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Nick Wallis @nickwallis
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Here we are in court 26 of the Rolls Building, for Day 4 of the #postofficetrial. The fourth Lead Claimant Naushad Abdulla will begin being cross examined in Bates v Post Office a couple of minutes time. This is the first tweet of a long thread. Enjoy.
For more info on this trial, please go to
NA became Subpostmaster (SPMR) in the Charlton (?) branch from 2006 to 2009. Worked there for just over 2 years.
David Cavender QC is cross-examining for the PO. I will call him QC for the purposes and Naushad is going to be NA.
QC again starts his xe with a statement about memory not being great as we are talking about events of 11 years ago.
NA Such a traumatic event sticks in the mind
QC what, the signing of contracts?
NA no that was a happy time - I was very pleased to be selected as SPMR after all the work I put into the application.

NA was a salesperson before becoming an SPMR selling therapeutic medicines to GPs
QC says he would have had to know the details of the medicines he was selling.
NA broadly agrees
QC now looking at his cv - taking him through his “excellent organisation and planning skills”
and “intelligent analytical outlook”
NA explaining why he used those terms
QC notes from his SPMR application he put himself as a “voyager champion” - a software application that relayed info about his sales team to head office
NA explaining what he did - how he entered data into the system
QC you also had to ensure the figures tallied up
NA no not really - i just had to input the figures
QC in your interview with PO you said you had to check and change figures and make sure they tallied up
NA says no that’s wrong
QC was being an SPMR important to you
NA yes I wanted to make a more stable life for myself, I had small children a mortgage to pay and there were a lot of redundancies in the pharmaceutical sector at the time
QC so you weren’t commercially naive?
NA that depends on the context
QC you were an experience businessperson
NA I was a sales person - I’d never owned a business before.

We move on to contract discussions with NA's predecessor.

I’ve just been sent Mr Abdulla’s witness statement (WS) - will try to scan that whilst tweeting.

It *was* the Charlton branch he ran. NA has just said in court he never saw the SPMR contract before taking on his branch and if he had he would have taken legal advice. No one in their right mind would sign it, he said. “There would be no agents left!”
Mr Abdulla is the most voluble of the witnesses to take the stand to date. He is cutting in over the PO QC and has already told the PO QC not to interrupt him. Getting lively.
PO QC uses the term agent. NA stops him - it wasn’t an agent - he says. It was a franchise - that was the word that was bandied about at the time.
NA "When you have a problem there is no support. The helpline is useless.”
QC goes back to the contract. You would have expected a contract to contain detailed terms governing your relationship with the PO.
NA to tell you the truth I was really happy with getting the job so I just signed everything and sent it off the same day.
NA going on the offensive here. He says when you buy a house you actually sign the contract, when you get a job you sign a contract. Can anyone provide me with the Post Office contract I signed? Where is it because I’d like to see it.
PO QC says we’ll move on to that in a moment.
QC starts on whether he discussed the SPMR contract with his predecessor.
NA says no. if he had maybe it would have raised red flags
Judge intervening to say to NA he knows it’s been an emotional experience that there is a lot you want to say and I know that you must be cross with a lot of the things that mr cavender has to say, but please just focus on the q’s you are being asked.
Judge says it might seem very one sided but that is the way the process works and he assures NA he has read his witness statement.
NA apologises and says he understands.
We are back on track looking at documents which NA is asked if he can remember reading.
On his first letter from the PO, the QC says did you read this?
NA says just the first paragraph
QC you remember 11 years ago reading just the first par?
This is the first communication you got from the PO - surely you would have been interested in what the whole letter said?
NA prevaricates and says its the way the letter is being presented on screen which is confusing
QC [incredulity] is that your answer?
QC you read the paragraphs you like but not the ones I want you to read?
[as I said - getting lively]
NA now being asked about the attachments he would have received with the letter, but admits the PO can’t now find them, but says they would have been attached.
NA now familiarising himself with them on screen.
NA agreeing he read this document at the time of applying to be an SPMR.
QC do you therefore accept that you received certain sections of the SPMR contract?
NA agrees
The gist of this, as has been the gist of most early parts of the PO QC’s xe is that all the claimants xe’d so far were sensible, commercially savvy people who would not have gone into a business relationship without understanding the terms of the contract.
QC asks what he did when he received a summary of the contract
NA notes this only contains a summary of the contract and notes it also says, alongside the terms, it “cannot be relied upon for any purpose”
NA says when you read that…
QC moves swiftly on
QC back to a discussion about the agent/principal relationship
NA says franchise was the word I heard
QC nowhere in any of the documents does it says franchise
NA okay - agent is fine too. I knew I wasn’t going to be an employee.
QC asks if he understood his responsibility for his staff
NA fulsomely agrees but notes when he took on the branch he was reliant on them as they were experienced and he wasn’t. he had to trust them.
QC asks if he understood his responsibility to account for the Post Office’s money?
NA agrees
QC and that you could not hide what you were doing from them
NA are you accusing me of hiding their money
QC we’ll come to that
Please note unless anything is in a direct quote it is a paraphrase. I think I got the gist of the exchange in the last tweet, but it’s possible “hide” was not the word that was used.
NA can talk.
QC interrupts him asking if he could just answer the question he is putting to him - “we don’t need a soliloquy every time I put something to you.”
QC still pushing hard on the docs NA must have seen, read or studied in order to prepare for his interview and take on his branch.
NA agreeing he understood the broad ares of his responsibilities - staff, PO cash and stock,
QC homes in on branch accounts
QC you understood you had to prepare branch accounts
NA do you remember being told by PO employee Elaine Ridge your responsibility wrt losses and that you had to make them good immediately.
QC still going on the interview NA had with Elaine Ridge - the subjects discussed, responsibilities outlined etc
NA calls it a checklist. he pushed back on a couple of things - says ER never gave him examples of the scale of losses he might have to pay back
QC asks if she mentioned suspension
NA says definitely not
Judge asks if he was told about immediate termination
NA says definitely not - it would have raised a red flag and he would have gone away to take advice
QC asks if ER said he should seek professional advice before signing the contract
NA definitely not - goes into long speech about it - said he would have remembered it and if she did he would definitely have done it.
NA says in fact the PO are very good at steering you away from lawyers - they don’t let any lawyer attend any interviews later down the line
QC why are you so good at remembering this detail?
NA I would remember something like this! If someone…
… says get legal advice, you get legal advice!
QC asks if he was required to work at the branch
NA goes on about wanting to be there to help staff with sales and motivate them
QC but you didn’t need to be there did you?
NA why wouldn’t I be?
QC but there was no contractual requirement to be there
NA there was something about 18 hours a week, I think I said in my business plan 14 hours a week so it never came up
QC but there is no requirement to provide a personal service.
NA can I finish my answer cos I keep getting cut off
QC can you look at the document

QC asks a question. NA starts to answer and the gets diverted onto scratchcards.
Sorry to correct a previous tweet, NA committed to working 40, not 14 hours a week.

Okay - point QC is making is that there is no requirement to provide a personal service.
NA insists the figure of 18 hours a week exists somewhere
QC says it doesn’t
NA so I don’t have to be there at all?
QC no
NA that doesn’t make sense… who would be the SPMR?
QC you would.
NA… sorry that doesn’t register with me.
NA is not rambling. he is loqacious and intelligent, but he doesn’t see where the QC is trying to take him and would much rather talk about his own experience, which is not really why he is in the stand. Tho as the judge pointed out, it is understandable that…
… he would want to get things off his chest.
NA isn’t suspicious, he just doesn’t seem to see why the conversation is structured in the way it is. Or doesn’t care how it is structured. He is being very respectful, though.
Judge intervenes to take him to a doc...
in which Elaine Ridge signs a note of her conversation with NA.
QC asks if it is accurate
NA wants to draw his attention to something else in the document
QC says can you look at what I want you to look at
NA digs in and lists what he wants to list
Judge intervenes to check a point with PO QC “because I think we have gone slightly off-piste”
He says he understands ER’s note to be an agreement that NA would work 18 hours a week. Is that a misunderstanding?
QC says it is.
NA starts to interrupt.
Judge puts him in his place “Mr Abdulla. Just sit there quietly for a bit.”
and continues exploring the “factual point that is being put about the interview… what was put to NA about the hours”
It sounds like Elaine Ridge is going to be one of the witnesses who will be xe’d later in the trial.
QC when you were talking about partnerships you were using it in the “cuddly” sense
NA i was using it in the sense of working together to make money
[presume to clarify he didn’t think the legal status of the PO/SPMR relationship was a partnership]
QC now asking about his skill operating computers “you were a computer champion”
NA no I wasn’t you’re putting words where they shouldn’t be. I am not an IT expert.
Row now starting between the QCs about a supposed agreement they made during a conversation they had just before today’s xe.
NA “I can answer it!”
Judge “All three of you just stop a minute.”
Judge overrules JFSA QCs objection and allows PO QC to ask the question
Judge - now mr abdulla you really are going to have to rein in your answers.
NA I was just painting a picture
Judge - I know that, but Mr Cavender is going to put some specific points to you.
PO QC is asking about training and how much NA understood about his responsibilities in this area.
NA denies he should have responsibility for training on Horizon.
QC it should just be limited to products, is that what you’re saying?
NA that’s what it does say here
QC not in the section here
NA but it does at the top here - the whole section is about products.
QC my lord, would this be a good time for a short break?
Judge I think that is a very good idea.
Judge rises. I am looking forward to the rest of Mr Abdulla’s evidence.
Just looking through NA’s WS - many echoes of other SPMRs experiences - I’ll put it up unformatted online now - then get back to the xe - which is still about NA’s understanding of his contract.
NA protesting that he wasn’t thinking about the details of his contract when he was accepted as an SPMR. He says “I trusted the Post Office - so even if I didn’t have have the contract with me I was happy to be bound by the terms.”
NA says he doesn’t want to repeat himself, but he didn’t get the contact.
QC says he does not accept that for one moment.
NA agrees he didn’t take legal advice before signing up to the job.
QC you could have done - you could have said “look I’ve got this contract…”
NA I told you I didn’t have the contract
QC if you didn’t have it you would have asked about it
NA says he said to PO staff member when he was signing his papers on transfer date he asked if he would get his contract.
QC is this in your witness statement?
NA no it’s only just something I mention now
QC I would suggest if that’s true it would be in your witness statement
NA it was only something I mentioned in person on the day.

There is clearly a huge amount riding on whether or not SPMRs had a copy of their contracts. The PO QC is spending cumulative…
… hours on insisting SPMRs had their full 144 page contracts.
This would presumably be a lot easier if the Post Office could produce signed copies of those contracts as evidence.
QC now questioning NA about transfer day
NA “it was so rushed we didn’t have time to ask about signing things” and that’s when I asked about the contract?
QC so you were so rushed you couldn’t read your contracts but you still have time to ask questions?
QC which was it? you didn’t read anything or you had the contracts and you took time to stop and discuss them?
NA It was very busy I just mentioned it in passing
QC Mr Abdulla I put it to you that you’re making this up as you go along.
NA No!
NA I am not making anything up.
QC asks who was at transfer day
NA I can only remember Christine Adams.
QC read your witness statement
QC you say Ms Stevens attended
NA Christine Adams changed her name to Stevens or the other way around
QC that’s not true
NA well I think you need to do your research then, because they are definitely the same person.

There is a lot of activity on the PO lawyers benches talking to the PO observers.
QC goes back to the contracts - you wouldn’t sign anything you knew to be untrue, would you?
NA depends on the contract
QC asks him about his contract
NA [sotto voce] Oh my god…
[pause] my Lord, do I need to answer that again?
Judge: not if it’s the same
… answer you gave before.
NA it is
Judge okay
QC asking again about the docs he signed on transfer day
NA insisting he didn’t read them properly because things were so busy…
QC asking what he understood about more documents he was signing
NA sorry what is the point of this conversation
The QC has made his point. We move on….
QC now asking about Horizon
NA expected it to be good
QC and that you would expect training on its use
NA yes
QC and a reasonable helpline to assist you with any problems going forwards
NA not just a helpline - many other avenues of support
QC moves on to cause of deficits in NA’s branch.
QC you query a range of transaction corrections (TC’s) and banking cheques - say Horizon is at fault
QC first of all - and PO don’t accept any of what you say in your WS...
... it will be the subject of another trial. But you accept you don’t have to accept a TC.
NA you either accept it straight away or you settle it centrally and then you have to accept it later.
QC that’s not right.
QC let’s refer you to your training manual
NA I didn’t have that I had a laminated sheet
QC pauses
JFSA QC stands up to note his concern about this line of questioning and says in the PO’s defence it expressly accepts there is no way within Horizon…
… to dispute a shortfall.
Judge notes this.
PO QC pausing still.
PO QC raises JFSA QC’s “pleading point” and asks judge and witness to look at a document concerning TCs which is part of a pleading in the litigation.
NA says he hasn’t seen this before. Judge asks him to read it.
PO QC says if SPMR wishes to dispute a TC he must contact the author of the TC directly to dispute.
NA You either accept it or accept it centrally
QC and then dispute it which allows you to rollover
Judge asks witness to explain how it worked for him.
NA explains the two buttons on H which allow to settle to cash or settle centrally
QC says you can still dispute it though, and by disputing it you can rollover
NA once you settle centrally, even if you dispute, you still have to settle it before moving into the next trading period
QC I suggest you’re wrong
NA I suggest I’m right.
QC moves on
NA takes him back to explain the process again to the judge
NA whether you agree with it or not you have to accept it
QC but you are not under pressure to accept it. you can settle centrally, put it into dispute and you can carry on trading…
NA tries to explain something about a TC possibly coming down the next day. I didn’t understand it.
Interesting query about a TC popping up just on his login or on all screens in the branch.
QC says he can tell who was using the branch terminals
NA asks how would he know if someone had accepted a TC if it came up on their screen and they pressed it there and then.
They move on to issues with cheques.
NA This whole process is fundamentally flawed. He starts explaining the process, at length. I’ll copy it in from his WS
A particular issue which causes me concern when reading this list is the number of
apparently lost cheques. Throughout my appointment Post Office held me responsible
for any cheques which apparently went missing on the way from the branch to the...
… bank. Post Office simply accepted that if the bank said a cheque hadn’t been received
then the fault was with me, and I had to pay in this amount. It is clear from the list of
transaction corrections that this happened on many occasions and for cheques for...

hundreds and thousands of pounds. Post Office didn’t carry out any investigation, it
just sent me a copy of the record of cheques I had sent out, and a photo copy of the
cheques the bank said it had received. I could not...
…. prove to Post Office that the missing
cheques had in fact been sent, and Post Office always accepted the bank’s position
where there was disagreement about this.
NA ends his explanation saying “a 10 year old would be able to come up with a better system than this”
PO QC pushes back and says but you are required to keep a record of all cheque remittances for a number of years
NA explains that the docket has the total but not the sums of individual cheques.
They move on to the audit date. NA was abroad at the time. He said when he got the call he thought it was a sick joke.
QC you thought this was a joke
NA it is a figure of speech
Judge you thought the phone call was someone making a joke
NA yes
QC well what did you think of the £5K shortfall (£4398)
NA explains he had a 5 counter PO, they had between £100K and £150K in the safe at any given time.
QC starts talking about his witness statement and the deficit found in his branch - starts moving onto the possibility of false accounting and what NA said at interview with the PO after his audit.
NA is asking questions about this
Judge stops proceedings. He says - right we’re going to have lunch. To [to NA] During lunch you are going refamiliarise yourself with your WS and the doc on your screen. Don’t talk to anyone about your evidence. he rises. Lunch.
If you want to read Naushad Abdulla’s witness statement while he is doing the same - it’s here online:…
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