All-knowing Alwen has her chance to come clean

A screenshot from Alwen Lyons’ valedictory (now removed) blog post in August 2017

It’s all too easy to get the measure of Alwen Lyons OBE. She sees herself as a Good Person who spent a lifetime serving and defending a Good Company. Unfortunately that company was the Post Office. Lyons was there during the prosecution spree, she was there at the height of the cover-up, and seems to either have been in denial, grievously mistaken or simply lying about what she knew.

In 2013, Ian Henderson from Second Sight was engaged in an independent investigation of the Post Office Horizon IT system and the Post Office’s associated business functions. Forgive me for quoting from my own book, but here is how I characterised a significant interaction Henderson had with Lyons:

By this stage Second Sight were having bi-weekly meetings with various Post Office execs. On this occasion, Henderson met Susan Crichton and Simon Baker. After the meeting, he wandered into the corridor where he bumped into Lesley Sewell, the Post Office’s Chief Information Officer and Alwen Lyons, the Company Secretary. Lyons had joined the Post Office in 1984 as a graduate trainee and was, in Henderson’s words, a ‘furiously loyal, old-fashioned company retainer.’ Her father was a Subpostmaster from the East End of London who had risen to become General Secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters. Lyons was the living embodiment of the Post Office culture, and had the ear of the board.

The three got chatting. Henderson mentioned what Gareth Jenkins had told him about remote access. ‘Instantly, Alwen Lyons said, “No that’s completely wrong. There is no question of remote access. It’s impossible. We know it can’t happen.”’

Henderson admits being momentarily thrown. This was, in his words, a ‘conflict of evidence.’ Instead of asking if Lyons was suggesting a Horizon system architect at Fujitsu was living in cloud-cuckoo land, Henderson let the two women change the subject. He subsequently told me his normal practice when faced with a situation like this was to seek further evidence before challenging what he was being told. But the force of Alwen Lyons’ response left him in no doubt there was something going on.

‘I remember thinking “Christ. If we push this, we’re going to get sacked.” It was that serious. I think that was when Jenkins’ cards were marked, and he was regarded as potentially dangerous.’

Mane issue

On leaving the Post Office in 2017, Lyons studiously avoided any mention of the Subpostmasters’ campaign for justice, nor the ongoing Bates v Post Office group litigation, which would leave the Post Office’s reputation and finances in tatters. Instead she told her adoring followers on the Post Office corporate web pages:

In 2011, I helped to negotiate the separation of Post Office and Royal Mail, which was really challenging and daunting. I was then appointed as Company Secretary and worked to introduce the independent Post Office Board. As Company Secretary, I work with the Chairman and the CEO to make sure we have the good governance in place to get the best out of the Board.

Finally, I’m most proud of the work I’ve done around gender equality and more recently LGBT+ support. Thirteen years ago, there were no women on the Board or on the Executive Team and very few in senior positions, so I set up SWAN (Senior Women’s Action Network), to give women in the business more confidence to become future leaders. Now women can look up and see female role models.

Alwen Lyons worked for a Chairman who withheld the Swift Review from the Post Office board. That’s not good governance.

Gong hound

Four months after leaving the Post Office, Lyons was awarded an OBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours list. This was picked up by Sussex World (Lyons lives in Worthing), who reported her as saying:

It’s been amazing to get recognition. It was such a surprise. I was doing something I really believed in.

On her 33 years at the Post Office, Lyons told the paper: “When I said ‘We need to change things’, they listened… It’s a fantastic organisation to have worked for. There are so many different jobs you can do and opportunities. I liked the people I worked with, all the teams I worked with and for.

But something seems to have been troubling Lyons’ conscience. “We still have to check that we are doing the right thing for all people,” she told Sussex World. “I think it sometimes feels like it is getting tougher.

Lyons retired to spend more time doing charitable works and riding horses. Just how worthy a person she really is may become a little clearer once she has been questioned at the Post Office Inquiry today.

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19 responses to “All-knowing Alwen has her chance to come clean”

  1. Mr FRANK THEO JORDAN avatar

    I just keep thinking that whoever appointed these people has a very failed appointments process. As such their appointees are as guilty as them. It seems to be all about not taking responsibility. Oh, and taking money through payroll and bonus without considering if it were honestly learnt.

  2. How on earth did Alwen Lyons get her OBE, apart from spending years writing and reading long emails without actually doing her “real” job? Paula Vennells returned her MBE, so Lyons should return her OBE. By agreeing to receive those awards (for simply doing their job!) they made a farce out of the Honours awards.

  3. I belive and certainly hope that three things, above the absolute vindication & FULL compensation of the victimes, should victims.
    First, prosecution and sentencing of those who have lied, covered up and continue to cover up their actions.
    Secondly, the return of millions of pounds in bonuses, share options and “Golden Handshakes” received whilst in office.
    Thirdly, a removal of all MBE’s, OBE’s etc received for their “good work”.
    I will be more then willing to donate to any fund to bring private prosecutions.
    Good luck and God bless all the honest hard working victims of the travesty.

  4. has she given back her OBE?
    If not why not.

  5. I am reading your book along with watching the enquiry. Don’t know how the enquiry get their heads around all the details. Hope the postmasters get justice. They certainly deserve it after all this time. Paula Vennells for 3 days starting tomorrow …..should be very interesting. Best Wishes Jane

  6. I have to confess although I listened to the evidence today I was digging the garden at the same time so not paying 100% attention.
    I managed to glean however that a company secretary is supposed to keep the board informed of matters affecting corporate governance and the directors’ responsibilities.
    Was there one report that was brought up today that she had actually read? These reports were very pertinent to the Post Office’s role as a prosecutor but I can’t recall her saying that she had read one of them.
    The excuse I heard was, “Nobody sent it to me.” What? You’re aware of a report floating around and you didn’t ask for a copy so you could accurately brief the board? That is incompetence surely!
    The Deloitte report summary was sent without checking that the summary actually included the points from the full report.
    The assertion that Horizon evidence had never been successfully challenged in court was made and passed on without simply checking with responsible people if it was true. The POL comedy solicitor said it so it must be right.

    Are the large companies in the UK now run by highly paid totally incompetent people with the memory of a goldfish? It is looking like it after listening to this inquiry.

    1. Other large companies are not perfect. But PO was – is,as exactly the same continues with delaying and obstructing redress – different because it’s shareholder HMG gave/gives it unlimited funding and total connivance / blind eye.

    2. Jonathan Mawdesley-Thomax avatar
      Jonathan Mawdesley-Thomax

      You’ve hit the nail on the head ! With the executives saying sorry “ but I can’t remember “ . As a Dr I used to make notes …..😳

    3. Instead of focusing on carrying out her core responsibilities and duties in it appears she was far too busy prioritising virtue signalling with her LGBT and support of fast tracking women through the organisation SWAN creating the next batch of highly paid mediocre senior executives whilst the families ruined by their direct actions are hung out to dry.The time it’s taken to get any justice for the victims and their familles is truly mind blowing.Surely to give the victims any confidence in the judiciary there must be prosecutions following this outrage.

  7. How could Susan Crichton’s exclusion from a crucial board meeting not be properly minuted? I reckon we all know why, but Alwyn Lyons entirely failed to answer the question: HOW. Of course she should have minuted the request to exclude her.

  8. So, before I comment, I want to say this: “so, my tutor has instructed me to start most of my answers with the word “so”. This was also what my tutor instructed AVB(Angela van den Bogerd) to do, so I am with her. It is annoying to the audience for me to do this, but it might just distract them from understanding my answrs, so I will continue to do it.”
    So, to continue……………….I think my point is made………..

    1. Yes there was a lot of “soing” or was it sowing or sewing? Sowing the seeds of doubt of her veracity? Sewing together a patchwork of lies and deceit?

  9. For anyone who wants to save 6 hours of their life, a quick summery of Ms (unhelpful) Lyon’s evidence. Basically, she either didn’t receive important information or if she did, didn’t see it. She never did anything wrong, and when challenged about when she should have done something, she would have expected someone else to deal with it as she wasn’t an expert! (In anything it seems.) Then for the other questions, she can’t remember. She couldn’t remember emails, phone calls, conferences, meetings, her own name, where she lived, who she was, where she worked, why she was here! (Except when it was someone else’s problem, then recall was 20/20! Another PO lifer who still can’t bear the thought of the post office name being smeared.

    1. So at this remove of time I cannot recall …

  10. Donald Downing avatar
    Donald Downing

    I am following the Inquiry & the case with great interest. Any citizen of any democracy should be concerned about the actions of the UK Post Office against innocent persons.
    Should individuals and mgmt at Fujitsu not be held accountable? They tampered with the accounts. Surely illegal?

  11. Dear mr. Wallis, I admire your work.

  12. You’ve left me incandescent with rage before I start watching the recording!!

  13. Peter Harland avatar

    Thanks Nick, this continues to be fascinating. Question – are you doing a blog on the Alasdair Cameron testimony??

  14. Kirstie Jenkins avatar
    Kirstie Jenkins

    I find this confusing – who did she think was making the corrections?

    I’m generally confused by the issue of corrections at the post office. Usually, if you reconcile an account, you make a note of unrepresented items. You don’t just assume things will sort themselves out. This idea that accounting transactions are unknowable doesn’t make sense.

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