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.

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21 responses to “Post Office auditor signed Court statement containing info she knew was false”

  1. Extreme props to Jason Beer for not succumbing at any point in Rose’s excruciatingly dishonest testimony to asking her the obvious question: ‘Do you remember anything at all Mrs Rose.’

  2. Years ago I worked for Post Office Telecoms and the Post Office people I have seen giving evidence remind me of too many of the managers I met, they were for the most part ignorant, aggressive and petty minded.

  3. In any organisation I have worked in, anyone who was found to lie in any report was guilty of Gross Misconduct. Suspension , immediate review within 4 weeks and summary dismissal if lies confirmed.

  4. Cannon fodder for Executive Management.
    Stanford experiment in real life.

  5. Mrs Rose clearly did not carry out her work with appropriate competence and fairness. She should be required to repay any bonuses she received during the time of the scandal & be prosecuted for any false evidence given to the courts.

  6. Looking at this person’s role she has risen to quite lofty heights. I have no idea why.
    She was certainly not an investigator this was more like a hit snd run team fuelled by a policy of if there is a shortfall we blame and sack the sub postmaster.
    No looking at logs or cases raised. No signs of a proper investigation.
    Quite a few signs of trying to beef up the evidence later though. Smells of alcohol? Insinuations of security breaches which weren’t on the contemporaneous notes.
    Why didn’t the defence see the contemporaneous notes?

    Appallingly shoddy work and corporate practice.
    No signs of remorse or contrition at all.

    Plenty of memory problems. “From memory …” “I can’t recall …”

  7. I watched Mrs Rose’s evidence in utter disbelief. The manner in which she conducted herself and her answers to Mr Beer’s questions were truly appalling. The sheer callousness shown by Mrs Rose in answer to Ms Page’s question were equally dreadful. This awful woman through her actions has destroyed people’s lives. She should be held to account and face criminal prosecution once this inquiry is over

  8. Helen Rose and all the people involved should be bought to justice, they were the wrong doers not the post office masters.
    This cannot be left to become an historic story it has ruined so many lives for such good people.
    Why did she get a CBE anyway.
    People need to see justice is done and that if people lie about something this important that heads will roll.

    1. It seems that an unqualified person holding a position of power within the Post Office was allowed to give untrue statements that may have contributed to the death of one the sub post masters, but definitely made a difference to the outcome of Lee Castleton accusation and dismissal and perhaps many others.
      I can see no reason why actions have not been taken against senior staff have not been prosecuted or are they
      hoping the public will forget if enough time has lasted.

  9. Lance Steen Anthony Nielsen avatar
    Lance Steen Anthony Nielsen

    I feel there is a special place for this woman.

    1. Why hasn’t this woman been prosecuted?

  10. Helen Rose was completely useless and indicative of some of the Post Office employees my wife and I encountered. Totally respect to Jason Beer QC for remaining composed throughout, despite Mrs Rose’s amnesia.

  11. It beggars belief that a totally unqualified ‘person’ and I use the term loosely, would be auditing anything. Lazy inpet uncaring deceitful. She among many other were willing participants in the destruction of the lives of good people. One might be loathe to draw comparisons with Nazi prison guards, but there is one: ‘We were just obeying orders’.

  12. Absolutely astonishing how little she claims to remember. Teams she was in, what her role was, what the processes were (for audits which she did hundreds of times!), what the circumstances were in which she was asked to produce – presumably highly unusual – special reports or witness statements, or even the fact that she was subject to a disciplinary process…

    Much of this was only 10 years or so ago – surely she ought to be able to remember *something* from that time, even if (as the evidence might suggest) she was completely disengaged from the context of her job and totally uninterested in why she was being asked to do it? Even if it was “just another 9-5, turn up, get paid” and she wasn’t interested in anything beyond that, surely she ought to recall something about it?

    Just gobsmacking.

  13. could this lead to a perjury conviction for Rose?

    1. It definitely should do. Helen Rose gave the impression, during her oral evidence, of someone who is not troubled by a sense of responsibility (or indeed by a conscience) and as she bumbled through her ‘I don’t know/I can’t remember” testimony, she seemed blissfully unaware of a potential perjury investigation – another one of POL’s useful idiots. I found her to be careless in her regard of Mr Castleton (who was sat next to his solicitor, Flora Page, in the hearing room) and utterly callous in her replies to questions about Mr Mann (one of the former SPMs who took his own life).
      I sincerely hope, when the Inquiry has completed, all the POL staff and their legal representatives involved in these many miscarriages of justice, feel the full force of the law.

      1. Surely the CPS will be bringing quite a few perjury charges as a result of what’s emerging at this inquiry.

    2. Let’s hope so

  14. It is interesting to see how different the cross examination is by Zoom? (as in Mrs Rose) yesterday and today’s which have the interviewee behind a desk and may be in the same room as the lawyer.

    I would like to see all witnesses interviewed in the same format as today.

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