,
is to send the message that those guilty of such are shown to be accountable.
 

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