Book Review: ‘The Great Post Office Scandal’ by Nick Wallis
April 18, 2024

History is a living subject, history is being made every day. It may be referred to as news or current affairs but it is history nonetheless. Military and social history is being created day by day in Ukraine and in Gaza. History is happening here too. Not least among the myriad of items making the television news or newspaper pages is the subject of this months book review. The Post Office scandal.

Many of you will have been horrified by the events described in the tv series ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’. How could such a miscarriage of justice in our country have gone unnoticed by the population at large for so long until brought to our notice by a television series? How could such a thing happen in our country at all?

This book, written by freelance journalist and broadcaster Nick Wallis, should carry a health warning ‘NOT SUITABLE FOR ANYONE WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE’ because if you don’t suffer from high blood pressure when you start reading you will by the time you get to page 480. All the stories that you heard and the characters that you came to know in the television series are here as are many, many more. Not just more stories but told in more depth than was possible in the tv series.

What is so shocking is that the Post office effectively bullied postmasters into signing off accounts which they knew were false, made them pay for losses which had not actually occurred and prosecuted them all the time knowing but refusing to admit that the Horizen accounting system was not ‘robust’ as they claimed. Not only that but they also embarked upon a cover up at the highest level of their management to protect, they said, the reputation of the Post Office at the expense of the reputations of hundreds of innocent people They tried to have the judge from the first trial removed from dealing with subsequent related cases. They, it is suggested in the book, adopted tactics to try and drag out the litigation so that the postmasters ran out of money and would not be able to continue with their case.

So who are the heroes in the matter. Alan Bates is undoubtedly one and probably the biggest in getting the wronged postmasters together and the litigation against the post office underway. Mr Justice Fraser is certainly another. He was the original trial judge. He saw through the dishonesty of Post Office and Fujitsu witnesses and was not afraid to call them out. When the Post Office tried to get him replaced saying he was biased he was having none of it, he refused to stand down and all the POs grounds of appeal against his refusal failed.

Who were the alleged villains of this sad story. There are many in the Post Office and Fujitsu. The names of the most prominent have already been bandied about but there are others in the civil service and government. Read the book and make your own mind up. However if you want or expect any of the villains to be held to account then, as the author says, don’t hold your breath.