Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Disclosure, datclosure

Hello, Aldwych.

Sir Wyn Williams on the Big Screen

And so it was back to Aldwych House in London to see what fresh horrors would be revealed about the Post Office scandal.

Today’s hearing, the first after the summer break, was not about who gave which orders to prosecute whom or shred what, nor were we there to find out why Subpostmasters aren’t getting the compensation they deserve.

It was about disclosure, the second in a new strand of inquiry hearings. Well, that, and the fact the Post Office is still offering bonuses to its senior staff for their work on the Inquiry.

Long day

I had agreed to do a short hit on Times Radio at 5.45am, which necessitated getting up at 5.15am. At around 5.40am I realised that Times Radio does a lot of visualisation, so I stumbled around looking for an ironed shirt without waking Mrs Wallis.

Then I did another hit at 8.40am on the Today programme, which may or may not have been heard by Jason Beer KC, lead counsel to the Inquiry, and then I headed into London, tired already.

It was good to be in the room at Aldwych House (new and permanent home of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry) to assess what was going on.

It was also great to bump into one of my journalistic heroes, Joshua Rozenberg. If you are a lawyer or take any interest in the law, I would thoroughly recommend signing up to Joshua’s substack newsletter. He seems to write most days each week and is always fascinating.

I had a good chat with Aaron, who’d come down to witness proceedings. Aaron’s dad was a Subpostmaster and he tries to come down from Walsall most days when the Inquiry will pay for it.

I also met two lovely people – Ramila and Das Patel – both about my parents’ age, whose son (a GP in Reigate, Ramila proudly informed me) had paid for their travel to the Inquiry.

It was the first time they had attended. We had a conversation about their experiences and goodness me… it was humbling, frankly, to spend some time in their company.

To business

Jason Beer KC

To summarise, the day was spent watching the inquiry’s two JBs – Jason Beer and Julian Blake – take it in turns to forensically examine why it was that such an explosive document – the Post Office’s racial identification codes – was not disclosed to the Inquiry.

The document, or at least the page with the offensive racial terms on it, now appears to be known to the Inquiry as Appendix 6, because the page was apparently Appendix 6 to the Post Office’s Security Team Compliance Guidance (even though it isn’t an appendix (or marked up as such) in the version I have).

Whatever, Appendix 6, or The Racist Identification Codes were clearly in the Post Office’s possession because they were happily handed over to campaigner Eleanor Shaikh when she sent a Freedom of Information request asking about the Post Office’s investigation methods.

At which point it all kicked off.

So why didn’t the Inquiry get it?

It turns out it was nobody’s fault. It was just one of those things.

I didn’t take a huge amount of notes today, I just watched and listened to five hours of testimony. This is my impression of what happened. I’m going to cross-reference is with the transcript tomorrow.

In its initial request to the Post Office, the inquiry had asked to be given for all documentation relating to the policy for Post Office investigators and prosecutors.

Herbert Smith Freehills (the Post Office’s solicitors) had created a few search terms based on this request (including “Prosecut*”, “Investig*”) and handed it over to the Document Ninjas at KPMG, who (according to HSF) misinterpreted the search parameters, or according to KPMG, followed direct instructions and pulled together various iterations of the Guidance (some containing the racist codes, some not).

Then, through a “deduplication” exercise, KPMG handed over a number of iterations of the Guidance, none of which had the racist codes in them, mainly because of the manner of the deduplication, known as Item Level Deduplication, which is known to remove documents which might be of interest.

Diane Wills

The Post Office’s Inquiry Director, Diane Wills, told the Inquiry it didn’t really take a hands-on interest in what document disclosure strategy HSF had designed, nor was it particularly engaged in KPMG’s execution (although, funnily enough, it is now).

KPMG insisted they were just following orders and had done so to the letter, and HSF took the view that their search terms were a perfectly reasonable way to go about a disclosure exercise, as was their practice of farming out its first line review procedure to law graduates in various jurisdictions around the world.

The guy from HSF – Gregg Rowan – wrote in his witness statement:

“Looking back at these search terms and search criteria, whilst I appreciate that Appendix 6 was not responsive to them, even with the benefit of hindsight and knowing what I do now about Appendix 6 and the suite of documents to which it belonged, and doing my best to be objective, I consider these to be a reasonable set of search terms… Appendix 6 is in many ways an extraordinary document. It contains no words about policy, procedures or guidance. Using search terms targeting policies and procedures, it would only be possible to generate search terms to which Appendix 6 responded if one knew about the existence of the document first.”


Rowan’s attitude on the stand was to clasp his hands together, Burns-style, and hold Jason Beer’s stare. Rowan seemed to take some pleasure in throwing KPMG under the bus, and you suspected he thought his clients were little more than impecunious muppets. He certainly wasn’t going to be intimidated by the inquiry.

HSF’s policy of dictating search terms to a bunch of glorified bean counters and getting post-grads in far flung places to make first-line decisions about what the Inquiry team would or wouldn’t see was exactly why HSF can charge through the nose for their services. It’s not like the Post Office were going to question their methods. Or even bother asking what they might be.

In summary, we still don’t know how many Post Office documents the Inquiry is missing (or has missed), and how much that might affect the outcome. At the end of proceedings, the Inquiry Chair, Sir Wyn Williams, kept his counsel, promising to “reflect” on what he’d heard and issue a short statement in a couple of days. He seemed a lot less upbeat that we have seen him in previous appearances.

Does the Inquiry listen to the Today Programme?

Or is it a big fan of the Social Media Platform Previously Known As Twitter?

During my five minute chat with Martha Kearney on Radio 4 this morning, I mentioned the Met Police’s silence over its use of the word “negroid” on official guidance.

I also noted that the Post Office, despite the massive hoo-ha about bonuses, had just advertised a job, looking for an in-house lawyer to work for them on inquiry-related matters, offering them a bonus for hitting their “target”. The job came up in the cross-examination of Diane Mills today and I wrote it up for the website.

Go walking in EC1 next week for two hours


This is going to be a wonderful event. I wrote about it (rather extensively) in the last secret email so I’ll try to keep this brief:

Anne, Jane and Ian are raising money for the Horizon Scandal Fund. Ian is offering a walking tour of Shakespeare’s London. In return for your generous donation, you will get some exercise, learn stuff and probably end up in a pub. All in the company of some excellent people and one of the best tour guides in London. The walk is flat and wheelchair accessible.

Book here via eventbrite, or just turn up on the day with a debit card, ready to make a donation.

Meet at 6pm, on 14 September (that’s Thursday next week) at Exit 1 of St Paul’s tube station (or if you want a street address – 10 Saint Martin’s Le Grand, London, EC1A 4EN).

The Horizon Scandal Fund exists to help Subpostmasters and/or their families affected by the Horizon scandal. We accept grant applications for anything that will help – even (as I mentioned to Aaron and Ramila and Das today) travel and accommodation to spend a a day or two at the Inquiry, particularly if the Inquiry cannot or will not cover it. We also have give grants for respite breaks, legal fees, therapy and cost of living emergencies.

We know that so many people are falling through the gaps in so many ways and that’s what we do – exist to help. Please pass on the website address to someone you know who might be affected, or just get in touch.


I finished my day racing home to appear on the Jeremy Kyle show on TalkTV. We had quite a weird and disjointed conversation, but Jeremy is clearly converted to the Subpostmasters’ cause after the recent special they put out featuring Nicki Arch and Janet Skinner.

The next Inquiry hearing is scheduled to be 19 September, but it might be 14 September. I tried to find out what was going on, but the inquiry press team wouldn’t tell me. If you know, do get in touch, in confidence. Just hit reply.

Very best


If you have been forwarded this newsletter and would like to get it delivered directly to your inbox when it is published, please consider making a donation to fund the journalism behind it. Anyone who donates any selected amount will be added to the secret email mailing list. This newsletter will keep you informed about developements at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry and the wider scandal. Thanks.