Tuesday 14 May 2019

Post Office reaction to Court of Appeal decision

Pic: EriKolaborator
The Post Office has kept very quiet about the Court of Appeal's thorough trashing of its request to appeal the recusal application judgment, not releasing a peep to the media.

But it did send a short note to its Postmasters via email earlier today. It comes from "Al" Cameron, the Post Office's new (interim) Chief Executive. He says:
"As promised, I want to keep you up to date on the Group Litigation... Over the weekend we were told that the Court of Appeal has refused Post Office permission to appeal on recusal. Our Managing Judge will therefore continue to oversee all trials and the second trial on Horizon issues will resume on 4 June. Permission to appeal the Managing Judge’s interpretation of our contracts will be sought at a hearing on 23 May 2019...
"Our primary focus is on ensuring that we continue to improve how we work with Postmasters, making it easier for them to earn more money for less effort. This covers a number of workstreams from the new field teams, to better training, to new processes and we will update you on our plans and progress in the next few weeks."
Three things on the above:

1) This is the strongest acknowledgment yet that the Post Office will ask for leave to appeal the Common Issues judgment. They've always said they are considering seeking permission to appeal and they have yet to lodge a formal request (they have until Thursday this week to do so), but if the CEO of the PO is telling Subpostmasters it's happening, you can be pretty sure it's happening.

2) I am not quite sure why Mr Cameron decided to use the possessive when describing a judge who has just had to halt a trial to demonstrate that he is nobody's man, but hey.

3) It's interesting he notes the Post Office's "primary focus" is "to improve how we work with Postmasters."

This echoes Post Office Chairman Tim Parker's statement on the day the Common Issues judgment was handed down. He said:
"Our postmasters are the backbone of our business and our first priority will be to consider the points raised about the management of our contractual relationships and how we could improve them. 
"We will make sure that problems brought to our attention by postmasters are investigated even more quickly and transparently. 
"In addition, we will further improve communications with postmasters, as well as the training and support they receive."
Quite what the Post Office are actually doing about this is anyone's guess. I have had one email from an irate Subpostmaster who received a change to his contract ("rubber stamped by the NFSP") on 25 April backdated to 1 April. No warning, no negotiation, no debate. As far as he's concerned the Post Office's attitude to its Subpostmasters hasn't changed a bit.

I was also told by a Post Office insider that even acknowledging things are going to have to change as a result of the Common Issues trial judgment is off limits for anyone within the Post Office as it would lend validity to a judgment which the Post Office intends to appeal.

That, I suppose, is a sensible perspective - after all, if the Post Office appeal is successful, then some of the decisions J Fraser made would be reversed. Or changed. But if the Post Office keeps trying to hump its Subpostmasters for cash whenever there are branch discrepancies, and Postmasters refuse to cough up on the grounds of a disputed High Court ruling which requires the Post Office to prove its Subpostmasters are at fault, it's going to get interesting.


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