More

    Post Office was ‘sabotaging our efforts to seek truth’

    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Former Post Office top brass Paula Vennells “frequently and consistently” attempted to “steer” investigators away from looking at wrongful Horizon convictions, an independent forensic accountant, told the Post Office inquiry today (18), suggesting that there was “possibly a criminal conspiracy” at the Post Office.

    Ian Henderson was one of the two forensic accountants from Second Sight paid by Post Office (POL) to review sub-postmaster convictions involving Horizon in 2012. Vennells, the former Post Office chief executive, was already in her role when Second Sight began its inquiry in mid-2012.

    During the hearing, Henderson revealed how he had signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the Post Office and claimed he later faced a “thinly veiled threat” from the company’s then head of legal Chris Aujard “to bankrupt me if I continued causing trouble”.

    A 2013 interim report produced by Henderson and his colleague Ron Warmington identified two bugs in the Horizon system that caused problems for 76 branches. The forensic accountants were sacked in 2015, and Henderson said he believed they were dismissed because they were “getting too close to the truth”.

    He told the inquiry he felt the Post Office was “constantly sabotaging our efforts to seek the truth irrespective of the consequences”.

    During the hearing today, counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC asked, “What had happened to the ‘shared desire to seek the truth irrespective of the consequences?'”

    Henderson replied, “I think we’d moved on from that. I’d formed the view that quite early on in the process, Post Office was getting advice from external lawyers about the financial consequences of what we were finding – the fact that they might be looking at very material amounts of compensation.”

    He added, “It was very clear that Post Office senior management were very concerned about the public perception, the brand image – I mean, Paula Vennells in meetings was very open about it. She was determined to promote the brand of Post Office.

    “By February 2015, I no longer had confidence that POL was taking our concerns seriously or dealing with them in an appropriate manner.

    “I felt we were dealing with a cover-up by POL and possibly a criminal conspiracy. I was concerned about the various threats that had been made to me by POL concerning alleged breaches of my NDA and my duties of confidentiality. One of the reasons it was challenging was that POL would say one thing in public, and then do something different in private.

    “An example of this was Paula Vennells’ statement to the Parliamentary Select Committee in February 2015, that our work had found ‘no evidence of miscarriages of justice’ and ‘it was important that we surface any miscarriages of justice’.

    “Paula Vennells frequently and consistently attempted to steer Second Sight away from investigating potential miscarriages of justice. When I first met Paula Vennells, she told me that POL was the nation’s most trusted brand with a history of over 400 years.

    “As our work continued, I increasingly formed the view that because of this history, POL somehow felt it was above the law. I formed the view that POL was constantly sabotaging our efforts to seek the truth irrespective of the consequences.

    “Requests for documents were either ignored or responses were excessively delayed. Unjustified claims of legal professional privilege were used to justify withholding documents from us.”

    More than 900 branch workers were wrongfully prosecuted as a result of faulty Horizon software, which saw shortfalls incorrectly recorded on their accounts.

    In her own evidence to the inquiry last month, Vennells said she had been perhaps “too trusting” of people around her when it came to getting to the truth about 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...