The One Thing Brian Altman Did Wrong

Brian Altman KC

Brian Altman’s role in perpetuating the Post Office scandal is self-evident. He gave advice which helped a bent client keep a lid on a gargantuan miscarriage of justice. Whether that was down to any professional failings was in issue today. Altman had sight of clear evidence of criminal activity (orders to shred documents, misleading a court), massive failures of disclosure (the Misra case), prosecutor misconduct (the Hamilton case), yet he somehow managed to give advices (and, later, set court strategies) which were neatly in line with his client’s wishes.

“Do you think that you might have been set up?” asked Ed Henry KC towards the end of the day.
“It’s a very interesting proposition, Mr Henry”, Altman replied. He then referenced an email chain where the Post Office and their legal advisors were discussing who to get on board to help them in the light of the Clarke Advice and the CK Sift Review.

In the chain, Gavin Matthews from Bond Dickinson purrs approvingly that though Altman has just stepped down as First Senior Treasury Counsel (a very very senior criminal prosecutor), he “has the ear of the DPP/AGs Office” [Director of Public Prosecutions/Attorney General]
“His connections sound useful,” replies Hugh Flemington, the Post Office’s Head of Legal.

Altman told Henry he was dwelling on the idea he was set up as “a thought to wrestle with.”

The brilliant operator

But Altman is no dupe. We were reminded by Sam Stein KC that Altman’s chambers’ website describes him as “one of the greats of the bar” and a “brilliant operator.” So how did he come to find himself, as Ed Henry put it, consistently managing to “back the wrong horse.” What did Altman actually do wrong?

Very little, according to B. Altman KC. The totemic misjudgment he would admit to was his failure to recommend that Seema Misra and others should be told that the Post Office’s expert witness in her trial was “tainted”. This related to the Clarke Advice. Altman accepted several times it was a “misjudgment”, and explained it by saying that “it is something I have thought about and it is something that should have been disclosed to appropriate people.”

So, said Jason Beer KC (who asked questions for most of the day) “nothing was done to inform convicted defendants or those in any ongoing cases that Mr Jenkins had wrongly withheld his knowledge of bugs in the Horizon system.”
“Unhappily that has to be the case,” replied Altman. “With the benefit of hindsight, and having thought an awful lot about this, it’s something that should have been considered for disclosure and disclosed in appropriate cases. No question.”
“And should have been disclosed by you, Mr Altman,” intoned Beer.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m accepting that” Altman acknowledged.

Shredding order ≠ Teething problem

In Altman’s world, an order from John Scott, the Post Office’s Head of Security, to shred documents was a “cultural” or “teething” problem. He initially claimed the word “cultural” had been coined by Post Office General Counsel Susan Crichton and that “teething” was not something he said in reference to Scott’s order, before grudgingly conceding it had been. He claimed that in no way was he “minimising” what might be perceived as an attempt to pervert the course of justice. When asked why he did nothing about it, Altman told the Inquiry that he was informed that Scott’s “ridiculous” instruction had been “overcome”.

Altman was taken to a letter being written by the Office the Criminal Cases Review Commission which championed his monitoring of the Cartwright King Sift review as “fundamentally sound”. Altman was sent a draft of the letter for his comments. Beer noted the letter failed to inform the CCRC of the Helen Rose report and the Clarke Advice. On the latter, Altman simply said it “should have”. He could not explain why the Helen Rose report wasn’t even mentioned.

Internally it seems Altman’s designation of the CK review as “fundamentally sound” was used in the same way Second Sight’s declaration there were no system-wide issues with Horizon was waved in the faces of people raising queries. Altman was taken to an email by Andy Parsons from (later Womble) Bond Dickinson which stated his conclusion gives the Post Office. “good grounds to resist any formal external review of its historic prosecutions (ie by the Criminal Cases Review Commission).”

Altman was asked if he thought his advice was going to be used in this way. “Absolutely not”, he replied.

Dodgy advice(s)

The most laughable piece of Advice given by Altman was produced on 19 Dec 2013. He declared to his clients:

“I have seen no evidence to suggest that Post Office Ltd exercises its investigations and prosecution function in anything other than a well-organised, structured and efficient manner, through an expert and dedicated team of in-house investigators and lawyers, supported by Cartwright King solicitors and their in-house counsel, as well as
external counsel and agents where required.”

Where, enquired Beer, did he get this from?

“Based on what Post Office had sent to me, I’d met Cartwright King, I’d met Rodric Williams, I’d met Jarnail Singh, once, maybe twice, and I had read by that stage, certainly two of the prosecution files…. and I think the overarching view I’d come up with is reflected in that paragraph.”

Jarnail Singh?! Beer drilled down into this:

JB: Had you examined any documents or material relating to the training of investigators?
BA: I’ve got an idea I might have asked for something, but I can’t remember
JB: Had you examined the knowledge and experience of Post Office investigators?
BA: I think I knew some of them were former police officers.
JB: Was that the extent of it?
BA: I can’t remember.
JB: Had you examined the investigators knowledge of and practical application of the law of disclosure?
BA: No.
JB: Had you examined the extent to which investigators actively investigated all reasonable lines of enquiry, including those which point away from the guilt of a suspect?
BA: No.
JB: Had you investigated what supervision, checks and balances existed if any to superintend the work of the investigators?
BA: Well I understood that Cartwright King were involved, the external agents, and I understood that they were the instructing solicitors. I had met Simon Clarke and I had met Harry Bowyer and I remember being impressed by them.
JB: That’s being impressed by lawyers. I’m asking about the superintendence or supervision of the investigators.
BA: No but I rather thought that Cartwright King had that superintendence.
JB: Had you examined how, in practice, decisions as to whether to prosecute or not were made in practice?
BA: No.
JB: Had you discovered who the decision maker was in relation to any decision to prosecute?
BA: Well, if my memory serves me during the course of this review I had referred to several Post Office policies and I think one of those policies put the ultimate decision in the hands of someone non-legal. So I made a point about that.
JB: Had you examined what the training or experience of that person was?
BA: Of that person, no, but the point I made was that it had to be in the hands of a legal individual.
JB: Did you examine how much consideration that person gave to an analysis of the evidential strength of a case?
BA: No.
JB: Did you examine what tests that decision-maker applied when deciding a case was to be prosecuted?
BA: No.

Beer wondered, “given all those things” how Altman could come to the conclusion that the Post Office “exercises its investigatory function in a well-organised, structured and efficient manner?”
Altman replied that he was talking about a “hierarchical structure”. He wasn’t “deep diving”.
Beer wondered if Altman if there was a “danger” his conclusions could be “misunderstood and therefore misapplied and being used as a weapon by the Post Office in fending off criticisms of it.”
“Yes I can see that”, replied Altman. “At the time I didn’t appreciate that it would be.”

But it was, though, wasn’t it? Which makes Brian Altman very much part of the problem.

I am currently touring Post Office Scandal – the Inside Story until Thu 16 May 2024. There are six more dates remaining in Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Surrey and Essex. You can find the specific venues and timings here. All look likely to sell out except Swindon (Mon 13 May) which, for some reason is doing quite badly. If you can make it to the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, I’d love to see you.

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77 responses to “The One Thing Brian Altman Did Wrong”

  1. In the many prosecutions of the sub postmasters, they were accused of theft, but few attempts (except Hamilton) were made to find out where they had put their supposedly ill-gotten gains. Seems to be like a murder accusation without the body.
    Also, under the terms of their contracts, any shortfalls would have to be made up by the postmasters, so they were being effectively accused of stealing from themselves – hardly likely…..

  2. I am reminded of the quote (I think attributed to one of Nixon’s aids) with goes something like….

    “It does not matter if a statement is true or false, all that matters is whether or not the statement is deniable”

  3. Anthony Archer avatar
    Anthony Archer

    Shocking that a lawyer of his experience appears not to remember things as recently as nine years ago which were of seismic concern to his client.

  4. One thing Mr Altman said seemed odd to me. He was asked about his potential dereliction of duty. He said there wasn’t any dereliction of duty on his part because there was no proactive decision on his part not to do something. He simply didn’t think about it. But isn’t that moving the goalposts of what ‘dereliction of duty’ is? Surely dereliction of duty can be inadvertent, not just deliberate. If you don’t act when you should, you are still guilty of dereliction of duty, whatever you may have thought, or not, about it. Mr Altman’s definition gives anyone a get out of jail free card as long as they say ‘it didn’t cross my mind’.
    General comment: I feel some (not all) of the inquiry barristers may be giving a lot of leeway to some of the lawyer witnesses – giving them an escape hatch or two they may need in future.

    1. I thought the same, although I think the question was breach of duty. Dereliction might arguably need a positive act, but breach definitely doesn’t and can be an omission.

      Totally disagree re Counsel. They simply understand what evidence WW already has and what further he needs. Much better than we do based on partial info and no expertise (let alone at top of field) in public inquiries. There is no ‘escape hatch’ relevant; the Inquiry has no adjudication or sentencing against witnesses. WW will recommend and others will then consider routes from which witnesses might need an escape. The tone of criticism of some of the Counsel team has been gross and ill-informed, from commentators who are looking for headlines, entertainment or restorative justice in this forum, which WW felt the need to remind everyone is in fact a judicial process.

    2. I thought this too. They seemed way more lenient, perhaps because they are afraid of the Clarks, the chambers, and not getting work after the inquiry? It was also curious as to how unhumble he appeared, and was very school master assertive with them all. Unlike all previous witnesses. Others then seemed to take that unhumble overly assertive lead. Might be wrong, just how it appeared to moi.

  5. Spare a thought for Sir Wyn – how much more of this ‘drama’ can he stomach – did he ever anticipate his ‘retirement career’ would involve an inquiry where senior members of his own profession would be under such scrutiny and doubt?

    1. Having spent his career trying to see justice done, it must be sad to see how badly the legal system failed and gratifying to be able to expose and ultimately criticise that.

      The hours perhaps not so much! 😂

      Like many I’m puzzled why Neuberger, Swift and HSF are absent from the list – can only imagine they wrote statements making clear they can’t remember anything at all so it’d be a waste of time to call them … aka The Tony Blair Approach.

  6. If Altman considers himself ‘one of the greats’, should he now show dignity by retiring as KC.

  7. ‘I can’t remember’ – is unacceptable in certain countries eg Iran. Surely Altman kept working notes to form the basis of his ‘advices’. Where are these?

  8. Watching Altman and a number of the other lawyers who have given evidence I have found myself thinking there but for the grace of God go I. On virtually every occasion that I provided legal advice I accepted the factual position as it was told to me. How many times I missed a point as obvious as that convicted postmasters were entitled to be told that an expert who had given evidence for the prosecution in their case had misled the court I do not know. I hope it was not often but I am sure that it was not never. I also very much hope that my own mistakes did not contribute to as much misery and injustice as was suffered by the postmasters.

    1. The real point, however, being if you came to know that,what would you do?

      Shrug your shoulders and say “Not my problem” and assist in making sure it was not looked at (eg by advising that in the case review it was proper to ignore the earlier cases where there were clearly wrongful convictions)? Only owed a duty to the court when actually appearing as an advocate. For the rest, all bets are apparently off.

      Or fulfil your duty as an officer of the court and make your knowledge known to the wronged party, the authorities, police, attorney or whoever?

      Together with Simon Clarke, a really illuminating day or two about the current ethics of the English legal profession.

  9. It would be interesting to log a tally of each time a witness “does not recall” (remember Watergate?) and the % of such occasions when that amnesia is benign vs. working to exonerate the witness or POL.

    In the case depicted in the film “Denial “, about a historian who was a holocaust denier, an analogous exercise was accepted as evidence that he knew he was lying.

  10. From the US, which, of course, has been home to more miscarriages of justice than I can count.
    But I am so perplexed by this entire scandal. My observations:
    1. The Post Office employees and consultants have clearly been coached to testify so vaguely (“I don’t recall,” “it didn’t occur to me at the time,” etc.) to avoid charges of perjury, except of course for the so-called expert witness who clearly knew, more than 10–10!!!—years ago that Horizon could be manipulated by Fijitsu employees off site and that bugs were present in the system.
    2. Every one of the Post Office employees/consultants who had this knowledge, described above, would be indictable in the US for obstruction of justice. The instant the fraudulent, truth withholding “testimony” of the so-called expert was made known to any of them, all already-prosecuted (and persecuted) sub-postmasters should have been informed.
    3. The treatment of Ms. Misra was cruel beyond belief. In the US, she could sue for wrongful prosecution and be awarded millions of dollars. Likely true for others, too. I hope they do this.
    4. The idea that the Post Office can run its own parallel criminal justice system is beyond comprehension. According to that system, it is its own judge, jury, and police force, with alleged wrongdoers having no access to equal justice or treatment under law, since the Post Office refused to divulge any proof or evidence from its investigations. It is the fox guarding the henhouse, amplified more times than can be fathomed.
    5. I sincerely hope at least one higher-ranking Post Office executive or one of the posh-sounding consulting attorneys is charged with felony obstruction of justice. And, why have some/many/most of these attorneys not been disbarred for blatant unethical behavior?

    1. Private prosecutions are permitted England & Wales and no where else that I am aware of! I agree with your comments, they are potentially used and subject to manipulation in many cases, how many other cases have similar abuse of process?

    2. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      I’m sure I won’t be the first to point this out but in point 4 – the Post Office is its own prosecutorial authority – it is not Judge nor Jury but it does not have to go through the Crown Prosecution Service in order to get its cases to court – this is the difference with conventional criminal cases. It is this power that became abused.

      1. Alan, in the light of the total uselessness and shallowness and incompetence and stupidity of the vast majority of Britain’s judiciary, Mary’s point 4 is only technically inaccurate.

        Had the bewigged monkeys done their jobs, this mega-scandal would have been thwarted.

        Do remember that HC judges are drawn from the likes of Altman, lol.

      2. It’s a phrase, and one that Inquiry Counsel use repeatedly. Po was alleged victim. Also decision-maker whether and for what to charge / sue (assessing evidence like a judge or jury). Not to mention executioner when they suspended or abused PoCA.

    3. Point 4, makes the Post Office sound like a dictator state, where the basis rights of the ordinary people (the sub postmasters) are totally disregarded.

      1. Which is just what happened.

  11. Gareth Jenkins is mentioned on many occasions as he is in many other sessions. The failure to understand Horizon and what it was, how it came about and what it had to be, to convert paper/manual system to a wholly automated electronic system with its inevitable software complexity seems to prevail. Perhaps this was convenient. One word would have been sufficient to convey everything – it was trial or beta from 1999.

    This means having a full remote access capability. How else could you manage the trial and diagnose issues?

    Then, unless Horizon was formally signed off, perhaps progressively validating module by module, it would remain as such and integrity would always be a question. This integrity would also be a moving feast and perhaps only a few people even in Fujitso had a good handle on this. Bugs being fixed, half fixed, only quick temporary fixes in place (time or downtime pressures), fix only partially rolled-out and root cause too complex or deep so still under review. Feedback of problem also not clear, not repeatable or incomplete or dismissed as an outlier (why not every sub-post office). Added to this will be how hard they were looking or had effective test code in place to detect bugs. All a commercial pressure for Fujitso and many unbudgeted or unrecoverable costs. In this scenario GJ should never have been considered a reliable witness.

  12. In my view what this inquiry demonstrates is that there are insufficient safeguards in private prosecutions requiring the prosecutor to act in accordance with the proper motives, duties and obligations as “ministers of justice”. There is an inherent and unremovable conflict where a private prosecutor seeks to protect its reputation or commercial standing or employs expensive lawyers to support the prosecution process. Any failure in its duties as a private prosecutor is often evident by the lack of impartiality, failures in the disclosure of evidence process (documents, expert reports, emails etc), which could assist the defendant and ensure fairness. The considerable inequality of financial resources available to a prosecutor and defendant (mostly legally aided) means most defendants cannot fund a suitable defence and are exposed to unscrupulous tactics such as pressure in pleading guilty to false accounting to avoid imprisonment in some of these cases. This inquiry shows that any failings of a private prosecutor cannot be adequately managed by the criminal justice system or during the individuals criminal trial process, confirmed by the miscarriage of justice in the private prosecution of these sub-postmasters.

    1. All true. And more concerning also is the Scottish experience; look at the closing submissions in phase 4 – anyone who thinks this could have been avoided had the Po needed to defer to another prosecuting authority need only look at what happened in Scotland to see that’s untrue.

  13. I thought today’s proceedings were actually quite scary.
    It was clear that a very senior barrister had repeatedly turned a blind eye to his legal responsibilities.
    By rights, you would expect his credibility to be shot and his career finished.

    1. It won’t matter much to most of these lawyers if their careers are brought to an end. They are mostly coming up to retirement anyway, and they will have generous pensions to fall back on. The best one can hope for is that being disbarred will leave a stigma hanging round them.

    2. Agree. Several witnesses have been clearly dim and over-promoted. That’s no excuse and many should be punished. But BA (and HB and SC) had total grasp of the detail and knew exactly what they were doing (which partly explains their defensiveness this week). I found it scary as well as profoundly depressing. Their reputations are indeed done although that really feels too little.

    3. Absolutely.

  14. In Nick Wallis’s comments on Brian Altman’s evidence of yesterday (Wednesday 8/5), namely “Altman had sight of clear evidence of criminal activity (orders to shred documents, misleading a court), massive failures of disclosure (the Misra case), prosecutor misconduct (the Hamilton case), yet he somehow managed to give advices (and, later, set court strategies) which were neatly in line with his client’s wishes”. Doesn’t this constitute contempt of court?

  15. Strange how acting for the Post Office caused so many legal professionals to have “off-days” when they left their professional judgement at the door.

    1. Not just their professional judgement.

      Their morals were removed and put in a pickle jar like an appendix after an operation.

      Just as an appendix no longer has a function in the human body, ethics were made redundant and obsolete in the body of any legal professional exposed to the Post Office.

      How can anyone who has listened to Jarnail Singh, once let alone twice, still have confidence in past prosecutions? Altman and sound judgement?.

      For that decision alone he should be laughed out of the legal profession. His reputation in shreds.

      A joker, a picker, a grinner, a lover
      and a sinner?

      He certainly seemed to be in awe of his client who were happy splashing taxpayers cash to massage Altman’s massive ego.

      Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time
      Ooh wee baby, I’ll sure show you a good time.

      What about those alleged law (and possibly tax) dodgers who were showing him such a good time?

      Whether he was aware of it or not, he was almost their consigliere?

      We are talking the Post Office Mafia.

      Happy to cover up their previous embezzlement racket they did try to go legitimate, but unfortunately the cover up, slow downs and splashing of taxpayers cash on legal costs failed.

      Outside the Post Office Board meeting room there could have been a sign that said please hang your backbone on the spine stand before entering the room.

      Plus your eyes, ears, mouth, pens, paper and all electronic devices.

      See no evil, hear no evil, speak like an automaton. Continue as before, no change.

      1. Superbly put! Thank you for your excellent observations!! If only you had been there to make them to the guilty parties at the time!!

  16. Wonder really whether his rise to such heady heights was then merely somebody had to be there and far from real merit. How could he have been duped so easily by the PO? Money? Just to busy to spare enough time on the job?

    Then the critical misjudgment, to decide that Roderick and Jarnail were competent and not a joke, as they have appeared, beggars belief.

  17. Mr Altman, as with so many others whose evidence I have seen, said repeatedly that all of this looks very different in hindsight. That may be true to a certain extent, but it is notable all of these individuals had no foresight whatsoever. Another common thread is that everybody did – at best – a half-arsed job: at every turn, it is someone else’s responsibility, or something that can be dealt with later on. In BAKC’s case the most egregious example of this was performing his review without reference to the effect of Gareth Jenkins’ by then demonstrably dodgy witness evidence. His lack of professional curiosity is astonishing, and his lack of professionalism in reducing the scope of his instructions (to remove reference to Jenkins’ evidence and then failing to return to it) is one of the biggest failures of this sorry story.

  18. Nick Canfield avatar
    Nick Canfield

    “a career-ending combination”
    Sadly, I think it unlikely Brian will have his life upended.
    Real Justice would dictate that he be taken from the enquiry to a Prison Cell awaiting the slow wheels of our court system to put him on trial (with full disclosure).
    In reality, I doubt if his liberty and high standard of living will change.
    Seema Misra, Noel Thomas……….. He will not give them a second thought.

  19. Martin Allen avatar

    How much does a senior barrister’s integrity cost?

    North of £800 per hour!

  20. Employing the phrase “I have seen no evidence to suggest… ” suggests Altman knew exactly what he was doing.

  21. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Dick the Butcher, Henry VI, Shakespeare

  22. When Altman displayed his open annoyance at his failures being highlighted to him numerous times, would it not have been appropriate for counsel to remind the learned gentleman of the distress imprisonment and death and loss of livelihoods that had occurred as a result of those very failures. And the numerous memory losses that likewise contributed to this woeful situation.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. He may well have “conceded the point” about failing to disclose Gareth Jenkins was a “tainted” witness nine times (if we include Sir Wyn’s final clarification on it) but I don’t recall him apologising for it – even once.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. He may well have “conceded the point” about failing to disclose Gareth Jenkins was a “tainted” witness nine times (if we include Sir Wyn’s final clarification on it) but I don’t recall him apologising for it – even once.

      Message to the moderator: why do you delete ALL my comments? What’s wrong with them?

    3. I couldn’t agree more. He may well have “conceded the point” about failing to disclose Gareth Jenkins as a “tainted” witness nine times (if we include Sir Wyn’s final clarification on it) but I don’t recall him apologising for it – even once.

    4. It’s an Inquiry. Point is to Inquire, not make or score points. It’s not journalism or entertainment. It’s an Inquiry.

      1. I would largely agree with you Claudia; in that the purpose of an Inquiry is to reveal the TRUTH of a situation without being adversarial, and for the most part Counsel to the Inquiry has led with a straight bat. However, I assume you haven’t watched Jason Beer KC’s questioning of “Comedy Lawyer”, Jarnail Singh, on 30.11.23, 1.12.23 and last Friday (3.5.24) if you think the Inquiry has had no element of “entertainment”. Obviously, Mr Beer KC handled Singh brilliantly (and, mostly, politely) over those three days, but even he couldn’t help both making and scoring points in the face of a witness whose rambling, bumbling responses to his questions showed not one iota of credibility, culminating in Mr Beer KC telling Singh that he was telling the Inquiry “a big, fat lie”.

        1. Ass-u-me ing is never smart. Unlike many commenting I have watched ALL the evidence. Singh was an exception largely because in his phase 4 evidence he made it clear he wouldn’t answer qns so JB went further.
          If you actually read my comment I didn’t say it has no entertainment. It is gripping.
          I said that’s not the point. This is a judicial process, not an itv sequel. It’s beyond me how people feel entitled or appropriate to criticise those at the top of their field, rightly funded at massive public expense, simply because they want to be entertained or because they misunderstand the context.
          Alan Bates has said he’ll crowdfund pvt prosecutions IF the Inquiry fails SPMs. If it’s good enough for him to let it run its proper course, it’s really time for all the rubberneckers to wind in their vicarious and ignorant necks and let the Inquiry team do it’s job.
          Summaries and reporting are appropriate and important; much of the commentary simply isn’t.

          1. BARKLEY Alastair avatar
            BARKLEY Alastair

            Is that you, Paula..?

          2. It’s an interesting point you raise Claudia. I have been fascinated by the distinct differences between the methodical accumulation of inquiry evidence made public and the opportunity for a trial by television this inquiry supplies. As spectators we can have no expectation of a daily dose of scripted vigorous legal drama. We can have no expectation of smoking gun evidence and no expectation of witnesses crumbling under close examination to provide cliff hanger moments. Real life is boring. We invented TV drama because our day to day real life is not memorable.

            We can however take some pleasure in how some participants have lost any and all reputation in the process. This comes from small victories like how Rodrick Williams stutters the word “sorry” 145 times whilst deliberately giving slow evidence but never once takes responsibility for the harm his attitudes and actions inflicted. I never knew how the word sorry could be so cynically repeated again and again before this inquiry supplied us the evidence of it.

          3. Alastair- brilliant job of making my point. Vennells may well deserve prosecution but she was unlikely the worst and definitely not alone. Anyone who ass-u-me s so is getting their info from a brilliant but microscopic dramatisation of the events – itv had 4 hours less ad time and singling out PV is like you suggesting only those SPMs who were featured deserve redress.

    5. Sadly, and as a lawyer, I already feel that in many respects the legal profession has let the legal profession off lightly so far. But its not a trial, it’s an inquiry so maybe different.

      1. I agree exactly Nick and Len yes many have got off lightly so far. Many more have watched that than if this were a trial. That’s great for raising awareness and public pressure in an election year – but all that’s wrong is illustrated by 4x numbers signing petition to strip cbe than Chris head’s to speed up financial redress.
        Sra, bsb, police, many more are waiting for the Inquiry to run its course. We are only seeing a fraction of the evidence it has gathered (much more than the Met managed on GJ). We are using public millions quite rightly to fund it.
        If that’s good enough for Alan Bates it’s good enough for me. Sir Wynn reminded spectators on first day of phase 5/6 this is a judicial process.
        It’s not a tv drama, it’s not mob justice, it’s not the stocks, and it’s not there to entertain people who wish to dip in and out, read cherry-picked headlines chosen for sensationalism rather than central importance, and impose their own ignorant verdict – apparently too much reality tv has confused people 🤯

  23. Altman’s CV and demeanour and bearing might have led one to expect one of those “Rolls-Royce minds” that supposedly used to people the upper reaches of the civil service. In fact, after the epidemic amnesia of the ‘legals’ in this case, one expects a well-spoken posh bloke doing a job poorly, showing a touching faith in the sort of people who have disgraced themselves in front of this inquiry.
    Honestly, all this training and all the resources of this lot and they think they can appear and hide behind forgetfulness and a touching faith in their employers should ensure lengthy prison sentences or huge fines.
    What a bunch of crooks and enablers!

    1. There goes his Knighthood along with his reputation

  24. Elena Robisch avatar

    I would like to know who made the decision that each sub postmaster/mistress would be told each was the only one having problems with the balances. Has this been discovered yet?

    1. Agreed. The lawyers have been weak so far in exploring how the organisation operated. Maybe that’s because they haven’t worked in a large organisation?

      1. That is something I have been looking for also. According to “Mr. Bates…” the helpline operators said it, and the investigators said it.

        Finding the source of that strategem would be a “Smoking gun” re the conspiracy.

      2. Again, people are missing how this works. Thousands if questions are put in written requests for both disclosure and written statements and it’s clear from Counsel comments those have included about helpline scripts and ‘the only one’ line. Millions of documents and hundreds of witness statements are reviews by the inquiry – we see a fraction of the former and of the latter only those called for oral evidence- until the rest are published at the end of each phase (which most people don’t bother to read). Counsel have not been “weak” on this it’s clear from their comments they are acutely focused on it (and particularly PO having disclosed none). That doesn’t however make it a good use of limited (rightly publicly funded and massively expensive) limited oral witness time, when the replies wd be denial/ignorance and take evidence in which WW must report no further, simply because the ignorant baying masses would find that gratifying and entertaining.
        It’s one of the most chilling aspects of the many scandals. Im not defending it or anyone. But I also know it will be raised in oral evidence if/when that is appropriate- even the spm rlrs have raised it in disclosure evidence rather than in cross-examining witnesses. Counsel knows what they are doing, Ww can obviously draw adverse inferences from the lack of disclosure of scripts, silence and denials.
        Many of the lawyers have repeatedly commented on it and the failure to disclose. James Arbuthnot evidence mentioned it several times. Not satisfying those who confuse this with a tv drama, reality tv or judge Judy doesn’t make the lawyers “weak”. It means they understand their job – and WW appointed them because they are top of the field.
        Again: if giving the a inquiry a chance to do its job is good enough for Alan Bates, it baffles me how many dipping in and out on the basis of partial evidence/ selected sensationalism feel entitled to pontificate that they know better.

    2. Nick Gardner avatar

      its a really interesting and important question. i haven’t watched all the enquiry evidence so don’t know if its been put to relevant witnesses (eg the investigators) and if so with what result. Does anyone know? circumstantially the evidence appears to suggest pretty clearly this must have been an agreed tactic – but agreed by whom and who knew? it smells very like conspiracy to pervert the course of justice to me.

      1. Watch Angela van den Bogerds testimony. She was responsible for the hotline scripts. Apparently these scripts have vanished and although not proven it seems likely that John Scott (or someone in his department) has shredded them during his shredding frenzy. Again this isn’t proven but it seems a very likely cause of events. I think the fact these scripts have vanished is a confession by the person writing them that they knew their line was a lie all along.

      2. Many comments made in disclosure hearings and surrounding debates re Adjournment. Mentioned to various witnesses on failure to find any. Repeatedly noted by James Arbuthnot.
        They are on it!

  25. Call it subterfuge, hiding behind absolutes or what you will. I choose to call it behaviour akin to this character:
    Roger the Dodger, a comic strip character. He first appeared in his eponymous comic strip in 1953,[4] and is one of the longest-running characters, characterised by his tactics for avoiding responsibility.

  26. The real issue is one that hasn’t been discussed and that is the apparent fact that working for the POL or one of its law firms, causes memory loss. Perhaps there was something in the ventilation system. It is tragic how many have lost considerable parts of their memory.

    1. Ms Jane Paul avatar

      Yes, Sir Wyn commented yesterday about getting very used to people saying they “couldn’t remember” when questioned. He asked Altman to clarify what kind of ‘amnesia’ he had… (in so many words)

  27. Nick Gardner avatar

    I continue to be astonished how nobody, from Brian Altman KC down, apparently realised that Gareth Jenkins (even before his tainted evidence) was not the right person to be an expert witness for the prosecution. I’m not a criminal lawyer but I was for a long time a civil lawyer handling complex IT litigation and as matter of course you know you need an independent neutral appropriately qualified person to opine on the technical issues – instructing the architect of the system in issue to opine on whether his system works ok is likely to produce a predictable answer. Combine that with Cartwright Kings wholesale failure to instruct him on what his duties as an expert involved led to a probably entirely predictable outcome. I’d be very interested to know to what extent these issues were explored (if at all) in his cross examination (which presumably happened) at the Misra trial where he gave oral evidence.

    1. indeed….how on earth can he be recognised in court as independent..? when known as architect. if that was known.?
      The whole system and process was rigged against the poor Sub Postmasters.

      1. Yes you would have thought also that all the judges in the cases would have smelled a rat. Why didn’t they reject the testimony of the so called expert witness as he blatantly biased?

    2. A question that I have also wrestled with. It seems to have been a failing of the court as well – how on earth did they not pick up that he should only ever have been a witness of fact on its workings, and could not give opinion evidence on the IT system of which he was himself the chief architect? To the question “was this a good way of doing this?” he would inevitably respond “of course – I can’t think of a better way of doing it”. A shocking failing of the criminal justice system at almost every level, and without Mr Justice Fraser’s judgment (which could very easily have not happened had the recusal application been successful), the failure would still be hidden safely away.

    3. In the Misra trial, the defendant’s expert seems to have caved in on a number of the expert issues, so that by the time that the joint experts’ report (or at least the final report) was compiled he had been convinced by Gareth Jenkins that most of the key points raised were not problematic. That limited the scope of any XX, and the point on his suitability to give opinion evidence seems not to have been addressed.

  28. Tim Shapcott avatar

    Excellent summary…..

    Both Beer and the cross examination did very well to break and highlight the dereliction of duty to consider the court before his wealthy client.
    Great way to end his career….!!

  29. Alan Cornforth avatar
    Alan Cornforth

    I was so looking forward to the KC battle, Stein vs Altman, but they were allocated less than 20 mins for their bout and so it was never really allowed to get going. I know there is a purpose to the 4-5 hour pre-amble from Beer & Co each day but it’s only the “invited guests” at the end who make the whole day worth watching!

    1. Absolutely, it seems such a missed opportunity to allow Counsel for Subpostmasters such a restrictive slot.

    2. Indeed. It’s hard to criticise Sir Wyn but surely the lawyers for the core clients should not be so severely limited in the time allowed.

    3. I agree that it would be great if core participants’ lawyers weren’t so time-bound, if only to give the wronged SPMs the satisfaction of watching their lawyers land some blows on the largely arrogant, lying witnesses, but to describe Counsel to the Inquiry’s questioning as mere “pre-amble” shows a lack of understanding of the crucial work of the Inquiry to reveal the TRUTH of what has happened. Jason Beer KC has been SUPERB in doing this and even though he has done so without bloodying too many noses, his calm revelations have been all the more powerful for such restraint.

    4. Beer was masterful. He’s top of field in public inquiries and it’s mostly his questions and evidence that will allow WW to write presumably damning report. I’m all for restorative justice but that’s a different forum. This is an an Inquiry; it’s not a tv drama for tuning in to the bits ‘worth watching’.

      1. Alan Cornforth avatar
        Alan Cornforth

        My comment was slightly tongue-in-cheek, hence me calling it a “bout” and using “pre-amble” – as I had watched the entire day and didn’t just tune in for the core-participants then I am qualified to speak on it I believe. If you watch the sparkle in Jo Hamilton’s eyes when she knows she is on camera, then you will see that the inquiry has become a little bit more than the sum of its parts – btw, I am not a fan of TV drama, real life is more interesting!

    5. Can’t agree with you or the supportive replies. I would have been embarrassed to have instructed those three participant barristers yesterday. An exception for Flora Page the previous day.

    6. Agree. Stein was getting under his skin very successfully.

  30. Julian Hofmann avatar
    Julian Hofmann

    For all his experience and “de haut en bas” attitude, Brian Altman’s credibility comes down to whether his actions, or lack of, match the chain of documents he has created during the course of his work for POL.

    As with so many of the lawyers, Altman’s inaction when confronted with clear evidence of misdeeds is highly damning and suggests that he was aiding and abetting his client rather than merely advising. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the inquiry will take his word seriously, which must be humiliating for man of his quite evident self-regard when the legal world is watching.

    By constrast, Alan Bates is a highly credible witness because of his careful assembling of correspondence and documents over two decades. The inquiry has already noted that very little of what he claims cannot be backed up by written evidence, which is why the Post Office fought so hard to strike out parts of his testimony in the trials.

    In the end, hubris is always followed by nemesis. In Brian Altman’s case, the combination of Seema Misra and a little man from North Wales called Alan could prove to be a career-ending combination.

    1. > In the end, hubris is always followed by nemesis.

      I concur.

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