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The Post Office Scandal

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Sluffy
luckyPeterpiper
observer
wanderlust
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Whitesince63
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81The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 18 2024, 14:15

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

Moving on.

A Post Office in-house lawyer, Rodric Williams, is giving evidence at the inquiry today and I though the following disclosure from him today was very revealing.

In simple terms he said IF the PO knew about something and there was a legal case that such knowledge would have a bearing on (even if it was negative to the PO position) they had a legal duty to disclose this to the other legal side during the legal action.

However if they 'didn't' know about something themselves they had no duty to disclose.

It seems the PO knew of the existence of 14,000 error logs against Horizon but apparently no one had put them into any categorisation (they could have been about anything and nothing to do with what was to become the scandal).

It seems Williams legal advise was NOT to look into the error logs, so the PO DIDN'T know if the issues related to the scandal, and so did not have to be disclosed to the other legal side against them, and potentially blow the PO case out of the water.

12:27
Williams asked about Horizon's '14,000 known errors log'
Beer moves forward now to 2019. He says this was when the Post Office had to conduct a Horizon issues trial, which was concerned with whether there were known issues in Horizon without disclosing known error logs.

Beer asks about Williams' approach to disclosure generally, asking whether it is usual that unless the other side asked for a document, there would be "no need to review your own material to see whether it meets the test for disclosure".

Williams gets flustered and says no that isn't his approach.

Beer asks whether it was his approach that in relation to 14,000 known error logs, "a relevant consideration was whether the claimant had asked for them or not".

Williams says it would depend on what the PO "wanted to do with them".

Beer then asks Williams: "Can you discharge that duty without looking at them?"

Williams says he suspects "it would be difficult to".


12:37
'We didn't have a duty to disclose error data'
The inquiry continues to discuss the known error logs, or 'KELs'.

Beer says to Williams it appears the Post Office's suggested approach from its lawyers - "either from you or communicated through you" - is that "we shouldn't look at documents that might contain adverse material, because we might have to disclose them".

"Instead lets wait until the litigation is over and our duties of disclosure have ceased to arise?" Beer asks.

Williams later says: "I'm saying it's a way to mitigate the risk".

Beer questions this, exclaiming: "Risk of what?"

Williams goes on to say: "Once the litigation concluded, we didn't have a duty to disclose...
"

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/business-68841039

82The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Fri Apr 19 2024, 08:12

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

When you think that you might have scraped the barrel of dodgy characters at PO HQ an even dodgier one comes along.

Jason Beer KC seemed  close to losing his exemplary composure with yesterday's witness, Rodric Williams, a so-called lawyer in the Post Office legal team.

This guy is up again today. Watch out for the fireworks when lawyers for the SPMs get their chance to question the shyster.



Last edited by Ten Bobsworth on Mon Apr 22 2024, 08:52; edited 1 time in total

83The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Sat Apr 20 2024, 08:17

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

Yesterday the Post Office Inquiry continued in much the same vein as Thursday with Jason Beer KC continuing to question Post Office in-house lawyer Rodric Williams.

Oozing contempt for Williams through every pore,  Mr Beer resisted any temptation to ask "Which part of 'no good, lying scumbag' do you not understand, Mister Williams?"

Counsel for the SPMs, Edward Henry KC didn't hold back though.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/business-68841039

84The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Tue Apr 23 2024, 06:55

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

The Horizon Inquiry gets under way again today with an appearance of former Post Office
general counsel, Susan Crichton. Lets see how admirable Ms Crichton was.

 I do hope its Jase The Ace that's tasked with asking the questions.

85The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Tue Apr 23 2024, 22:21

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

Only saw a bit of today's hearings but Ms Crichton seemed to be coming out of it reasonably well. According to Paula Vennells, Ms Crichton was more concerned with professional ethics than doing Ms Vennels bidding. It seems that Vennells expected Crichton to arrange for the SPMs to be bought off with a miserly £3K to £5K each. How much was Vennells paid?

It will be interesting to see what counsel for the SPMs have to say when the questioning of Ms Crichton concludes tomorrow.

And belated Happy Birthday to Boncey. You ought to be watching this, rather than messing about with superglue, old chap.



Last edited by Ten Bobsworth on Wed Apr 24 2024, 07:09; edited 1 time in total

86The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 06:55

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

I can now answer my own question. At the time Ms Vennells was trying to get Susan Crichton to fob off wronged SPMs with compo of £3-5K, Paula Vennells herself was pulling in £698K.

Oozing the kind of odious self-serving spin you might expect from the likes of Ms Vennells, in its 2013 Annual Report the Post Office declared itself to be:

 'The heart of the community'.


 The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 200.gif?cid=a87a70e6a6fa1o102nhsrl5b9yx7n5vhdpt3sh94nhf047ut&ep=v1_gifs_trending&rid=200



https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/02154540

The Inquiry has set aside 3 days for the questioning of Ms Vennells next month.

87The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 07:43

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

Apparently the Chair of Post Office Ltd around the time of the hounding of Susan Crichton, Alice Perkins, was perhaps better known as Mrs Jack Straw, a paid up member of the New Labour aristocracy of the Tony Blair dynasty, one might say.

This is quite a good article that I only discovered this morning

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/post-office-scandal-responsibility-culpability-liability-parker-q1sve/

88The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 13:57

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

The inquiry is looking at the relationship between the in-house lawyers and Cartwright King, a law firm which was acting on behalf of the Post Office.

Did you know Cartwright King went into Administration in 2022 owing £8m!

I couldn't actually find details of it at Companies House(?) but I did find stuff from the Law Gazette and the new owners of the company -

Failed legal aid firm owes bank £5m, administrators reveal

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/failed-legal-aid-firm-owes-bank-5m-administrators-reveal/5116938.article

Statement from Cartwright King -

On the 23rd of December 2022, Cartwright King Solicitors entered administration and its assets were acquired by a new company, with a completely new management team.

None of the employees, owners or managers who were involved in advising the Post Office remain with the new company and had left Cartwright King prior to its acquisition by the new owners.

The new owners of Cartwright King are, alongside the rest of the country, horrified at the injustice caused by the Post Office prosecutions and will provide full assistance to the Inquiry to help bring those responsible to justice. This will include providing any relevant material in our possession, as well as assisting the Solicitors Regulation Authority to investigate the conduct of any solicitors involved in the prosecutions brought by the Post Office.

Full statement here -

https://cartwrightking.co.uk/articles/press-release/statement-on-the-post-office-scandal/



Thought you might be interested.

89The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 14:34

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

Ten Bobsworth wrote:This is quite a good article that I only discovered this morning

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/post-office-scandal-responsibility-culpability-liability-parker-q1sve/

I thought this was an interesting quote contained in the article you link to -

“Post Office is stuffed to the gills with lifers, plodders and gormless apparatchiks inexplicably promoted into positions way beyond their ability”

I think that is true not only of the Post Office but nearly every organisation I've worked for including those in the private sector.

I've found it interesting in following my daughters career and to date she's worked at a well known national company, a well known American company and a large international company that I'd never previously heard of.

She too talks about lifers, plodders and all the rest on that list - in all of her employments, so I tend to think that is normal to a greater or lesser extent for most companies and not just a failing of the PO/Royal Mail alone from the last 20 odd years or so.

For me the scandal started at the point when people who knew about external access to Horizon was possible hid that fact, or reported upwards but someone deliberately closed it down or stopped the message going higher.

Those at the top, no matter what they were being paid, couldn't put right something they simply didn't know about and that was the simple point I was making in respect of Smith and Hodgkinson a couple of weeks back on this thread, when you were all for lynching them!

90The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 14:54

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

I again think this is interesting comment currently ongoing at the Inquiry today -

Analysis

Posted at 13:24
Did key details fall between the cracks?

Peter Ruddick
Business reporter

When there is a handover in a job there is always a risk that things fall between the cracks. A risk that increases when someone is replacing a person leaving abruptly or under a cloud.

Is that what happened to the so-called Clarke advice? An external legal opinion that the former expert evidence from Gareth Jenkins was "fatally undermined".

This morning, we heard Susan Crichton admit she should have done more to raise this advice to the Post Office board. However, there was "a lot going on" with her departure from the organisation.

Her successor Chris Aujard knew about the 'Jenkins problem' from day two in the job. The closest he got to telling the board was a document referring to "associated issues".

Why did he not raise it more strongly? He says he assumed issues pre-dating him were already being resolved.

Is that credible? That is for the inquiry to decide. But it is a reminder that the very everyday issue of job handovers can have a big impact in a scandal like this.


Analysis

Posted at 14:38
Vennells opposed pausing prosecutions, inquiry hears

Simon Jack
Business editor

The Post Office's former head in-house lawyer Chris Aujard has told the inquiry he remembers Paula Vennells, then chief executive, opposing a view from the rest of the top management team prosecutions of postmasters should be paused.

The former Post Office general counsel said: "My recollection is that the executive committee were in favour of ceasing prosecutions entirely.

"But, when that proposition was discussed at the committee, Paula interjected or made the comment that proposition should not be taken as what I’d intended it to be – never bringing prosecutions – but rather there should be limited prosecutorial activity and PO should continue to take some prosecutions".

When asked whether she seemed in favour of continuing to pursue cases relying on Horizon data, Aujard said Vennells was not specific at the time.

The Post Office's leading in-house lawyer is essentially saying Paula Vennells was determined to continue to prosecute post masters despite reservations of the executive committee and his own.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/business-68875828


Posted at 14:45

Deloitte report 'raised a red flag' - Aujard

Discussing a Deloitte report from 2014, Aujard claims the same as Post Office lawyer Rodric Williams previously did at the inquiry, saying he didn't understand its significance.

In the report*, Deloitte reviewed Horizon documents, examined transaction data and interviewed Fujitsu and Post Office staff.

Aujard says now in his statement: "A further issue which could have been handled differently is the disclosure of the Deloitte report.

"As explained above, with the benefit of what is now known about issues with Horizon, I can see that potentially the Deloitte report raised a red flag.

"In the circumstances as I thought them to be at the time, I did not recognise it as such and neither did anyone with a better understanding of IT systems than me alert me to any concern."

*  Secret papers reveal Post Office knew its court defence was false

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-68663750

91The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 15:47

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

15:21

I didn't know Post Office accounts could be remotely accessed, Aujard tells inquiry


Sluffy wrote:For me the scandal started at the point when people who knew about external access to Horizon was possible hid that fact, or reported upwards but someone deliberately closed it down or stopped the message going higher.

Those at the top, no matter what they were being paid, couldn't put right something they simply didn't know about and that was the simple point I was making in respect of Smith and Hodgkinson a couple of weeks back on this thread, when you were all for lynching them!

92The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Wed Apr 24 2024, 23:10

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

I had good reason to believe right from the very outset that SPMs were being obliged to declare false figures to keep their jobs/livelihoods and to cover up errors in a computer system imposed upon them by senior management. I also had reason to believe that the Post Office was stealing SPMs' money and that the SPMs' own Federation was in the pocket of senior management.

All this was long before the likes of Paula Vennells arrived on the scene. I'm afraid that you also have to look at the political influences on all this right from the very beginning and the apparently unshakeable belief of the Blairites that you could spin anything and the public would believe you.

93The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 25 2024, 01:31

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

I'm not sure you can blame any politics for this Bob, as the scandal started under Labour and progressed through a Lib Dem / Tory coalition (with Lib Dem, Ed Davey being the responsible Minister for the PO at the time) and then years of Tory government.

The PO basically got caught out due to a change in society, in just the same way as many other things have such as the closure of pubs, the death of town centres, and why people no longer bother with internet forums.

People stopped sending letters because we all now use email, and nobody uses royal mail parcels because everyone buys and sells stuff through Amazon.

The PO was losing £1m a day and had to do something fast to make itself relevant again and that was hoped to be a fully computerised system - Horizon.

I don't believe anyone set out to fuck the SPMs but somewhere and at some point bugs in the system occurred and this was in someway hidden rather than faced.

I've not been following this as intently as you seem to be but it seems that something was known in advance of the Semma Misra case and the Fujitsu expert witness for the PO, Gareth Jenkins, knew about remote access by Fujitsu but did not disclose this fact.

It seems the next major point was the advise from Simon Clarke of Cartwright King again bringing that to the attention of the PO.

Now how high up the chain of management in the PO that went, I don't know, but I doubt it managed to get through to the government until a lot of very dirty water had flowed under the PO's bridge - if you will excuse the analogy.

I suspect that people lower down the food chain at both the PO and Fujitsu were aware of the remote access but what concerns they might have had were blocked by the middle to senior management at the PO and not seen as a major concern at Fujitsu other than a programming issue that needed to be fixed.

This seems to be corroborated somewhat with a second letter of advise from Simon Clarke telling the PO to stop shredding the minutes and notes of the meetings!

https://www.postofficescandal.uk/post/the-first-clarke-advice/

https://www.postofficescandal.uk/post/the-shredding-advice/

An interim red flag that seems to have been completely missed was the Deloitte forensic accountants report of 2014 that showed that Fujitsu could access Horizon remotely -

The configuration of the physical hardware does however permit administrators to delete data from the audit store during the seven year period, which was a matter found to be possible and contrary to POL's [Post Office Limited] understanding of this physical protection feature.

This could allow suitably authorised privileged staff in Fujitsu to delete a sealed set of baskets and replace them with properly sealed baskets, although they would have to fake the digital signatures."

94The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 25 2024, 08:53

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

The coalition government was every bit as bad Blair's New Labour for spin. They all plainly expected to get away with it whilst they had hold of the reins. 

A rare exception, in my personal experience, was the late Frank Field but he never did seem to hold much power and I don't know that he was ever involved with the Post Office scandal. It was financial malpractice in the NHS that I contacted him about. He had similar concerns but couldn't get anywhere with it.

The Misra and Castleton cases were important in different ways but possibly the most significant one was the earlier case of Julie Wolstenhome, SPM at Cleveleys Post Office. The expert witness in this case demonstrated the unreliability of Horizon and POL tried to get away with a payment into court of £25K in the vain hope of settling Julie's claims against it.

Julie's legal team were having none of it and eventually POL had to pay a much larger sum (believed to be c. £180k). Julie seems to have remained silent since then, I expect observing an NDA/gagging clause.

There's more to come out yet and its fascinating to watch even if it frequently is like pulling teeth.

https://news.sky.com/story/post-office-scandal-extends-greatly-beyond-horizon-victims-lawyer-13121659

95The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 25 2024, 09:50

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

Get away with what???

I don't believe this is political in any sense to the government of the day as such and certainly not in respect of fucking the sub post masters.

Yes maybe there were thoughts of privatising the service and/or stemming the financial losses and government subsidising the business but not actually picking on the individual SPM and making them suffer.

In simple terms I see this as the PO having to modernise to survive, introducing an automated computer system to do everything and there being bugs in the system.

I've been responsible myself for doing the same thing - replacing well established paper systems with computers and all the fall out both operationally and individual users buy in.

Obviously not on anything like on the same scale, or with the same dire consequences but I've experienced such a process from both a managerial and user perspective.

Where the PO seems to have gone wrong is that they believed the supplier Fujitsu, that there was no remote access - which turned out not to be the case.

Even then I can believe that was believed to be true as the people who sell the computer system and train the staff up are not the same ones as who do the technology behind it all - so if the sales, training and support services are told there is no remote access, the client (the PO in this case) believes that to be the case and acts accordingly.

Clearly as time went on and complaints about the system by users grew, something should have been noted and questioned.

As far as I understand it so far, this seemed to be around the time of the Misra case and the non disclosure by the Fujitsu expert witness.

From that time on it becomes to be a question of who at the PO knew this fact and why it was not acted on.

I can't see how that can be blamed on Blair, Ed Davey or Cameron - they didn't even know about it?

I doubt anyone in government ever knew about it until it all blew up in court in recent years.

96The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 25 2024, 10:02

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

I've just read this - thought I would flag it up here as I think this is the earliest I know of, of someone in the PO knowing about such things -

Posted at 9:29

Jo Hamilton, a former sub-postmistress from South Warnborough, Hampshire said at first the Horizon system showed there was £2,000 missing. She then contacted the Post Office support, who advised her, but after following their instructions, the amount doubled to £4,000.

Many reported that the Horizon system made it look like money was missing when it wasn't.

Jason Coyne, an IT expert, was instructed to examine the computer system in 2003 and reported "concerning discrepancies".

Coyne said there "was clearly defective elements of its hardware, software and interfaces, and the majority of errors noticed in the fault logs could not be attributed to the sub-postmaster".

Coyne said the Post Office data was "unreliable" but he was ignored, sacked, and then discredited.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/business-68893655



11:09

The inquiry is shown an email sent in 2010 by Lynn Hobbs, general manager of the Post Office's support network.

Hobbs wrote that she had found out that Fujitsu could put an entry into a branch account remotely, but the Post Office could not, which counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC calls "very significant".

"Yes, but prior to this, I would have had no awareness of any of this stuff (remote access)," van der Bogerd says, to which Beer adds that this makes it even more significant.

"I don’t recall seeing this email... it's quite a strange note dropped into an email chain."


11:13
We're hearing more about an email chain with Lynn Hobbs, which refers to the Ismay report.

Van den Bogerd is quick to stress that Hobbs was her senior, and the email did not express a sense of urgency she would expect if Hobbs was "really concerned" about what she'd heard.

Rod Ismay wrote a report into Horizon, which suggested there was "no backdoor" into the IT system. Van den Bogerd confirms this, as well as confirming that the report suggested the ownership of accounting was at branch level - rendering remote access improbable.

But we know that's not the case, as the faulty computer system led to several shortfalls and prosecutions of wrongly accused sub-postmasters.

And as we reported a little earlier, a 2010 email shown to the inquiry indicates van den Bogerd was made aware that Fujitsu can put an entry into a branch account remotely.

97The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Thu Apr 25 2024, 13:28

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin

It's been a car crash morning for Angela van den Bogerd - summed up here -

When did Angela van den Bogerd first become aware that sub-postmaster’s accounts could be accessed remotely and what did she do about it?

We’ve heard that she was copied into an email as far back as Dec 2010 when a colleague highlights how Fujitsu can put an entry into a branch account remotely.

It came up as possible solution to a bug which had been affecting 60 branches. But Angela doesn’t remember seeing it.

In her witness statement she says she was first made aware that Fujitsu employees could, in theory, have remote access without sub-postmasters knowing the following year after receiving an email.

But she never mentioned this in her evidence to the high court in 2018.

Jason Beer KC has been trying to unravel the contradictions: "What you said was false?"

“At the time I didn’t think it was,” she said.

And we haven’t even started with all the denials she and the Post Office gave to the BBC Panorama team in 2015 as they tried to pressure journalists and supress what was really going on.

98The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Fri Apr 26 2024, 08:02

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

AvdB is plainly a well-practised dissembler and we can only expect more of the same today. It may get interesting later when counsel for the SPMs get their chance to nail her.

But whose bidding was she doing and why was she chosen to be the agent of those above her to report back on what Second Sight were seeing and doing?

They must have mistakenly thought that Second Sight would be 'manageable' when they were given the gig.

99The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Fri Apr 26 2024, 09:13

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

The great PFI Heist, 'Perfidious Financial Idiocy', 'a fraud on the people', or New Labour's 'magical solution'?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/pfi-banks-barclays-hsbc-rbs-tony-blair-gordon-brown-carillion-capita-financial-crash-a8202661.html

How was Horizon funded? 

Anyone think it might have been PFI?

POL's 1998 audited accounts say it was.

https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/02154540/filing-history?page=2

100The Post Office Scandal - Page 5 Empty Re: The Post Office Scandal Sat Apr 27 2024, 07:13

Ten Bobsworth


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

What an interesting week it's been at th'Inquiry.

It wound up with counsel for the SPMs getting their chance to tell  Angela van den Bogerd what they and their clients thought of the over-promoted, over-remunerated former counter clerk and it wasn't complimentary. Bogerd seemed entirely impervious to it all though.

She had left the Post Office after being condemned as an unreliable witness (aka liar) by a High Court judge but not before she'd picked up yet another bonus at the expense of you and I. 

But it wasn't long before she found somewhere else to help maintain the exalted lifestyle to which,  it seems, she had become accustomed. This time it was the Welsh Football Association. She didn't last long there and neither did the CEO who seems to have carried the can for her appointment to the job.

Susan Crichton was an interesting witness. She got eased out of her POL job because, it seems that in the opinion Mrs van den Bogerd, Paula Vennells and/or Chair, Mrs Straw, she wasn't 'managing' the Second Sight review to their satisfaction. A few scruples seemed to be surfacing from what I could see and TPTB at POL didn't seem too keen on that sort of thing.

How did Second Sight manage to get appointed in the first place? Could it have been concern that the brick walls that James Arbuthnot MP had been banging his head against for several years might not be quite so thick when a new government took over as  POL's paymaster in 2010?

Did any new Minister actually intervene? We might find out a bit more in due course.

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