• The Post Office vs Teju Adedayo

    Teju Adedayo listening to Natasha Bernard’s evidence at the Inquiry

    On 14 May 2021 Teju Adedayo had her criminal conviction quashed at Southwark Crown Court. Parmod Kalia, who had been convicted of theft, had his conviction quashed alongside Teju.

    In 2005 Teju took responsibility for £52,864 going missing from her branch and provided the Post Office with a “confession”, explaining she took £50,000 out of her Post Office to pay back some people she’d borrowed money from. In 2006, she pleaded guilty to three counts of false accounting and was given a suspended sentence.

    In 2001, Parmod made a similar “confession”, telling Post Office investigators he took £22,000 from his branch to buy shares. He pleaded guilty to theft and in 2002 was given a six month custodial sentence.

    Both Teju and Parmod have subsequently stated the discrepancies at their branches were due to Horizon errors and their confessions were false, made in abject fear of going to prison and signed under duress.

    “Public interest” cases

    If you are convicted in a Crown Court, you go to the Court of Appeal. If you are convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, you take your appeal to a Crown Court.

    The system at Crown Court is different to the Court of Appeal. At a Crown Court, the case must be re-tried. If the respondent (in this case, the Post Office) does not volunteer to re-try the case, the conviction can be set aside (ie quashed) by the presiding judge.

    Because Teju and Parmod were convicted at Magistrates’ Courts, they attended Southwark Crown Court to appeal their convictions. During their hearing in 2021, the Post Office barrister stated:

    “Having considered those public interest factors in respect of the facts and circumstances of these cases and, in particular, whether a prosecution is a proportionate response bearing in mind the age of the case and the fact that both appellants have served the sentence imposed on them, Post Office has determined that a prosecution is not required in the public interest.”

    But, she added:

    “The Post Office does not accept that their confessions were made as a consequence of anything said or done that was likely, in the circumstances at the time, to render them unreliable.”

    Nonetheless, the judge decided to set aside Teju and Parmod’s convictions and they left as innocent people, with no stain on their characters.

    Parmod Kalia and Teju Adedayo outside court in May 2021

    Compensation was a different matter. Because the Post Office maintains there was enough non-Horizon evidence to indicate a crime had taken place (ie the guilty pleas and confessions), the Post Office and government are refusing to allow Teju or Parmod proper compensation. Teju and Parmod are not the only people affected by this stance. Elaine Hood and Amer Hussain whose convictions were set aside on 27 September 2023 and Vipin Patel, whose conviction was quashed on 11 December 2020 are also described by the Post Office as “public interest” cases. So – five in total.

    The Post Office says it is simply working within what the Criminal Cases Review Commission has called “a clear criterion” from the Court of Appeal about what makes a Horizon case and therefore a likely candidate for a successful appeal.

    There is some resistance to this “criterion”. Firstly, the government’s independent Horizon Compensation Advisory Board (HCAB) doubts any Post Office conviction is sound, based on what is coming out of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry regarding investigatory and prosecution failures. In the minutes to its seventh board meeting this September, the HCAB stated that the Post Office’s “rationales” for treating the Subpostmasters with designated “public interest” cases differently:

    “in effect re-victimised them; and it was also contrary to the stated intention, as indicated in the Post Office team’s presentation to the Board’s previous meeting, not to run schemes on too legalistic a basis. The Minister [Kevin Hollinrake] should be advised that the Board’s view was that the approach to this kind of case was in their view unfair and that they thought that all claimants in the Overturned Conviction scheme should be compensated on the same basis, not influenced by claimed differences around malicious prosecution.”

    Secondly, the courts have considered Teju, Parmod, Elaine, Amer and Vipin’s cases and declared they are innocent of any crime. Why should the (arguably discredited) opinion of the Post Office over the legal fact of Teju, Parmod, Elaine, Amer and Vipin’s innocence be the final word? And why, in particular, is the government apparently siding with the Post Office and not the courts?

    Now there’s a third thing

    On 10 November 2023, Natasha Bernard, the Post Office investigator who questioned Teju in 2005, gave evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry. Flora Page, Teju’s barrister, read out some of the transcript of Bernard’s 2005 interview with Teju (which the inquiry has today published). In the interview, Teju seems almost incoherent, and her explanation as to how and why she had taken £50,000 doesn’t make much sense. Having read out some sections of dialogue to Natasha Bernard, Page started asking questions:

    Flora Page: “We’re getting a very, very scrambled account, aren’t we, of how much money was paid and when; would you accept that?”
    Natasha Bernard: “Absolutely.”
    Flora Page: “When you get that sort of question and answers in an interview, does it cause you any concern?”
    Natasha Bernard: “Looking back at this interview, reading this, I was very confused. So I can only imagine that I was probably confused during the interview.”

    Flora Page

    In 2005, after her interview with Teju, Natasha Bernard wrote a report to the Post Office legal team (also published today). On the formatted report, she dutifully notes Teju’s race with the ID code “3”, which meant, in the Post Office’s terminology, Teju fell into the “Negroid Types” category.

    Bernard told her legal colleagues that that given Teju’s “admissions“, there is “no reason why she should not be charged with false accounting” (!)

    At the inquiry, Flora Page asked Natasha Bernard: “Did it ever occur to you that the problems in her account and the contradictions in her account came from the fact that none of it was true?

    Natasha Bernard replied: “I think it’s quite clear in my report that I didn’t believe what she was telling me.”

    This directly contradicts the Post Office’s 2021 assertion that there was nothing in Teju’s confession to render it unreliable. The investigating officer, on whose sole recommendation Teju Adedayo was prosecuted, has stated in 2023 on oath she didn’t believe Teju’s “confession” was remotely reliable.

    When I asked Flora Page about this apparent contradiction for the purposes of writing this piece, she replied: “The Post Office maintained that there would be a reasonable prospect of conviction if there were a retrial of Mrs Adedayo’s case. They now know something of what Ms Bernard would say at a retrial. I wonder if they will re-think their position.” Teju simply said: “I am glad that the truth came out of Natasha Bernard’s mouth even if it was forced out of her.

    In summary, Teju Adedayo made a confession about stealing £50,000 from the Post Office which didn’t make sense at the time, was not believed by the Post Office, was never followed up to see if it was true and has since been disavowed. Yet Teju has been refused the compensation she would otherwise be entitled to, with the Post Office telling a court that there was nothing in her confession that rendered it unreliable.

    This is not a small point. Indeed, once all the barristers had finished questioning Natasha Bernard, at the end of the day, the chair of the Inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams, raised the matter again.

    Sir Wyn: “I think you said to Ms Page that you didn’t actually believe what Mrs Adedayo was telling you in interview, yes?”
    Natasha Bernard: “Yes, that’s true, sir.”
    Sir Wyn: “Right, okay. Did you make a witness statement for the criminal prosecution of Mrs Adedayo? […]”
    Natasha Bernard: “I don’t… I think… I don’t think so, because she pleaded guilty.”
    Sir Wyn: “So she pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court, as I understand it, yeah?”
    Natasha Bernard: “Right, yeah.”
    Sir Wyn: “I appreciate this is a long time ago but I just want to get your best memory… your memory is that you didn’t actually get to the point of making a witness statement?”
    Natasha Bernard: “Honestly, I don’t remember. But it’s… I don’t think so.”

    A senior legal person not connected to the Inquiry spotted this exchange and told me Sir Wyn “knew exactly what he was doing” by raising the matter in this way. We might be able to infer someone thinks there could have been a potential criminal offence committed between Teju “confessing” in 2005 and the case coming to court in 2006, but it wasn’t by Mrs Adedayo.

    I asked the Post Office about this and they told me they don’t comment on individual cases. The Post Office investigating officers for the other “public interest” cases have yet to be called before the inquiry. I hope they are.

    The journalism on this blog is crowdfunded. If you would like to join the “secret email” newsletter, please consider making a one-off donation. The money is used to keep the contents of this website free. You will receive irregular, but informative email updates about the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

  • The Magic Signature

    Cath Oglesby, the woman who sacked Lee Castleton

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
    ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
    ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

    Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

    There was some bewildering evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry on the afternoon of Thursday 16 November from Cath Oglesby, the Post Office area manager who sacked Lee Castleton.

    Lee first came to Oglesby’s attention in December 2003, when he had a £1,100 discrepancy at his Marine Drive branch in Bridlington, Yorkshire. At the time Oglesby advised trying various things to see if the source of the discrepancy could be uncovered. When it couldn’t, Oglesby told Lee to make good the loss out of his own money and sign off his accounts so he could roll over into the next trading period.

    As one of the Inquiry barristers had it: “You were, in effect, advising him to accept the loss, sign off the accounts, even though he did not think they were accurate?”

    Oglesby replied: “Well, he would have shown the £1,100 short in his account, so he would be signing to say he had
    a shortage in the account.”

    Would he? Really?

    The Inquiry barrister continued: “But you were encouraging him to make good on the basis that it would all come out in the wash with an error notice; is that right?

    “That’s what I was hoping, yes.” replied Oglesby.

    Lee paid the £1,100 into his Post Office branch account out of his own pocket. Three weeks later, Oglesby visited Lee’s branch again. The Inquiry barrister asked her if she bothered chasing up the hoped-for error notice.

    “I can’t remember doing so, no”, replied Oglesby, “but as it was only three weeks or so after the loss, the error notices could take a long time to come back, so I didn’t think anything untoward or anything at that point.”

    Imagine trying to account for what was happening in your branch on a (then) weekly basis with no idea when or why an error notice might appear to change your accounts – particularly if you didn’t know why you had a discrepancy in the first place.

    Nothing untoward

    Lee Castleton in Oct 2023 outside the branch he was sacked from in 2004

    From January 2004, Lee went on to suffer larger losses, eventually totalling more than £26,000. Neither Lee, Oglesby or anyone else at the Post Office knew where these losses had come from, so Oglesby sacked him.

    Then the Post Office took Lee to court for £26,000. As we have discovered during recent inquiry hearings, the Post Office took the view it was worth spending more than £300,000 of public money to take Lee to court for £26,000, because doing so would deter other Subpostmasters from potentially taking legal action over their Horizon discrepancies.

    The fact Lee was bankrupted when the Post Office won the case and were awarded costs was of no consequence to them. If you want to read the effect of the Post Office’s actions on Lee’s daughter, Millle, you can read this or listen to episode 15 of the BBC’s Great Post Office Trial.

    Although the Post Office wanted to win their court case against Lee pour discourager les autres, the legal argument which persuaded the judge to find in favour of the Post Office had nothing to do with Horizon, it was because Lee had taken legal responsibility for the discrepancy by signing off his accounts.

    On Thursday, the inquiry barrister picked this up with Cath Oglesby:

    “The case being run by the Post Office against Mr Castleton was that the act of doing that, of signing and rolling over, was an acceptance that the accounts were correct, and [in your witness statement to the High Court] you say here “The Subpostmaster had to sign the Cash Account and of course should not have done so unless it was accurate.” But because error notices took time to come through, there might well be occasions where cash accounts were confirmed and a Subpostmaster rolled over to allow them to continue trading, when they didn’t accept there was a discrepancy;
    do you see that?”

    Which of course, is totally mad, but Oglesby did see that, explaining:

    “They’d still be signing the account to say that that was accurate, the cash and stock was accurate and, at that point in time, there was also a discrepancy. So that would be a loss or a gain. So they’re signing the account, you know, to say that’s accurate at that point, with the loss or the gain in there.”

    This interpretation of what a signature may or may not mean is somewhat reminiscent of Rod Ismay’s attempt to justify calling his partial report “objective” when in fact it was completely one-sided, telling the Inquiry: “It was an objective assessment of the areas where there were positives.”

    What, the Inquiry barrister wondered to Oglesby, would happen if the Subpostmaster disputing a discrepancy refused to sign the accounts before rolling over?

    “Well, nothing would have happened that I could think of”, replied Oglesby, who agreed that the Subpostmaster could roll over their accounts and continue trading as normal. “It’s only a signature on a document.”

    Try telling that to a High Court judge.

    Lee’s balancing problems

    There is a huge bone of contention about what happened at Lee’s branch in 2004 after he was suspended. It was touched on on Thursday. Oglesby put two different temporary Subpostmasters into Marine Drive, and whilst both had minor balancing discrepancies, neither had anything more than £100. Oglesby says this was a big factor in her decision to sack Lee: “the decision to dismiss him… because I’d put people into the branch and there were no real… I know there were small losses and gains but that’s something you would expect in any branch, I based, you know, part of my decision on that the Horizon system was working and was robust. I had no reason to believe it wasn’t.”

    Lee is adamant the first temp had far more serious problems than that, to the extent that the Horizon system went down in Marine Drive for the best part of a morning, and the temporary Subpostmaster reverted to manual accounting. Lee suspects during this period of downtime his system was being fixed remotely. It was raised by his barrister, Ed Henry KC at the end of Oglesby’s evidence, who suggested the Marine Drive Horizon system: “crashed. Do you not recall [the temp] saying that it had to be rebooted, and then [in court] she offered a different explanation, so a mutually inconsistent explanation, that it hadn’t crashed but that she just decided to work manually.”

    Oglesby had no recollection of this. Henry tried again:

    “I suggest that there were evident problems with Horizon when Ruth Simpson took over and no one was being frank about it; isn’t that right?”

    Oglesby disagreed.

    If you would like to join the “secret email” newsletter, please consider making a one-off donation. The money is used to keep the contents of this website free. You will receive irregular, but informative email updates about the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

  • Shameless Xmas book plug

    Would you trust this man?

    Please forgive this short commercial interlude. Christmas is approaching, which I am told is a good time to try to sell books. I have two which came out in the last twelve months and I was wondering if you – or someone else in your life – might be interested in them. Think of them as excellent stocking fillers.

    The Depp book was well-reviewed and was even The Week’s Book of the Week earlier this year. The Post Office book still has 5 stars (well, 4.8, but they round it up to five on the actual stars) on Amazon.

    Book of the week!

    The Great Post Office Scandal paperback retails at £13.99 and Depp v Heard: the unreal story will set you back £12.99

    If you buy both at the same time direct from Bath Publishing, they will take 20% off the total (which neatly covers the P&P).

    Amazon will put the books in your hands tomorrow and not charge you P&P if you are a Prime member. You may also want to support your local chain or independent bookshop by ordering it through them over the counter or via their website.

    Both titles are available as audiobooks (here and here on Audible, here on Spotify) and on kindle/e-reader – both books are currently for sale at £4.99 via Amazon on Kindle.

    I would be enormously grateful if you would consider buying one or multiple copies of either of these publications. Projects of this nature take a lot of time and money. Sadly, Bath Publishing are a tiny independent publisher and do not have the sort of mega-marketing budget you need to sell books in huge volumes.

    I promise you, though, both titles are rigourously-researched, hopefully well-written and very much worth your time.

    Thank you!

  • Institutional investigative ignorance

    Paul Whitaker giving evidence on 16 November 2023

    Paul Whitaker, as it says in the screengrab above, used to be a Post Office Investigator (and, almost inevitably, before that, a postman). In his evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry on Thursday, Mr Whitaker was taken to a 2011 email chain regarding his investigation into a Post Office branch in St John Green in Rotherham.

    The branch had been “audited” by the Post Office, and there was an £11,000 discrepancy. A counter clerk was under suspicion. Unusually, possibly because the branch was run by a charity, the police were involved. In his email to a colleague, Jane Owen, Whitaker states: “The case has been reviewed and the police officer has asked me to get a statement demonstrating the robustness of the Horizon system at the branch.”

    Whitaker tells Owen that a charity is running the branch and notes: “we were asked to get involved at the outset in order to possibly mitigate the adverse publicity of us demanding our money back from them.”

    As ever, business priorities and PR appear to be part of the equation, even when it comes to criminal investigations and justice.

    The requested “statement demonstrating the robustness of the Horizon system” would have to come from Fujitsu. Before the request goes to Fujitsu, Owen passes Whitaker’s request up the chain to another colleague, Penny Thomas. Owen writes: “Just wanted to run this by you before I make any kind of formal request. I assume that we will just request a statement as normal but would need to put it around some dates?”

    Thomas replies that getting some dates might be a good idea, and this message is passed back down to Whitaker. Whitaker seems to think this is unnecessary, replying: “At present, the police haven’t asked for Horizon records although I am sure that if they know we can provide them they will ask for them (and then not use them). All the officer asked was if we could provide a statement saying that the Horizon system was operating correctly in the run up to the shortage being identified.”

    Getting Dunked

    The Thomas, Owen and Whitaker brains trust eventually agree to ask Fujitsu for a statement of Horizon’s reliability within a six month window. The message reaches Fujitsu’s Andy Dunks, a man who, in 2019, came in for serious criticism from a High Court judge.

    But even Andy Dunks has standards. Replying to Whitaker’s request, Dunks replies:

    “I am unable to say for definite that the Horizon system was working okay. What I can do is look at all calls logged by this PO during the date range and state that there were no faults reported by the PO to suggest any faults. If you want me to get the calls extracted to examine the calls we will need ARQ numbers to cover this request. Please let me know what you would like us to do.”

    The prospect of anyone at the Post Office or Fujitsu doing even the most cursory investigative work seems too much for Whitaker, who decides that Dunks’ response is enough for him. He replies:

    “No need for anything beyond this, Andy. I have explained to the police that all you can say is that no faults were logged and they are happy with that.”

    To his credit, Dunks puts Whitaker straight. “I think you may have misinterpreted my email”, he replies, “I have not said that no faults were logged. What I am saying is that if you want me to extract the calls logged so that I can examine them to see if there are any fault calls during these dates.”

    The rest of the email chain appears to be lost to history.

    Yesterday, the barrister questioning Whitaker suggested that the limit of his investigative ambition was “seeking a catch-all statement from Andy Dunks in relation to a case where the police had asked for assurances about the Horizon system.”

    Whitaker was not asked to comment on this. Instead, the barrister wondered if Dunks’ refusal to sign off on a blithe assurance about Horizon raised any alarm bells.

    “It’s difficult to say…” replied Whitaker, “my background was that it had always been sort of infallible and, certainly, I don’t think it had been tested in court yet and I think the sort of underlying message would be… until we get something coming back certain to say definitely, you know, Horizon’s at fault, to sort of carry on in the belief that it’s not.”

    Belief. They investigated and prosecuted, fuelled by belief. No wonder so many innocent people were given criminal convictions.

    My thanks to Nigel Derby who alerted me to this passage of evidence at the Inquiry.

  • What Was She Drinking? The Elaine Cottam Experience

    Elaine Cottam, taking a break from giving evidence

    It’s hard to know where to start with yesterday’s Inquiry hearing. Karl Flinders from Computer Weekly decided to cover yet another Post Office disclosure disaster. I am going to attempt to analyse the evidence which came courtesy of Elaine Cottam.

    Ms Cottam was a former Post Office Retail Line Manager. She was called to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry to help try to work out what had happened in the Cleveleys case. Cleveleys Post Office was run in 2000 by a woman called Julie Wolstenholme who suffered problems with the Post Office Horizon system from the moment it was installed.

    Instead of receiving help, she was sacked. By Elaine Cottam. Mrs Wolstenholme fought back. She kept possession of her Horizon terminal and suggested a proper examination of the hardware might reveal the source(s) of her problems. The Post Office had no interest in all that – but they did want their kit back, so in 2003 they took Mrs Wolstenholme to Blackpool County Court.

    The case was resolved when a court-appointed technical expert – Jason Coyne – took a look at the available evidence and decided there were red flags all over the Horizon system. Desperate to keep this information out of the public domain, the Post Office settled the case with Mrs Wolstenholme. The Inquiry spent some time looking into the Cleveleys case earlier this year. For more detail, you can read and watch the evidence from Jason Coyne, Fujitsu and a Post Office lawyer on the Inquiry website by looking for the transcripts on 26 – 28 July 2023. But let’s, for now, focus on…

    Elaine Cottam

    In 2000, as a Post Office Retail Line Manager, Elaine Cottam had a role of some significance. The power to suspend someone – ie remove their livelihood – without warning, or having to give a reason, carries responsibility. It’s the sort of power which should only be exercised with a great degree of caution, by someone who has been properly trained with the capacity to understand the repercussions of their decisions.

    Before a witness gives evidence to a public inquiry they are usually sent a bundle of relevant documents and asked a series of questions. The written answers to those questions form the basis of their witness statement, submitted to the inquiry before any oral evidence hearing.

    It is a reasonable expectation that anyone asked to give a witness statement to a public inquiry would take it seriously. If called to give oral evidence, they might ask questions of the secretariat about what to expect, perhaps do some research and turn up as prepared as possible. After all, giving evidence under oath is not something to be taken lightly. Given there were three days of hearings directly related to the case Ms Cottam was involved in, natural curiosity might have at least suggested she watch or read some of it.

    Elaine’s Evidence

    Jason Beer KC

    On Tuesday, after being sworn in, Elaine Cottam was asked questions by Jason Beer KC. Beer first of all wanted to know why, in response to the large number of documents and questions sent to her on 12 July this year, she had submitted a witness statement “two and a half pages long, which contains next to no information.”

    “I don’t know what sort of information you wanted me to put in it”, replied Cottam.

    Beer took her to the question which asked her to set out her professional background. In response to this, Cottam had written: “I was employed as a Retail Line Manager by Post Office Counters Limited – I do not remember the exact date I took up this post or the date that I left this post.”

    Beer pointed out this contained no information about Cottam’s professional background. Cottam replied that this was a “misunderstanding”. Beer asked “between whom?”

    Cottam replied: “Between myself and what I was asked for.”

    In answer to another question, Cottam had put in her witness statement to the Inquiry that when a Retail Line Manager, she was responsible for 27 Post Office branches. Yet in a 2003 witness statement for the Post Office, she told a court she was responsible for 112 Post Offices. Cottam wasn’t sure when the number had changed and she couldn’t remember if she was responsible for 112 offices at the time of her 2003 witness statement. Beer wondered if the figure had been put into her witness statement in 2003, it was fair enough to assume it was true. Cottam said she couldn’t remember. Beer tried again:

    “That’s not a question about memory; that’s asking if you made a sworn statement to the court, which said, “I am responsible for 112 post offices”, in 2003, that’s likely to be…”

    “And what date was that? What date was that?” Cottam interrupted.

    “16 October 2003, as I told you and as we looked”, replied Beer.

    “I can’t remember”, replied Cottam again, apparently misunderstanding the question a second time.

    Cottam did remember recruiting Julie Wolstenholme as Subpostmaster in 1999, when, due to ill-health, Julie’s father decided to retire. Cottam assessed Wolstenholme’s suitability, stating at the time: “I have no reason to doubt her honesty”.

    Beer wanted to know how she went from this assessment to sacking her for dishonesty just over a year later. Cottam had an interesting take:

    “I soon picked up on when I was going to the office – she worked very closely with her husband and he was heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the office. And that was not taken into consideration because I wasn’t aware that that was going to be the case when Julie was appointed.”

    Beer was intrigued. “Why are you telling us this?”

    “I think it’s relevant” replied Cottam.

    “Are you hinting that you think he was the dishonest one, not her?” asked Beer.

    “I’d rather not say”, said Cottam, suddenly all prim. She admitted to Beer she had “no proof at all” of any dishonesty or criminality on Julie’s husband’s part, either now or in 2000.

    Can she be a witness?

    Jason Beer started to explore more of Elaine Cottam’s 2003 witness statement. This became a difficult and protracted process as it transpired that Elaine Cottam not only had very little understanding of the information she had submitted in the witness statement she signed, but seemed to have absolutely no idea there had been a legal case against Julie Wolstenholme in the first place:

    Cottam: “I didn’t know there was a civil court. The first I knew that there’d been a court case was when I got this bundle of documents.”
    Beer: “You provided this witness statement to the civil court?”
    Cottam: “I don’t remember doing that.”

    Beer read out the following passage in Cottam’s 2003 witness statement:

    “Mrs Wolstenholme persisted in telephoning the Horizon Helpdesk in relation to any problems which she had with the system and generally, these problems related to the use and general operation of the system and were not technical problems relating to the system. Copies of the call logs for the period 10 January 2000 to 30 November 2000 together with a brief analysis of the calls to the Horizon System Helpdesk which I prepared following Mrs Wolstenholme’s suspension are at pages [then you give some pages to an exhibit]. Whilst there were some problems at other branches, they were not insurmountable and were often due to the system crashing or were general teething problems.”

    When asked about this sentence, Cottam said she didn’t remember asking for any call logs, didn’t remember receiving them and didn’t know why she needed them, because she wouldn’t understand them. She seemed utterly mystified at the idea she might be able to offer any analysis of them, and with the air of someone looking at hieroglyphics on a piece of wood, told the Inquiry:

    “I don’t understand these. Don’t understand them. I don’t know what it’s saying, “Gateway is now stuck at 3%”. That means nothing to me.”

    One thing she did spot was that Julie Wolstenholme’s husband had made some of the calls to the helpline, and on the call log had been classified as the Subpostmaster.

    Cottam: “But he’s not the postmaster, is he?”
    Beer: “What’s your point?”
    Cottam: “Well, he doesn’t feature very heavily anywhere, does he? And yet his name’s on all these now.”
    Beer: “What’s your point?
    Cottam: “Well, it says, “Title: Postmaster”, and he wasn’t, was he?”
    Beer: “What’s your point?”
    Cottam (suddenly prim again): “Well… well, nothing. It doesn’t matter. “
    Beer: “Is this the suspicion without proof issue raising its head again?”
    Cottam: “I’m not going down that line at all.”
    Beer: “I thought you just did.”

    Beer managed to steer Cottam back to her “analysis” of the call logs and what they might mean. Cottam had been sent them in July this year but seemed to have no recollection of seeing them then, let alone 20 years ago. Then her brain seemed to melt down a little bit and she started crying.

    Beer and the inquiry chair, Sir Wyn Williams, immediately stepped in and a fifteen minute break was agreed. Sir Wyn noted how “confused” Cottam appeared to be, and asked Beer where this was all going. It turned out Beer had evidence of Cottam calling the Horizon Helpline third line support to explain various software problems on behalf of Julie Wolstenholme from the Cleveleys branch, yet for some reason none of the calls that Cottam had made were included in her 2003 witness statement to the court. And her witness statement also stated the calls Julie Wolstenholme had made were “not technical problems relating to the system”.

    After the break, Beer asked her about it:

    Beer: “This is you calling in. Why would you be calling the Helpdesk?”
    Cottam: “Because I would have been at the office trying to help them sort out whatever it was.”
    Beer: “Why wouldn’t the subpostmaster call in?”
    Cottam: “Well, she probably did.”
    Beer: “No, she didn’t. You did.”
    Cottam (unable to help herself): “Or he did. We were looking for some advice from somebody.”
    Beer: “Sorry, did you say “or he did”?”
    Cottam: “I don’t know, I can’t remember.”
    Beer: “Was that slipping into the suspicion without proof thing again.”
    Cottam: “Well, I wouldn’t like to say.”
    Beer: “Well, but you just did.”

    Despite her clear insinuation, which she admitted was based on no evidence whatsoever, that Julie Wolstenholme’s husband might have been responsible for dishonest behaviour in 2000, Cottam insisted her memory was a blank when it came to the very existence of her 2003 witness statement.

    Ms Cottam in full flow

    “Can you help us as to how it came about that there’s a witness statement to the Blackpool County Court in your name and signed by you as true, which says, “I prepared this analysis”?” asked Beer, after about five minutes of Cottam’s protestations.

    “I don’t ever remember seeing it”, she replied. “I mean, it was a long time ago. I may well have done it but I really don’t, I just wouldn’t understand it.”

    Beer tried to get Cottam to accept that her call to the Horizon Helpline’s third line support about a mysterious £100 adding itself to the Cleveleys branch balance when the weekly accounts were calculated was evidence of a software problem. Cottam wasn’t having it. Beer kept trying.

    “That’s not Mrs Wolstenholme or Mr Harrison [Julie’s husband] adding something to the stock unit, somebody adding something. You’re telling the Helpdesk here that there’s a problem with the system, aren’t you? A stock unit has had something added to it.”

    “Well, yeah”, replied a defensive Cottam. “How it was added to it is another matter.”

    Beer gave up. But he had another point to make.

    Enter Fujitsu

    Following the trail of information about Cottam’s call all the way up the support line to Fujitsu, it transpired the problem Cottam was reporting was a known bug in the system. This was evidenced with some notes in the error log between Fujitsu engineers. Because it was a known bug, Fujitsu took the decision to close the call, without telling the Subpostmaster. Or apparently, Cottam:

    Beer: “So you didn’t know about the known error log?”
    Cottam: “No. Never heard of it.”
    Beer: “There’s no record on here or indeed elsewhere of you or the Subpostmaster being told that a known error in the system occurred, which was affecting the balancing process? Do you see, there’s no record on this PinICL? [technical term for an error note]”
    Cottam: “No, no, no, I didn’t know about it.”

    Cottam accepted this would have been useful information. Beer went back to her 2003 witness statement. He wanted to know why this specific incident and the known error it revealed had not been included with the other call logs attached to the witness statement. There followed some of the most surreal gibberish I’ve ever heard from someone under oath. Here is an excerpt:

    Cottam: “I will help you as much as I can but, really, I don’t understand where all this is coming from. Am I supposed to have written all this? I might well have signed it but I don’t remember all this.”
    Beer: “Generally, when you write something to a court and say, “I believe the contents of this statement are true” and sign it with a pen underneath it, that indicates that you’ve written it. No?”
    Cottam: “Well, when am I supposed to have signed this?”
    Beer (wearily): “16 October 2003.”
    Cottam: “I don’t remember it. I don’t remember it and the very first time I knew there’d been a court case about this was when this has just been raised again, when they sent me this bundle of papers. I didn’t even know there’d been a court case before that.”
    Beer: “So you can’t help us why the call log recording you on two occasions assisting Mrs Wolstenholme, complaining about the service offered by the Horizon Helpdesk, about a balancing issue and the system adding sums on rollover was not included in the documents exhibited to your witness statement? You can’t help us there?”
    Cottam: “No, no, I can’t see it.”
    Beer: “Three weeks before she was suspended?”
    Cottam: “Am I supposed to be looking at this now? Is this on here? I simply don’t understand what you’re asking now.”
    Beer: “Well, I don’t understand what you’re asking me.”

    Matters reached a head when Beer asked: “Do you think somebody has fabricated your signature on this witness statement?”

    “Well”, said Cottam, “I don’t know if that’s the case or not but I didn’t know anything about the court case and I wasn’t called to the court case.”
    Beer responded patiently: “As I said, it didn’t reach court because the Post Office settled.”
    “Oh” replied Cottam. “But I didn’t know anything about it. You would have thought that they would have at least
    approached me about it. They must have wanted some input from me at that stage.”

    You would have thought, right? But maybe dealing with Elaine Cottam in 2003 was as difficult as it appears to be in 2023. So maybe they didn’t bother.

    Beer tried one last time: “This is a 15-page witness statement signed by you.”
    “No, this long… this statement of truth, yeah?” replied Cottam, as if she were seeing it for the first time.
    Cottam paused. “I just don’t really understand what it is I’m supposed to be doing here, really. What… I haven’t got copies of the call logs, so… other than in this bundle… I don’t understand.”

    It appears that Elaine Cottam genuinely didn’t know what a witness statement was, nor had she worked out what its purpose might be, even by the end of her inquiry session.

    Beer’s questioning concluded shortly thereafter. He had, without being derailed, successfully demonstrated that Fujitsu had kept a serious software problem from a Subpostmaster who then lost money and subsequently her livelihood as a result of the callous ineptitude of Elaine Cottam and her colleagues at the Post Office. Having achieved this, it seems someone at the Post Office went on to produce a misleading witness statement supposedly authored by someone without the capacity or capability of being responsible for it.

    You can watch the full car crash here. I recommend it.

    The world is full of thick-as-mince, malevolent incompetents like Elaine Cottam. The problems start when they are promoted into positions of power, as the Post Office appears to have done with multiple idiots on multiple occasions. I really hope the Met Police are taking note.

    UPDATE: More than one person has suggested to me in good faith that Elaine Cottam, in giving evidence to the Inquiry, might be displaying possible symptoms of early onset dementia. I have no idea if Elaine Cottam has the condition or has been diagnosed with anything of this nature. I have approached in the Inquiry to pass on the concerns of the people who contacted me, in the hope that Ms Cottam might, if she wants to, consider seeking medical advice.

    If you liked this post and would like to be added to my mailing list, please consider making a one-off donation to join my newsletter mailing list and keep the journalism on this website free.

  • Noel and Sian’s book and podcast interview!

    (l-r) Aled Gwyn Jôb, Sian and Noel Thomas

    I’m delighted to tell you that Noel and Sian Thomas’s book The Stamp of Innocence is available as an ebook from Amazon. Noel was prosecuted by the Post Office and sent to prison in 2006. On getting out the Post Office went after his house and pension. Noel had his conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal in 2021.

    To mark the auspicious moment of his book’s publication, Rebecca Thomson and I interviewed Aled (Noel and Sian’s ghostwriter) and Noel for our podcast Investigating the Post Office Scandal. Sian was there to sort the technicals (see above pic), but had a sore throat so wasn’t able to participate in the conversation.

    If you’d like to listen to the podcast, you can find it on this website, Audioboom, or by searching in Spotify or Apple podcasts (or most other podcast platforms). We had a great chat about the book, about Noel and Sian’s life on Ynys Môn/Anglesey and Aled’s thoughts the scandal as well as writing the book.

    The paperback version of The Stamp of Innocence is due to come out within the next couple of months. If you are a Welsh language speaker and would like to buy the Welsh version of The Stamp of Innocence, it is called Llythyr Noel and is already out as a paperback as well as an ebook. Noel and Aled read from both Llythyr Noel and The Stamp of Innocence in the podcast, and it is a delight to hear.

    I really hope I can get over to Ynys Môn to do a joint reading of The Great Post Office Scandal, Llythyr Noel and the Stamp of Innocence with Noel, Sian and Aled some time next year. If you have a venue there and fancy putting an event on, do get in touch.

  • A family’s pain…

    (l-r) Sinead, Paul (Snr), and Wendy Cousins

    Three days after the historic, celebratory scenes outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 23 April 2021, I got an email from Paul Cousins (Jnr), Wendy Cousins’ son. Wendy Cousins was one of the three Subpostmasters whose conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    Paul wrote:

    For us it was another disastrous day. My mother described it as the worst day since the very day the post office was shut without notice and the house was searched.

    I noted your piece outside the court on LBC News – talking about collusion with the government and the power of an organisation who have carried out the greatest injustice in the history of the judicial system. 

    Are we really suggesting that these 3 sub-postmasters are criminals – when we have seen the evidence over the past 2 decades?

    I wrote back to Paul and we agreed to stay in contact. Two years later, Lord Arbuthnot told Computer Weekly he didn’t think any Post Office prosecution was safe. Then the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board wrote to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry saying essentially the same thing.

    Tom Witherow at the The Times asked me if I was in contact with anyone whose appeal had been refused. I thought of Paul. What I didn’t know was that since Paul first got in contact, Wendy had died of cancer.

    Paul very kindly agreed to let me pass on his details to Tom, and Tom produced this piece for The Times, focusing on the Cousins family. It was accompanied by this Times leading article.

    Paul and his family were also willing to work with me on an ITV News piece about the family and their fight. That went out on Thursday last week – you can watch it here. You can also listen to a podcast I recorded on the same day with the ITV news anchor Julie Etchingham. This is part of ITV’s weekly What You Need to Know series which you can find on Spotify and Apple podcasts. We talk about the Cousins family and where we are now with the scandal.

    I am grateful to Ed Henry KC and Lord Arbuthnot for their contributions to the ITV News feature, and I am particularly grateful to (the camera shy!) Paul Jnr and the wider Cousins family for allowing me to film and interview them, when the grief – a year after Wendy’s death – is still raw.

  • Calling former Subpostmasters, managers and Post Office employees…

    Professor Richard Moorhead will be known to some of you. He writes a well-regarded legal ethics blog (“Lawyer Watch“) and a free substack site dedicated to matters arising from the Post Office Horizon scandal. He is also a member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board. In addition to this Prof Moorhead has been running various research projects looking into the Horizon scandal.

    I have news of a new one. This, as it says below – is for any Subpostmaster, branch manager/assistant or Crown Office employee who was threatened with legal action or sued/prosecuted by the Post Office.

    The press release reads as follows:

    “A research team led by Professor Richard Moorhead at the University of Exeter are inviting you to take part in this research project looking into the Post Office Scandal.

    In this study, we will be examining important issues arising from the Post Office Scandal, focusing on potential issues with the management of the Post Office, the criminal justice system, and the behaviour of lawyers. We wish to better understand how wrongful convictions and other injustices occurred on the basis of flawed computer ‘evidence’, and how relevant issues took so long to uncover.

    In order to understand more about the scandal, we would like to speak with former sub-postmasters/mistresses or Crown employees that owned or worked in Post Offices, who had experience of the Horizon IT system, and had some form of legal action taken or threatened against them by the Post Office between 2000 and 2015.

    This could include those who were convicted after a criminal trial, those who were acquitted after a criminal trial, those who were charged but had the criminal prosecution dropped by the Post Office, or those who experienced any kind of civil justice proceedings brought against them by the Post Office. Taking part will involve being interviewed by a member of our research team.

    The interview is expected to take around 60 minutes. If you agree, we will audio record the interview (it will not be videoed). You can choose to take part in a face-to-face interview, which can take place in a location of your choosing, or an interview using Zoom.

    You do not need to answer all the questions we ask and can end the interview at any time without giving a reason, should you wish. You may also have someone with you to support you. Your responses will be confidential and will be anonymised for our analysis to prevent you from being identified.

    The results of this study will form part of our investigation into the Post Office Scandal and will be disseminated in a number of ways in order to attempt to prevent similar issues occurring in the future. Means of dissemination include, but will not necessarily be limited to, academic publications and policy-related work, and responses to the Horizon IT Inquiry .

    If you would like to be involved in this study or would like any further information, please contact Richard Moorhead Professor of Law, University of Exeter Law School, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX44RJ. Email: postofficeproject@exeter.ac.uk

    I have no connection to this project, but I can vouch for the professionalism and expertise of Professor Moorhead and his team – and the care they put into their work. Please do share this post in your networks. If you do get involved and don’t mind telling me how it went – please get in touch through the usual channels. All communication will be in confidence.

  • Nothing personal, Mr Castleton. It’s just justice…

    Stephen Dilley giving evidence at the Inquiry today

    Today, Stephen Dilley, a partner at Womble Bond Dickinson, gave evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry. Womble have a long and inglorious history with the Post Office, right up to acting for them (disastrously) in the Bates v Post Office group litigation. Back when they were known as Bond Pearce, Dilley helped the Post Office destroy former Bridlington Subpostmaster Lee Castleton at the High Court. Today, Lee Castleton, and his wife Lisa sat before Dilley at the Inquiry.

    Lee Castleton’s daughter, Millie-Jo, who is now in her twenties, has written to the Inquiry about her family’s experience at the hands of the Post Office. This is an edited version of her impact statement:

    “I must have been 8 when I first took note the confusion, frustration and anxiety that was leeching into my home. This was before talks of court, trials and accusations of theft. This was the period that my father started noticing the IT faults that wouldn’t be taken seriously for so many years. In the years running up to my father’s trial in 2006 I vividly recall sitting on the staircase late at night, listening to conversations I barely understood or could really comprehend. To a child, the answer always seemed obvious, my father hadn’t done anything. Why didn’t people believe him? Why is the dining room table covered in papers as well as the back office of the post office, and why is he always down there late at night making phone calls and faxes?..

    Millie Castleton

    “This was an ordeal that not only cost my father legal fees, this was an event that blackened our name and branded us all with something that was unjustified. Court ruling, local gossip and unyielding arguments from the post office would lead to my whole family being branded as thieves and liars. It’s deeply sickening to look back to my life in that small town. A place that would in time, fill me with anxiety to walk through. How comfortable can anyone be when people spat at you based on what you know is a lie? It was also a lonely time, the financial strain of legal fees and supporting the family saw my dad working near 100-hour weeks, often involving traveling and spending days on end away from us. He became a stranger to me, someone I barely saw and lost close relationship with. My mother worked too during the day, upholding the newsagents we still had, which was failing due to the label attached to us and it after the legal case.

    “I remember feeling cold and terrified when a child on the bus in my first week asked, ‘didn’t your dad steal loads of money or something?’ This set me on edge for a long time, causing me to become that ever so anxious child who regularly was the subject of bullying. After a few incidents of supposed friends treating me poorly, I completely disconnected.

    “At home I was dealing with parents who were working their hardest to provide, utterly pained by the stress that the post office trial caused them. Dad was working insane hours as well as beginning to work with others to try and solve the many emerging cases of other sub-postmasters and post-mistresses like him. My mother was also working as much as she could but also dealing with a stress- induced epilepsy. She lost her driving licence as a result and had to take medication. These seizures where unpredictable at first when the medication was still new. I remember having to handle her seizures alone as a child, sometimes in the middle of the night.

    “I didn’t tell my parents about the bullying or social withdrawal. They didn’t know I spent my breaks sitting alone or just walking around, they didn’t know I could go a day or two without really talking. They didn’t know that I was assaulted on the school bus and had to run off on the first stop, wet from water being thrown at me, being spat on and having been hit by paper balls. In my mind this was an additional stressor they didn’t need. I could deal with it alone and not put more weight on their load. I just felt like such a burden all the time.

    “My late teens and early twenties were governed by my eating disorder and mental anxieties. I began to sink under the weight of it all and subsequent grabbed for some sense of control. I was anxious about going to university and leaving my family. Mum was still having seizures and Dad was still fighting a legal battle, I felt guilty. Leaving and not being able to help more. I left, already dealing with an undiagnosed at the time eating disorder. It began in my GCSE year, just eating less bit by bit and skipping out on the canteen and pack lunches to avoid questions. By this point I was visibly skinny. Living alone however gave way to me being vulnerable to all my demons… By the end of my first year of university I had been diagnosed as anorexic and too sick to go to my second year… My lowest weight saw me weighing little more than 5-stone and having to stay in hospital for heart related issues for days on end. I’d be lying if I claimed that this wasn’t a cry for help. The surrender of a broken spirit, the pain and self-loathing if someone who just couldn’t escape a terrible situation. Every part of my late childhood and teens was absolutely tainted by the post office case.

    “But I fought. I tried. I’m better for it. Not perfect but better, part of me will always feel a little broken-up. I still feel a burning fear at spending larger sums of money or doing something purely for myself. That nagging voice in my head still says ugly things sometimes. It still tells me that my past and family’s struggle will define me, that it will be a branding on my skin forever. Broken, thief or liar.”

    At the outset of his cross-examination, Julian Blake, counsel to the Inquiry, asked Dilley:

    “Having reflected on the evidence of the Inquiry as a whole, is there anything that you would like to say to Mr Castleton or his family?”

    Dilley replied: “No there isn’t.”

    Dilley spent the rest of the day arguing the toss with Blake over his behaviour and attitude towards the Castleton case, covering his backside by justifying his decisions as not just thoroughly professional, but absolutely correct at all times. He tried to re-shape the meaning of contemporaneous documentary evidence when it suited him to do so, and seemed to be suggesting that Castleton was largely hung by his own bad decisions – including his refusal to settle. Settlement, it transpired, was only acceptable to the Post Office on their terms – paying the Post Office a “debt” Castleton did not owe, and signing a non-disparagement statement stating that the errors in his branch were human errors, and that the Horizon system “did not contribute to the error[s] in any way”.

    Understandably Castleton was unwilling to “settle” in this way. Flora Page, Castleton’s barrister, called the settlement offer “a sham”, suggesting the real reason for offering such unreasonable terms was so the Post Office could take Castleton to court and make an example of him.

    “Absolutely not,” replied Dilley, firmly.

    The overall impression I got was that Dilley couldn’t give a **** about Castleton (or his family) then, and he certainly couldn’t give a **** about them now. It was a case of: sorry mate, purely business. I suspect Dilley’s back will be warmly slapped by his WBD litigation colleagues when he gets back to the office.

    Incidentally, legal gossip site Roll On Friday trailed Dilley’s appearance before the Inquiry. Underneath the article was a comment from an unverified source:

    “As a non-litigation Womble I am deeply angry about this. Stephen was removed from the Post Office litigation team after this case by the client partner who was based in Southampton because Stephen very ironically was not regarded as aggressive enough! The following cases were given to a “young buck” who did the client partner’s bidding and more. Both of them were promoted off the back of Post Office and given culture-busting bonuses. It is an open secret in Wombles about who knew what and when. I only hope we can hold our hands up for the sake of the 33 who lost their lives before they could prove their innocence and for their families. It is about integrity. Time to draw a line. Sadly our board are too weak to stand up and do the right thing. To all of us non-litigators it is deeply depressing and embarrassing. I fear worse is to come.”

    You can watch Mr Dilley’s evidence here. A write up of this morning’s session can be found in this Law Gazette piece, by the superb John Hyde, who has been sitting behind me all day.

  • Post Office auditor signed Court statement containing info she knew was false

    Helen Rose giving evidence remotely at the Inquiry today

    Helen Rose is a former Post Office auditor and investigator. Mrs Rose has no formal auditing qualifications or training, no training she can recall on the Post Office Horizon IT system and no formal training in investigation. She is also the author of the Helen Rose report, which provided some of the first concrete evidence that incomplete information was being used as the basis of Horizon prosecutions. More on that here.

    Today at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, Mrs Rose was asked about a witness statement she made during the trial of Lee Castleton, a Subpostmaster who was bankrupted by the Post Office at the High Court. In March 2004, Mrs Rose “audited” Lee’s branch and found a £23,000 discrepancy. Lee was immediately suspended, later sacked, and then taken to court over the allegedly missing money.

    In Helen Rose’s contemporaneous audit report she notes that Lee was pleased to see the auditors turn up at his branch (he had requested the audit). Mrs Rose notes that Lee explained he had called the Post Office helpline “regularly” in an attempt to get the problems with his Horizon IT system fixed. Both these pieces of information were missing from her 2006 witness statement to the High Court.

    In the first draft of her witness statement to the High Court, Mrs Rose also stated:

    “As part of an audit, we have to complete a procedural security inspection… The inspection revealed that the safe was left open, the safe keys were left in the safe door and it was not secured, that cash and stock were not secured during lunchtime if the Sub-Postmaster was not on the premises, that Travellers Cheques were not kept in the safe and Foreign Currency was not held securely, that standard procedures for adjusting losses and gains were not adhered to (because losses were unauthorised) and personal cheques on hand had been incorrectly treated.”

    This was not true. Mrs Rose, or someone on her behalf, had incorrectly transposed information from an incomplete generic report into her witness statement. In September 2006, Mrs Rose was asked by the Post Office legal team to carefully read her draft witness statement to the High Court. She did so, and raised the issue of the incorrect information above.

    On 3 October 2006 Mrs Rose had a conversation with Stephen Dilley, the solicitor acting for the Post Office. The note of that conversation records she worked with him to clarify and correctly reflect the situation, which was that, at Mr Castleton’s branch, the matter of the discrepancy was raised first. This led directly to Castleton’s suspension, before the security checks could be properly completed.

    On 4 October 2006 Mrs Rose was presented with a second witness statement, which inserted a new paragraph to state:

    “As part of a normal audit, we have to complete a procedural security inspection. This was initiated by my colleague Chris Taylor. When a postmaster is suspended then any remaining compliance tests are not completed, because of the large number of compliance tests (including security compliance) that have to be completed for each audit. Accordingly
    although the procedural security inspection was started as a matter of routine, I do not recall it being completed because Mr Castleton was suspended prior to its completion, and it then became irrelevant.”

    Nonetheless, the incorrect paragraph, stating (as quoted above) that “safe keys were left in the safe door and it was not secured… cash and stock were not secured… standard procedures for adjusting losses and gains were not adhered to (because losses were unauthorised) and personal cheques on hand had been incorrectly treated”, remained.

    Mrs Rose had no explanation for this. The inquiry chair, Sir Wyn Williams, pointed out that she had signed a witness statement to the High Court containing information which she knew was wrong. He wanted to know why.

    “I have no recollection of it. I’m sorry” said Mrs Rose.

    Elsewhere in her 2006 witness statement to the High Court, Mrs Rose noted that during her audit, Lee Castleton went for lunch and came back “smelling strongly of alcohol”. This recollection was absent from her 2004 audit report. Asked why it was not in her audit report, but suddenly appeared in a witness statement to the High Court two years later, Mrs Rose said:

    “I don’t know why that wasn’t in, or came later” said Mrs Rose.

    Mrs Rose couldn’t explain why information which would have been helpful to Mr Castleton – his being pleased to see the auditors and his consistent raising of complaints about problems with the Horizon system – was missing from her witness statement to the High Court. Nor could she explain why an apparently invented (or, charitably, lately recollected) detail about Lee Castleton smelling of alcohol had found its way into her 2006 witness statement to the High Court, when there was no mention of it in her 2004 audit report.

    By the time it got to trial, in December 2006, Helen Rose had adjusted her recollection about the alcohol matter to say “it was just a vague memory I had of the office”, and apologised to Lee Castleton for making the suggestion he did smell of booze.

    Later in her evidence to the Inquiry today, Mrs Rose was asked about the Rose Report, and was taken through her investigation into what happened at the Lepton Post Office branch in 2012. I’ll leave you to watch it or read the transcript here.

    It was interesting to note that whilst the Rose report was an exceptionally important document, and used to inform the Clarke Advice, which led to the cessation of all Post Office prosecutions, Mrs Rose had no information to offer the Inquiry on the recommendations in her report, nor its wider effect on the Post Office Security Team. Nor did she take any interest in the subsequent Postmasters’ campaign for justice. She also had little or no recollection of a Subpostmaster who took his own life after one of her investigations, nor the internal disciplinary process she was subject to afterwards.



Amanda Burton Andrew Winn Bates v Post Office Bonusgate Clarke Advice Disclosure Dr Minh Alexander Ed Henry KC Eleanor Shaikh Exeter University False Accounts Fraser Fujitsu Gareth Jenkins Grabiner HCAB Heather Rogers Herbert Smith Freehills High Court Horizon Inquiry ITV News Janet Skinner Lee Castleton Lord Arbuthnot Met Police Noel Thomas Outcasts Creative Paula Vennells Post Office Racism Racist document Rebecca Thomson Receipts and Payments mismatch bug Richard Moorhead Richard Roll Seema Misra Sian Thomas Swift Review Teju Adedayo The Stamp of Innocence The Word Tonight Tim Brentnall Tracy Felstead Wendy Buffrey

Subscribe For Latest Blog Updates


  • 2023
  • 2022
  • 2021

Latest Comments

  1. Of course it’s outrageous that even though Teju, Parmod and the others have had their convictions set aside, they are…

  2. Neither the police nor CPS were involved in the prosecutions because the Post Office investigated and brought private prosecutions, bypassing…

  3. “This directly contradicts the Post Office’s 2021 assertion ” As I understand in court, the PO does not make any…