"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"No one is held to account. No one accepts responsibility."
At the top, Britain is a profoundly corrupt and rotten place. The fair-minded and tolerant people, the majority, don't deserve the awful ruling class that dominates in self-interest.
The rot runs through all the institutions, all the political parties, the courts, the police, the military, and the media. The list goes on. No one is held to account. No one accepts responsibility.
The two-decade Post Office scandal illustrates the woeful state of a society that has forfeited honesty and integrity. Only ideological narratives and Machiavellian incentives prevail.
The Post Office saga started in the late 1990s when self-employed sub-post masters had imposed upon them a Fujitsu IT system that, due to glitches, made it look like they'd stolen cash. The Horizon System was part of an initiative to computerise the Post Office—another bright idea driven by politicians keen to sell off a public service.
Sub-post masters are, in many ways, the pillars of the community, especially in remote areas. They are a focal point for isolated places, providing vital services through their shops. Plus, in an age when banks have withdrawn any physical presence from suburban areas, the sub-post masters have filled the gap.
Soon after its introduction, the Horizon IT system began to display errors. It indicated there might be discrepancies in the billing by many sub-post masters. But instead of seeing this sudden upsurge in alleged criminality as a possible system error, the Post Office accused the post masters.
In response, the Post Office deployed its private police force. Operating outside any scrutiny and using coercive interview techniques, they entrapped the accused, forcing them to plead guilty. In one instance, a female sub post master was locked in a room for six hours with no food or water and subjected to an interrogation while denied a lawyer.
Between 700 and 900 post masters faced convictions, and only 93 had those convictions overturned. Along the way, some have died, others committed suicide and many went to jail as their lives fell apart. They faced bankruptcy, loss of mortgages and savings, mental breakdowns and unjustified criminal records.
Computer Weekly began investigating the matter in 2004, and, by 2009, had gathered much evidence that the Horizon System was at fault. Still, the Post Office ignored the truth. Then, the Private Eye magazine covered the story for years, starting in September 2011. Meanwhile, the mainstream media didn't give full throat to the story although some tried.
Only last week, after a TV drama sparked public anger at the scandalous behaviour of Post Office leaders, have the media taken a full interest. And because of this reaction, the politicians came away from their usual banal Westminster games to address the issue.
There are several villains in this saga. Fujitsu, the Japanese tech company that supplies the Horizon software, allegedly knew about faults in the system yet covered them up. Paula Vennells, who ran the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, repeatedly denied the IT system was a problem when internal reports concluded it was.
During her tenure, the Post Office fought the sub post masters at every turn. They even sought to remove judges from cases when it was clear they'd they'd find for the post masters. So, here was an institution hell-bent on the cover-up and prepared to break the law to save face. Vennells departed the post with a huge bonus and a gong.
She continues to dodge the issue, offering only apologies. In a mealy mouthed statement as she handed back her CBE, she continues to blame the Horizon system.
To be clear, a human handled the vetting of the product at each step of implementing Horizon. And humans decided to pursue the post masters rather than recognise the malfunctioning system as the issue.
Vennells, who moonlights as an Anglican priest, has been described as "a cruel and incompetent leader" and slammed by a judge for fostering "institutional obstinacy". And yet, she's faced no consequences for her actions, poor judgment and lack of honesty, although she is now a hate figure.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Party, as minister for postal affairs, did not investigate the matter when whistle-blowers contacted him. He stands accused of unquestioningly accepting assurances from Post Office management despite credible evidence that Horizon had gone Hal 2000.
Then there are the many Post Office managers, IT experts and lawyers who may be liable for perjury and fraud. It looks like they've engaged in a vast cover-up, including misleading the courts.
To understand how this came about, reading the book "Mistakes were made (but not by me)" may be helpful. The two psychologist authors set out how self-justification, conceit, arrogance, and entrenched bureaucratic systems combine to create an unwillingness to admit failings.
But the Post Office saga is only one event in a litany of institutional corruption that litter the British landscape.
Other instances of no accountability for officials in horrific events include the Rotherham Gang rapes, the BBC Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the many cases of sexual abuse of children by religious groups. How about the NHS perpetrated tainted blood outrage?
Who is answering for the malpractice around RAF recruitment that has dented the ability to attract quality staff by excluding white men?
Then consider the Covid PPE procurement wrongdoing, with a unique channel for the friends of politicians. And how many folks know about the ongoing dodgy dealings around Tees Freeport - a developing scandal? The list goes on.
Is it any wonder that Britain continues to slip down the international corruption index ratings. The UK has already dropped out of the top tier that includes Denmark, Singapore and Hong Kong.
As the saying goes, the rot starts at the head of a fish. This brings me to Prince Andrew, who remains unchallenged in court despite an apparent case-to-answer. And should Lord (Petie) Mandelson's close relationship with late sex offender Epstein be investigated? Mandelson remains an adviser to Labour leader Keir Starmer and sits in the House of Lords.
And while we are on the subject, why did Epstein have many telephone numbers for Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, and other prominent UK political figures? That includes their home numbers.
Likewise, allowing Boris Johnson to waltz away from parliament despite his evident lies is shocking. Behaviour which was once deemed disgraceful is now mainstream or at least acceptable, and those who get unsettled by it are portrayed as discriminatory and wrong.
That's it. I'm exhausted, and I've not scratched the surface of the corruption. It saddens me to say it, but Britain is now a silly country that only awakes to a massive injustice when it's on the telly.
At least an inflection point appears to have been reached, with sub post masters finally getting the fair hearing they deserve.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.