Has anyone else noted how we love to put people on pedestals, only then to shoot them down. Or the reverse; we go on a witch hunt only to realise many years later that innocent people have been convicted, at which point there is an outpouring of self-righteous regret.
Last year, Andrew Malkinson was released after 17 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit; the real scandal is that DNA evidence which would have quashed his conviction, had been available for many years, but not released to his legal team. There is something deeply rotten in that.
Now we are all talking about the Post Office Horizon scandal. The really sad thing is that this has been rumbling away for years, and only following a TV drama are our politicians finally grasping the nettle. Between 2000 and 2015, 705 criminal convictions were secured by the Post Office. 93 have been overturned and all the rest are surely unsafe. 2645 postmasters have accepted £92 million through the Horizon Compensation scheme, and the Post Office has paid out £32 million. Don’t worry, that will of course all be Taxpayers money, but on this occasion no decent person would begrudge it.
Some of the victims of this miscarriage of justice have now died, a few by their own hand. The lives and reputations and financial security of many decent people were destroyed. Yet nobody in authority saw fit to question what on earth was going on here. Did it not dawn on the judges and the legal teams prosecuting this deluge of cases that something might be wrong?
It looks like the Post Office was on a group think agenda here, but the role of individuals in that organisation and Fujitsu needs to be looked at closely. If perjury has been committed and innocent people convicted as a result, then we should expect to see some really serious prison sentences for those involved.
Politicians of all parties (prosecutions ran from 2000-2015) have failed in their duty on this one. They failed to smell a rat, to ask the difficult question and to demand honest answers. Sir Ed Davey, who loves to point the finger at others and demand their resignation, failed to drill down into this one. As Post Office Minister, it was his responsibility for almost two years from 2010-12. He could do the decent thing, accept some responsibility and offer a genuine apology. But instead he just passes the buck, and that is becoming too typical of the way our political leaders and institutions now operate.
Authority and responsibility go hand in glove. No democratic institution can work without that. Dominic Cummings is the most egregious recent example of that breaking down; he thought he could tell others what to do without taking any personal responsibility. Pretty clearly the hard wiring in his brain is badly amiss. In fairness, he was trying to reform a Civil Service that seems all too keen to take the same approach; they do what they think best (probably for them) rather than what our elected politicians tell them.
Here in Wales, our devolution settlement seems to be floundering not least because the lines of responsibility have been blurred. So despite getting more money per capita than England, when our health service or education are worse, our leaders simply choose to blame the Westminster Government (currently Conservative) for not stumping up enough cash. It just never seems to dawn on them that maybe they should take responsibility for how every pound is spent, and ensure that it is spent wisely on the things that really matter.
The voters aren’t idiots. We know that our politicians are humans who make mistakes. We can and do forgive honest mistakes which are admitted. That way change for the better can be achieved. We elect our politicians to take charge, to ensure that the bureaucracy (unelected officials) deliver what the majority of us want. In turn they must accept responsibility for what goes wrong, and put it right.
And it is high time that our Courts got much better at establishing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and God help those who knowingly prevent that.