Former Post Office General Counsel Refuses to Cooperate with Inquiry

On Wed 8 May, I mentioned (in parentheses) during my live-tweets of Brian Altman KC’s evidence:

“This provokes a conference in BA’s chambers and a letter from the new GC Jane McLoed (who I understand might be resisting the request she give evidence to the inquiry and given she lives abroad, cannot be compelled to do so) telling the CCRC essentially to do one.”

I had heard the rumour that day, and hoped that by mentioning it on twitter en passant, it might get some pick up. It didn’t, so I mentioned it again in a stand-alone tweet more than a week later, as I was preparing to go on stage in Chelmsford:

… once more misspelling MacLeod. This did get some pick-up, as you can see from the re-tweets.

Yesterday, during the questioning of Alisdair Cameron (the Post Office’s off-sick finance director), Jason Beer KC confirmed that, as things stand, Jane MacLeod is refusing to give evidence to the Inquiry.

JB: Jane MacLeod told you that the reason why Jonathan Swift’s review was not being shared with you was because of privilege?
AC: That’s my recollection but, you know, when you hear from her, if she disagrees…
JB: We’re not going to hear from her.
AC: Okay.
JB: She lives abroad…
AC: Okay.
JB: …and won’t cooperate.
AC: Wow.

Wow, indeed

On 28 March, Ms MacLeod (an Australian national) was approached by the BBC about her involvement in the Post Office’s secret Project Bramble report. The BBC reported:

Jane MacLeod, the Post Office’s general counsel at the time of the case, said she supported the ongoing public inquiry into the Post Office scandal and was assisting it. She added that while the inquiry was ongoing, “I do not think it is appropriate to comment at this time”.

As late as 9 May, MacLeod was down on the Inquiry website as giving evidence on 4 June. So what changed? MacLeod’s predecessor, Chris Aujard, divested himself of several FNZ directorships the day before he gave evidence to the Inquiry. FNZ is an antipodean wealth management company.

It is possible (and I had this possibility confirmed to me as theoretically legitimate by a senior management accountant at a large City firm) that Aujard was asked/decided to resign his directorships in case he said anything during his evidence which could make him a liability or notifiable insurance risk to the firms of the boards he sat on.

MacLeod’s LinkedIn profile states that she has been on a career break since 2023. Interestingly, she followed Chris Aujard to FNZ two years after leaving the Post Office, (in 2019, two months after the **** really hit the fan with the handing down of the Common Issues judgment in the Bates v Post Office group litigation).

Ms MacLeod’s refusal to attend the Inquiry (whether remotely or in person) has the effect of obstructing justice, which is not a good look for a senior lawyer. I hope the relevant regulatory bodies investigate MacLeod’s refusal to cooperate and warn her of the consequences before this Inquiry is over. Given their track record, I suspect they won’t.


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39 responses to “Former Post Office General Counsel Refuses to Cooperate with Inquiry”

  1. Alan Flockton avatar

    Then there’s the question of what legal representation the sub-postmasters had during the investigation process, and subsequently in court? Which courts heard the charges? Would it have been the magistrates? “Oh it’s not that important, it’s not that much money”. “They won’t go to prison so long as they plead guilty”. So they finish up with some trainee who’s called a paralegal so you don’t realise how badly you’re represented. If it was in the magistrates court no-one would have considered the consequences for the sub-postmasters. When you deal with money a theft conviction is a theft conviction, whatever the amount.

  2. Alan Flockton avatar

    I still want to know, why if it didn’t add up on the computer, no-one even thought about adding it up on paper. That’s all of them. Subpostmasters themselves, Head Office, computer company, Chief Finance Officer, defence lawyers, attack lawyers, judges. When it went to court why didn’t any of the judges say “show me the sums for that week it’s supposed to have gone missing”.
    Likewise why did nobody say “show me this computer system let me test it”. The thing should have been destruction tested before they started. Failing that it should have been destruction tested before they finished.
    I’m available to do that. Anything that can’t possibly ever be destroyed, I assure you I’ll destroy it.

    1. I effectively asked a similar question at Nick’s Roadshow in Lichfield where he had Harjinder (he went to prison) as a guest on stage. My angle was ‘had any reconciliation between paper and Horizon been done?’. Harjinder said that the ‘auditors’ took all his papers which then went AWOL. A similar thing happened to another SPM when his papers were ‘lost’ in a fire.
      Also, did anyone think to compare ‘losses’ to typical turnover for a branch?

  3. John Lancaster avatar
    John Lancaster

    Jane only joined in 2015 and was straight into a lot of clearing up activity – the PO had ceased prosecutions. She is less implicated than her predecessors Susan Crighton and Chris Aujard. It looks as if she was just too new to take the major action that was needed early in 2015. To say she is not cooperating with the Inquiry is a bit misleading. She is not attending but has submitted an excellent and comprehensive report and unlike PV has reflected usefully on where she could have done more and where cultural problems lay within the structure of PO.

    1. Michael carpenter avatar
      Michael carpenter

      Yes, I’ve read her evidence and it’s quite refreshingly factual. Not sure if anything could be added by a personal appearance

  4. Completely agree. Utterly shameless. Having watched Paula Vennells’ three days of entirely self-serving witness evidence ending this afternoon, the culture is all too evident.

  5. James John Cavanagh avatar
    James John Cavanagh

    There surely must be some kind of legal organisation in New Zealand that can control the actions of Solicitors who practice law matters in their country courts,
    The British Law Society surely must have some means of making contact with New Zealand, or, Australia to get them to take an action against a lawyer who refuses to cooperate with a legal instituted tribunal case

  6. Martin ousman avatar

    My understanding is that these legal people can only be sanctioned/punished by their own bodies, hold on sounds very like the Post Office prosecuting their own staff. Just look at Alonzi.

    Am I the only one who has become completely disillusioned with justice in this country, we are frequently told justice is equal, does anyone really believe that?

  7. Does anyone remember the Chilcot Inquiry and what it achieved? Nothing. I could write down main conclusions from the PO Inquiry now. They are staring us in the face.
    Once Vennells has given her evidence the Inquiry should be stopped and everything handed over to the police.

  8. Lizzie Cahill avatar

    Does the Inquiry not have subpoena powers (or whatever the U.K. equivalent is)?
    How can this former PO General Counsel just say ‘No’?
    To just decide to not cooperate is very telling.
    Is she perhaps waiting to see what else is revealed and what emerging facts might help her to ‘recall’ (or not, as the case may be) certain events?
    If it smells like a rotten fish, then it probably is…

    On a broader note: given the depth of the cover-up we have seen ample evidence of thus far, why aren’t some of these people being hauled in by the police? Lives have been wrecked, families torn apart, people have gone to jail/died/committed suicide… and these PO apparatchiks still have their freedom and their pensions. How do they live with themselves?

    I hope the final out-turn of this Inquiry sees true justice and substantial compensation for all those wrongly maligned postmasters and mistresses. It is absolutely imperative that happens, anything else would be plain evil

  9. There seems to be no reason why on the principle of comity if an attendance order is made in England she could be obliged by Australian courts to cooperate in Australia under English rules

  10. Steven Sonsino avatar
    Steven Sonsino

    Looks like her LinkedIn profile is deleted…

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-macleod-a4378928/

    I wonder what else?

  11. “Wow” with a generous helping of WTF?
    Did none of these muppets get the memo regarding what you don’t do if you’re in a hole?

  12. Edward Lawrence avatar
    Edward Lawrence

    It’s utterly disgraceful that this woman is refusing to appear.

    I hope that her decision is widely-publicised and that she is made to feel extremely uncomfortable wherever she now resides (I read that it was New Zealand) on the “you can run but you can’t hide” principle.

    A senior lawyer behaving like a criminal seeking to evade justice – who would have thought it?

  13. Brian Bissenden avatar
    Brian Bissenden

    They just went through the statement and evidence without the witness being present at the Grenfell Inquiry. It was very effective.
    https://www.youtube.com/live/Q_bQRmCq1Oc?si=Bo41PPalV8CkCkwc

    1. If she gave a statement it’ll be published at the end of the phase.

      1. Her witness statement has already been published anyone can read/download in PDF format – https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/evidence/witn10010100-jane-macleod-witness-statement

  14. Macleod being incommunicado means Paula can lay all the blame at Macleod’s door. l can see lots of up coming core participants doing the same. Because of Macleod’s non appearance, the truth maybe obscured further.

    1. Agree. This is such a gift for PO, HMG and WBD that I wonder if they persuaded her …

  15. George Peacock avatar
    George Peacock

    I hope and expect that I am not the first, but I have raised this with the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority, as follows ” If the matter has not been raised with you already, I would like to bring to your attention the reported refusal of Jane Elizabeth Macleod (a SRA-regulated solicitor, admitted on 01/09/1993 SRA number 159500) to comply with a requirement of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry to attend to give evidence at the Inquiry. You will appreciate that this is an issue of great public interest, urgency and importance and the refusal appears to place Ms Macleod in breach of provisions 2.5 and 2.6 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs. I trust the SRA will deal with this matter with determination, integrity and urgency.

    1. I do hope there isn’t another, blameless, UK solicitor of the same name! I have several namesakes on my own profession’s list of current UK members.

      As the Inquiry team is doubtless well aware, there is a Jane Elizabeth MacLeod on the New South Wales Law Society Register of practising solicitors – listed as working for FNZ and admitted in 1986. That would be too much of a coincidence. I don’t suppose the NSW Law Society will be impressed by a NSW admitted solicitor refusing to cooperate with a properly constituted statutory inquiry in the UK into among other things their own role in delaying the identification and rectification of miscarriages of justice.

      I do wonder what these professional bodies can do by way of sanction. Striking off seems a bit toothless if someone is approaching retirement anyway.

    2. If (unlikely though it is) the SEA does anything ever, they’ll focus first in ongoing dangers to public. Rod Williams, Martin smith, Wilson, Singh, and most of WBD. They have no power whatsoever over MacLeod who has no interest in practising here.

  16. If I keep get angry as I watch this enquiry proceeds and I have nothing whatsoever involvement I cannot imagine how those who have feel.

  17. John Webley-Jones avatar
    John Webley-Jones

    I am puzzled by the logic of Britain’s big business policy regarding top echelon recruitment. We apparently have to pay a King’s ransom to persuade top talent to join our great enterprises. What do said enterprises get for their profligacy? Incompetent, mendacious amnesiacs whose only interest is in their own fortune.

  18. Given your last para, not only the Inquiry itself, but our Govts (UK and devolved) and the lawyers professionals (Bar etc) groups should put massive pressure on this person to attend. Not to do so is utterly unacceptable.

  19. Peter Chambers avatar
    Peter Chambers

    That LinkedIn profile is now marked “not available”.
    There are Facebook pages reporting she is “Australian currently living in New Zealand”.
    Let’s hope someone finds her, to get her side of the story – it’s not a big country.

  20. Usual corporate activity. Make a mistake. Get found out. Lie. Blame others. Hide evidence. Conspire to produce a covering narrative. Claim dementia (Saunders), that you didn’t read emails, were not aware of the blindingly obvious, claim stupidity, too distracted with other events or anything else but never, never, come clean, admit culpability and apologise. That’s career suicide. If you get away with it, onto bigger and better things.

  21. I cannot wait to hear the reasons she advances for deciding not to cooperate with the Inquiry. It almost makes one imagine that she has something to hide…

  22. Oliver Harrison avatar
    Oliver Harrison

    Classy.

  23. I also looked at Jane Mcleod’s linkedin profile when, during the questioning of Alasdair Cameron on Friday, and saw the comment that she’s on a “career break” on linkedin and thought it was so shameful. As if she were on a glorified gap year.

    Thanks for all your reporting Nick.
    Also did you also get the sense, during Mr Stein’s questioning of Alasdair Cameron, that Cameron still didn’t understand the issue with Horizon (the issue being that the computer itself couldn’t add up therefore theres little point in comparing the cash amounts present in shop with the reported amount of cash/sales on horizon/balance sheets printed from horizon?)

    nb. please correct me if i haven’t represented the facts correctly in that last statement

  24. I’ve known children believe the same: that if you close your eyes people can’t see you.

  25. Shows what toothless bodies the legal regulatory authorities are. How come no legally qualified individual has apparently yet been investigated or “charged” with bringing the legal profession into disrepute. I am a retired veterinary surgeon so I am no longer on the Veterinary Register. For certain misdemeanors, when I was practicing, I could be struck off and no longer able to work in my profession.
    Will Paula Vennells and Gareth Jenkins move abroad PDQ to avoid this toothless enquiry [ which is incidentally providing employment for a good few members of the legal profession ]?

  26. Timothy Burling avatar
    Timothy Burling

    Ms Macleod’s ostensible reason for non cooperation is important but of course Zoom & a written witness statement are available to her and other witnesses have appeared while not enjoying the best of health.

    Perhaps key roles in UK public bodies should only be open to people who are domiciled in the UK and/or have UK passports?

  27. Peter Harland avatar

    HI Nick, i get that the “no show” of Jane Macleod is a big deal. I had hoped you would blog on the showing of Alasdair Cameron, which i watched live and was most intrigued about. Hope your roadshow is going great. Cheers

  28. Brian Bissenden avatar
    Brian Bissenden

    During Grenfell Inquiry the same thing happened. Mr Millet, council to the inquiry carried on with the witness absent so all the emails and evidence could be in the public domain. 10/3/21. It was very powerful.

    1. The Inquiry is not for us all to feel better. The Inquiry is to get to the truth – and make recommendations – they don’t need to put on ‘powerful’ shows. I’m all for restorative justice but this is a different forum. She’s apparently given a witness statement – that will be read into the record so we’ll see it eventually and the Chair with help of Counsel will look at all the evidence and conclude based on it. I am not sure why all the evidence generally isn’t in the public domain – or perhaps it is somewhere – but Macleod refusing to appear makes no difference to this. Her w/s will be public, and any evidence the Inquiry wants to upload beyond RLRs will be in the public domain. It’s disgraceful that she’s refusing to appear, but that’s because it doesn’t assist the Inquiry, not because it deprives the public of vicarious entertainment. This is not an ITV sequel; it’s a judicial process.

      1. That final sentence bears repeating, not least out of respect for the victims.

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