Continued disclosure failures by Post Office show contempt for Horizon victims

What are we to assume from the latest developments in the public inquiry into the Post Office scandal? Let’s lay out the facts…

The inquiry was this week forced to postpone scheduled hearings because of delays in the Post Office disclosing critical evidence. The Post Office has taken 18 months to provide documents in some cases, the inquiry was told.

Only a week ago, the Post Office’s most senior in-house lawyer was summoned by inquiry chief Sir Wyn Williams to justify his organisation’s ongoing failures in evidence disclosure.

The very next day, the inquiry heard that the Post Office had withheld evidence from subpostmaster victims of the scandal during the court cases that originally found them guilty, leading to the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

Then, remarkably the very next day from that revelation, Williams was forced to reschedule the appearance of a key witness because the Post Office disclosed over 4,000 documents relevant to his testimony, at 10.32pm the previous night.

Yes, you read that right. In the space of three days, the Post Office was warned about its failings in disclosure, we learned of new disclosure failures going back more than a decade, and then the Post Office failed to disclose vital evidence until hours before a key witness hearing.

If that wasn’t enough, this week (11 July) the Post Office informed the inquiry it will not be possible to provide further documents in time for hearings over the next few weeks. Williams was forced to adjourn proceedings, further delaying the process of bringing justice to the subpostmaster victims of the scandal.

How many times can the Post Office be allowed to get away with disclosure failings before someone in authority asks whether this is not a coincidence?

How can the government – the sole shareholder of the Post Office, and ultimately responsible for ensuring victims are properly compensated – stand back and allow this organisation to treat the inquiry with such seeming contempt?

The miscarriage of justice occurred in the first place because there were insufficient checks and balances on the Post Office, and nobody in authority questioned the prosecution of so many innocent subpostmasters. This is not just an organisational failure at the Post Office, but increasingly an institutional failure of “the system” to do what is so glaringly obviously the right thing to do – compensate the victims and hold those responsible fully to account.

Worse still, there is very much the sense that this is not the end of the revelations or the delays or of similar behaviour from the Post Office. Fourteen years after Computer Weekly first exposed the scandal, one of the greatest horrors is how often further horrors continue to be exposed.

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