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The 'Believe the Victims' Era Deserves Its Own Postmasters Series: But which channel would have the guts to make such a counter-narrative?

2024 had barely begun to unfurl when the ITV watching public were treated to a four-part drama on the plight of the falsely accused and wrongfully convicted Postmasters.

For more than 20 years, more than 700 Post Office workers had been under the cloud of allegations of fraud or theft, many convicted, families torn apart, four related suicides. A computer system called Horizon, designed by Fujitsu UK, was clearly too trusted to fail - so it must be those pesky humans stealing precious post office profits.

The Internet was rapidly making snail mail a thing of the past, and Tony Blair's modernisation putsch was pounding its long march into every corner of every institution, rationalising, trimming, diversifying, with a toothy smile and an affirmation. Did anyone at Post Office HQ, let alone the Crown Prosecution Service, ever think 'that's an awful lot of postmasters on the fiddle at the same time, I wonder if it's anything like that Millennium bug thing we were all warned about?'

That thought apparently didn't occur to newly minted Human Rights lawyer Keir Starmer, working his way to power as Director of Public Prosecutions. Along with introducing the 'believe the victims' policy at the CPS, he would also have at least been aware of these numerous dodgy looking PO fraud/embezzlement charges skimming of the desks of his case advisors – the number of whom he had been instrumental in pruning.

(The fact that Starmer's parents had named him Keir – after Labour lodestar Keir Hardie – tells you all you need to know about nominative determinism: 'One day, all this will be yours young Keir. Just play the game right and you too will be a hero'.)

Less human rights for Paula Vennells, more freshly-ordained vicarage, setting equal rights to work in top jobs in the institutions, eventually involving trousering £5 million in bonuses and a CBE. Who was it who came up with the staggeringly cynical ruse of awarding bonuses to correct convictions of these legion falsely accused postmasters? Blame and 'failing-up' culture is in place to make sure it's very hard to tell, some degree of institutional integrity is protected, and responsibility permanently shirked - as is seemingly the way at top-level UK.

So as these village-level postmasters underwent divorces, depression, isolation and overdose, Starmer was watching Obama's Democrats enact epidemic-level Title IX policies on US university campuses. This meant that 'gender' equality was disciplined by in-house university boards, resulting in thousands of young men being found guilty of sexual assault, expelled or sent to prison (thence in many cases to be on the sex offenders register for the rest of their lives).

Owen Labrie was one young victim of this cruel 'the complainant WILL be believed' (Theresa May, House of Commons, 2018) process, Saifullah Khan another. Khan later successfully sued Yale for incorrect practices in expelling him outside of due process, in a Johnny Depp-style turning of fortunes for the whole saga. Not before #MeToo had happened though, Harvey Weinstein sent down for 26 years and numerous directors, actors and musicians' careers cancelled.

The waves of #MeToo washed up on UK shores (it was strangely the Anglophone countries most affected – surely nothing to do with a captured mainstream media there) as men in perceived positions of power were accused, convicted, or otherwise hung out to dry. But the Depp-Heard domestic violence/libel cases had opened millions of eyes to the complex and increasingly subjective realities of allegation culture, as famous men from Prince Andrew to Bill Clinton to bloody Stephen Hawking were rammed into the maw of the all-devouring media.

Kevin Spacey was another famous turning point, winning two cases on each side of the Atlantic against four different accusers; but it was the exoneration of Andy Malkinson in the summer of 2023 that turned public mood to almost total scepticism with 'believe the victim' culture.

The rot had started in the North Wales care homes scandals of the nineties - and believing every word of already damaged young people in them, in pursuit of good headlines and conviction targets. As an outsider to the area, Malkinson had been convicted after being wrongly picked out of an identity parade as the complainant's assailant, before inconvenient exonerating DNA was sat on/hidden for fifteen years by the Greater Manchester Police.

'Modernised' processes being too trusted to fail? Just happy with the man they'd got? The similarities between Andy Malkinson and Alan Bates, the postmasters leading campaigner, weren't just in their stand-in-your-truth, everyman stoicism; they were also in the Vogon-like obstreperousness of the bloated organisations of whose dystopian boot they were under.

There's an elephant in the proverbial though, and that's that the Post Office scandal wasn't about sex - so it's easier for the headlines to have true outrage over hard done-by working people. In 'believe the victims' cases there are allegations of sexual misconduct, some serious, some less so, but all made absolutely catastrophic by a newly power-feminised judicial process. This is all the more reason that a series, a campaign, a public awakening to these issues beyond Spacey, Malkinson or Brand is essential.

Yes it's complex, yes it's human, and the cases of proper, intentional criminality need to be seen to be dealt with - but as the aforementioned cases indicate, they are far more rare than the papers would have us believe. It's about time the British media shone its dubious torch onto those prosecuting with precious little compunction in this all-too-easy-to-demonise area. Now, which channel would have the guts to make such a counter-narrative...

By Sean Bw Parker

First published on Sean's Substack, Some Brave Apollo.

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