More

    Post Office Horizon inquiry: Lawyer advised to adopt ‘cold’ approach, not apologise

    (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    A Post Office lawyer suggested branding wrongfully convicted sub-postmasters as “liars” and “criminals” to attack their credibility, the inquiry heard over the week.

    In the recent hearing sessions, it emerged that Andrew Parsons, a partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, who advised the Post Office for more than seven years, wrote that apologising to the operators would be “admitting some degree of culpability”.

    The inquiry heard that, in 2013, Parsons had reviewed drafts of letters due to be sent out by the Post Office to several branch operators who had identified financial discrepancies in their branch accounts shown on the Horizon IT system that the Post Office had agreed to correct.

    In an email to Post Office executives sent in June 2013, Parsons wrote, “I don’t think we should apologise in the letters. I know this sounds hard but in apologising we are admitting some degree of culpability. I think we should maintain a more cold, procedural approach to correcting what is effectively an accounting irregularity.”

    On Thursday (12), on being questioned on his suggestion, Parsons said, “Sometimes apologies can be interpreted as admissions. I think it’s pretty common for lawyers in letters to consider whether an apology is appropriate or not. In my view, it leads people to consider there was an admission of legal fault when in fact the Post Office’s view was, yes, there had been a problem, but it had been corrected.”

    Parsons was also questioned by the inquiry about another email, sent in 2016, in which his law firm had urged the Post Office to “try and suppress” disclosure of a key document for “as long as possible”. Parsons told the inquiry it was a “very poorly worded email and I regret sending it”.

    Parsons was also questioned about exchanges between himself and Rodric Williams, an internal Post Office lawyer, about possible responses to an episode of the BBC’s Panorama programme in 2015 which had raised questions about the Horizon IT system. The documentary featured the cases of the convicted post office operators Noel Thomas, Seema Misra and Jo Hamilton, who were all exonerated in 2021.

    At the time, Parsons wrote that his preferred option had been for the Post Office to do nothing and await the decision of the Criminal Cases Review Commission about possible miscarriages of justice – or alternatively it could go on “full attack.”

    He said in the email, which was read out to the inquiry, that the Post Office could “start attacking the postmasters’ credibility by calling out Thomas, Misra and Hamilton as the liars and criminals that they are”.

    Parsons told the inquiry, “On reflection that language is too strong.

    “I apologised for them at the time and apologise for them now. A great deal of information about the Horizon system has come to light over the years and, like everyone, I now know that there have been miscarriages of justice.”

    Latest

    Chill and Thrill: Summer drinks to fire up sales 

    The UK is known for its dark and gloomy...

    Ocado’s appeal over depot next to north London school dismissed

    By: Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter An appeal by Ocado...

    Horizon inquiry to survey current sub-postmasters on Post Office conduct

    The inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal...

    Vennells ‘grossly understated’ Horizon scandal, says former Royal Mail boss

    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells and top...

    Don't miss

    Chill and Thrill: Summer drinks to fire up sales 

    The UK is known for its dark and gloomy...

    Ocado’s appeal over depot next to north London school dismissed

    By: Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter An appeal by Ocado...

    Horizon inquiry to survey current sub-postmasters on Post Office conduct

    The inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal...

    Vennells ‘grossly understated’ Horizon scandal, says former Royal Mail boss

    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells and top...

    Champagne sales fall 15 per cent in first half

     France's champagne producers on Friday called for a cut...

    Chill and Thrill: Summer drinks to fire up sales 

    The UK is known for its dark and gloomy weather, so a shining sun and warmer climate are always welcome. And Brits definitely know...

    Ocado’s appeal over depot next to north London school dismissed

    By: Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter An appeal by Ocado for permission to open a depot next to a north London school has been dismissed...

    Horizon inquiry to survey current sub-postmasters on Post Office conduct

    The inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal will ask current sub-postmasters if the organisation is treating them better now than it did...