Britain has become a bad country to be hard-working, decent and honest

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Former sub-postmistress Shazia Saddiq would immediately appear to many to be a decent and respectable woman. Charming, sociable, and committed to the community, she’s exactly the type of person you’d want to run your local post office.

The soft-spoken mother-of-two, 40, appeared at an inquest into the Horizon IT scandal on Thursday, and we saw the best and worst of this sad story. We learned that Ms Saddiq, who ran three post offices in Newcastle between 2009 and 2016, was also asked about the £30,000 he is believed to have lost in the 2014 cyber attack, even though it was later.

He heard excerpts from witness statements explaining how he had been unfairly accused. It was discovered in the suspense account.

In stark contrast to quiet, unassuming Ms Saddiq was Post Office investigator Stephen Bradshaw, who one postmaster alleged had behaved with his colleagues like “Mafia gangsters.”

Ms Saddiq has said she received more than 60 “particularly intimidating calls” from the investigator who “didn’t identify himself” in 2016. She added: “I refused to speak to him because I did not know who he was … In that telephone call… he called me a b—-, which I found extremely distressing.” Mr Bradshaw dismissed her claims as “untrue”, denying that he had “hounded” her and insisting he would always say who he was on a call.

Describing himself as a “small cog” and a “liaison man”, Mr Bradshaw spoke with the sort of “just following orders” buck-passing that will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to deal with a jobsworth in a high-vis jacket. He was pursuing people accused of IT fraud and yet “wasn’t technically minded”. Anyone listening as he detailed his supposedly unwitting role in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice this country has ever witnessed could have been forgiven for wondering if the only job requirement was a lack of empathy.

It seems unbelievable that Ms Saddiq should have been pursued in the way she described. And yet one of the reasons why this scandal has resonated so deeply with the British public is because it seems to speak to a wider sense in which Britain has gone wrong. The UK does not feel like a place where the honest, hard-working and upstanding are trusted, or are even protected by the law. Nearly all of us are liable to find ourselves hounded by petty officialdom – albeit on a much smaller and less devastating scale.

Everywhere you turn, law-abiding people are treated abominably by a bureaucratic class that doesn’t seem to give two figs about them. Usually, the tyrants of officialdom are the ones who get it wrong – and yet they are so convinced of their rightness that they cannot bring themselves to entertain the notion that we might be the injured party.

From dealings with quangos like HMRC, the DVLA and the Passport Office, to doing something as simple as trying to park your car – you’ll encounter these obstructive forces, for which there are never any mitigating circumstances, only overly harsh punishments with little right of reply.

New systems are imposed on us with little regard for the consequences. Any dissent over supposed innovations like paying for parking by smartphone or BT’s new Digital Voice never seems to matter to those introducing them. Companies and institutions, which invariably hide behind online chatbots and oxymoronic “helplines” with no actual humans at the end of them, make our lives harder without any apology, but will come after you with all guns blazing should they ever get the opportunity.

The authorities also all too often appear focused on going after people who least need to feel the long arm of the law. Take the example of the 89-year-old driver who was handed a criminal conviction last summer after his vehicle had failed its MOT and sat unused on his driveway. The pensioner from Hampshire was taken to court by the DVLA for not paying a few weeks’ car insurance and was convicted in a behind-closed-doors hearing. In this case, the elderly gentleman explained he had “accidentally put the letter in a drawer without reading it properly” and offered to pay the original fine. He was forced to pay a £62 fine plus a £25 “victim surcharge”. Yet the only victim here was the defendant.

Another pensioner was similarly prosecuted for not insuring a car he no longer uses – despite telling the court he was disabled, not coping well after his wife’s death and had lost the V5 registration document needed to declare it as off-road in a recent flood. He said he had pleaded guilty to make it “as cheap as possible”. What justice is being served by punishing these poor chaps for making an honest mistake? Meanwhile, the police won’t investigate shoplifters stealing less than £200 worth of goods and have failed to solve a single burglary in half of all UK neighbourhoods in the past three years.

The private sector can be almost as bad. Before Christmas, one of my relatives received what can only be described as a grossly impertinent and intrusive letter from his bank asking him how he spent his money. He complained and the bank was hugely apologetic, explaining that the orders had come from the regulator “to prevent fraud and money laundering”.

Yet why is it that people who will always be completely innocent of such crimes have to put up with these sorts of stressful enquiries, while actual fraudsters are able to con our own government out of millions in Covid loans? How does interrogating pensioners, who have been loyal customers for years, stop the sorts of criminals involved in illicit activities like drug trafficking, embezzlement or gambling? You don’t catch delinquents by clamping down on do-gooders.

Sadly, if you enter any public space in Britain these days, you are reminded that the traditional presumption of innocence has been turned on its head. “Our staff will not tolerate abuse,” read the signs – as if to suggest that the default setting for the majority is to hurl insults. It is all virtue-signalling nonsense to put you off complaining about anything at all. And then when you do voice a legitimate gripe about something, you’re inevitably told by someone reading from a script not to raise your voice, even when you’re speaking perfectly calmly.

These sorts of exasperating encounters are nothing compared to what the victims of the Post Office scandal have been through. But we can all identify with their David vs Goliath battle against faceless and increasingly unaccountable organisations which reward failure while blaming others for their own mistakes.

We look at Alan Bates, Shazia Saddiq and all the other innocents who have had their lives ruined by an inadequate institution that was more interested in covering its backside than finding out the truth and we think: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” The scandal has only served to confirm a growing suspicion that Britain is becoming a bad place for good people.

Imperial Hospital Sylhet

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Daily Dazzling Dawn is the first and only international and non-profitable newspaper, which is 100% ownership of professional journalists from Bangladeshi origin with 20 years of experience in global journalism. The main aim of the newspaper is promoting ethical journalism with truth, accuracy and proficiency.

Editor in Chief

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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