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Nick Wallis @nickwallis
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Day 4 afternoon session of Bates v Post Office Common Issues trial in court 26 of the Rolls Building has begun. With legal argument. This will be a thread throughout the rest of the afternoon. #postofficetrial
Judge warns Mr Abdulla about the civil evidence act which entitles him to refuse to answer a question if he thinks it exposes him to criminal action. It’s re his WS and the interview with the PO after his suspension.#postofficetrial
… in which he was interviewed under suspicion of misuse of public funds and false accounting.
Naushad Abdulla (NA) says he understands his right not to answer if he chooses.
PO QC has been asked to ask tight, self-contained questions.
NA stops that first question to make a speech about how vulnerable he felt at the time and said he accepted things he shouldn’t have done.
QC asks about the £2.5K personal cheque found in the safe.
NA says he would put a personal cheque in to cover the loss in the office as advised by his staff when told previous SPMR did the same.
Very long justification from NA about putting this cheque in to cover losses, which he would then rip up when things balanced.
QC why didn’t you put the cheques into Horizon
NA I didn’t need to
QC Why did you overstate the mutilated notes, by £2,500?
NA I don’t agree with that.
QC you had a personal cheque in the safe for £2,500 and the mutilated notes were inflated by £2,500.
NA the reason for that might be to cover the total amount of mutilated notes coming into the branch.
QC what it says in your interview and what I suggest what happened is that you put in an undated personal cheque in the safe to try to cover the H shortfall.

… in case someone, like the Post Office came along.
NA no that’s not right
QC you put an undated personal cheque in the safe to cover the losses you were not declaring to Horizon or the Post Office.
NA says it was suggested to him - rather than keep putting the cash in and taking it out when he got a TC. Just keep a cheque in the safe. Voluntarily denies any malicious intent and asks why he would jeopardise his whole career…
… for 3 or 4 grand when he was earning a salary of £120 a year.
QC takes him on to his admission during his post-suspension interview that he was artificially inflated the figures in his balance.
NA says he was very vulnerable and admitted to things he should not have admitted to. He tries to explain what he was doing.
QC says all the personal cheques you put into the safe… you never had any intention of putting them through Horizon?
NA well no not quite - there wouldn’t have been any point because you get a TC down that balances the accounts and you don’t need the cheque so what would be the point of putting it through.
QC you admitted in your interview you artificially inflated the cash on your account
NA I thought I was in an interview to get my job back and I admitted the mistake. That cheque was there to cover the shortfalls.
NA It only happened because I was out of the country and couldn’t cash the cheque for the auditors. My experience of audits was that if there is a shortfall, you pay the balance with the cheque and you can carry on trading.
QC But you didn’t put the cheque through Horizon.
NA notes that even his NFSP rep said this was common practice by SPMRs
These were not losses they were mistakes within Horizon - I was getting duplicate TCs time and time again because someone behind H - these were not losses to the PO, they were losses to me.
QC by keeping the undated cheque in the till that money remains in your bank account.
NA yeah but the post office did not lose any money - there were mistakes
NA when I accepted doing false accounting [in the interview] that was my biggest mistake. If I knew the legal implications of what I was admitting I wouldn’t have done it. I wasn’t allowed to take a lawyer to the interview, now I know why….
… I was trapped because I was vulnerable and I just wanted my job back.
Computer is slowly going to sleep. Am going to reboot. Excuse the hiatus.
NA gives long speech about his honesty and belief he was doing the right thing.
QC You knew your declarations were untrue.
QC You knew you were misleading the PO
QC And you did so deliberately.
Now moves on to his assistants
NA I 100% trusted them. I would test them occasionally, but honestly they were great.
QC all errors were by you or your assistants in your branch
NA no it was either H or someone behind H. It’s riddled with errors from start to finish.
NA I believe this was all planned it was a conspiracy because i was on a lucrative contract and it was all a national cost-cutting measure
NA is genuinely ranting now about branch closures and etc
QC sends him to a specific document - you say you paid the amount outstanding
NA I thought I was going to get my job back that day I knew it wasn’t a real loss
NA goes off on a big rant again
Judge cuts in “Mr Abdulla - I’ve been very patient. We don’t have much time, you are really going to just have to answer the questions put to you by Mr Cavender...
Judge assures him, he’d read his witness statement.
QC goes back to his agreement to pay the amount outstanding. Another long answer ends by saying it’s not a genuine loss - everyone knows that. It’s a loss to me - but it’s not a loss to the Post Office, it’s just a mistake...
… and they just make you think you’re going to get your job back but in fact they just want your money and then they can get rid of you.
She just wanted me to pay the money off that’s why it was all nicey nicey - then when she’s got that it’s just suspended and terminated.
QC not once in your interview did you mention the contract.
NA well I didn’t need it until things went wrong and by then it had gone out of my mind.
QC lets’ get on to your H training. You don’t think it was good, right.
NA no you’re taking it out of context.
Well you tell me what you think you mean.
NA I said my classroom training was very good, very thorough.
QC taught how to balance?
NA we had our tills not a 5 counter office or all the stuff out the back. It wasn’t relevant to doing the balancing a 5 counter office.
QC You were given lots of guides during this course about balancing
NA It was mainly about sales - when it came to balancing we had one till and if you go through your training it looks relatively easy to balance, but it’s not like that in real life.
NA I had a balancing guide, but didn’t have a H manual.
QC what did the balancing guide say?
NA it was the laminated sheet I used

Discussion about the level and quality of the training he got.
Stock balancing 3hrs, helpline 1.5hrs…

NA agrees training was thorough
NA but says it was okay in a classroom environment but not when things go wrong.
NA suggests what should have happened was that someone should come in and try to help, not "audit, suspension, termination, bam!"
On to the helpline.
NA ringing up was one thing, getting through was another and speaking to someone who could actually help was quite hard so after a while you start to give up.
QC I put to you that you falsified your dec to the PO and you signed a declaration saying you had falsified those statements. I am going to put to the judge that as you are capable of doing that you are capable of falsifying your evidence and therefore his lordship
… should disregard your evidence. Would you like to say anything about that.
NA No it’s entirely untrue I thought I was doing the right thing and I would do it again I got no support from the PO. Why would I jeopardise my livelihood and my business to do this.
PO QC has done with NA. JFSA QC has no re-examination. Judge asking NA to clarify a couple of technical points about his evidence.
It is done. Naushad Abdullah leaves the witness box.
Judge asking PO for hard copies of the training documents referred to by Mr Abdulla in court. He rises for a 10 minute break.
I did actually manage to get a photo of Mr Abdulla. That was an epic few hours.
5th lead claimant in this trial is Liz Stockdale. She will be cross-examined on her witness statement (which I won’t get till she has been sworn in) next.
Okay Liz Stockdale has been sworn in. Talking about her dates at the Post Office branch she ran - worked there for just 2 years. Managed a clothes shop beforehand.
PO QC asks if she had to read and understand documents as part of her job.
LS Yes
QC and you had good attention to detail?
LS Yes
QC an understanding of contracts and the like
LS Yes
LS’s interest in a PO materialised in late 2013. There is an online resource for helping people realise their application for a Post Office, including guidance on a business plan etc
QC brings a document up which shows LS’s application to become an SPMR.
QC what this shows that you’re not commercially naive, you can put together a business plan… would you agree you are not commercially naive?
LS I would.
QC goes to next note from PO pointing out she is going to get a lot of detail including the contract. That wouldn’t be a surprise to you?
QC doc called “modernising a PO” - did you get it?
LS Yes
QC Did you read it?
LS I suppose so, yes.
QC And you got a contract as part of the pack that was sent to you.
LS yes
QC and then a note you’d get a full contract if you wanted to go ahead.
LS yes
Tick box to say she’s read through the documents and confirmed she’s still interested in the job, and LS confirms she ticked the box because she had read through the contract.
I don’t know Liz Stockdale at all and have no understanding of why she is a lead claimant yet. Hopefully I will receive her full witness statement soon.
QC now referring to the PO witness statement of the man who interviewed her. QC careful to present it as a statement by the witness of what would have happened rather than what did happen.
QC "what’s your recollection of your interview do you remember it well or will you try to do your best to make it up?”
LS yeah pretty good - when I turned up I was quite surprised it was only one person I was expecting more.
LS we spent most of our time talking about my presentation
QC that’s not in dispute. let’s go through what he said he did go through - you can say yes we did discuss that if you remember…
QC were you made aware you would be an agent not an employee
LS yes
QC were you asked about being present in the branch
LS don’t remember any discussion about there being no need for me to be there
QC is it possible he did say it and you don’t remember
LS yes
QC do you remember him mentioning responsibility to staff and training
LS yes
QC responsible for cash stock and balancing hte books?
LS yes
QC responsibility for losses
LS no that was never mentioned.
QC takes LS to document she said she read…
LS reads and says the clause specifically mentions negligence by the operator so it’s only by negligence of the operator
QC well I don’t want to debate with you the meaning of the clause.
QC did you have a discussion about…
QC… fees?
LS yes
QC talked it through? gave you some literature?
LS yes
QC training? on site training classroom training? manuals?
LS yes
QC and made it clear assistant training was down to you
LS yes
QC standards at the branch?
LS yes
QC discussion about fraud robbery and theft?
LS possibly, not at length
QC TCs? errors? shortfall?
LS don’t remember that
QC was it possible you did have that conversation?
LS possible, yes.
QC makin good?
LS possible yes
Weird. QC asking LS to confirm what her interviewer might have said. LS sometimes can’t remember. QC asks if it’s possible. LS says yes. So the details a conversation that two people can’t really remember happening are being confirmed essentially in retrospect.
The inference, I guess, being that it’s reasonable to assume these details were discussed.
QC reading blurb from a shiny document about training, concludes “so training was pretty important to the Post Office, yes?”
LS “It would appear so, yes.”
Just got Liz Stockdale’s witness statement. Hold out.
Liz was SPMR at Sandsacre PO in Bridlington , East Yorks between May 2014 and Sep 2016. Took over at the same time as doing a Branch Transformation.
Uh oh….

Par 101 “I experience unexplained shortfalls from the very beginning.”

"A shortfall of £172.50 showed up during the first balance that I did at the Branch on 21 May 2014. David Longbottom [PO manager] was at the Branch during this balance which was the final part of my Post Office training…"
“… I had no idea what the shortfall related to, and David Longbottom was unable to
identify the cause either. David Longbottom told me to move the amount into the suspense
account and to settle it either…"
“… centrally, or by cash or cheque at the end of the
trading period. I hadn’t previously been told how to do this, and understood that I had no
choice but to do it.”

"These problems continued. On 15 October 2014, unexplained shortfalls of £3,640.52 were
showing on my Branch accounts. I called the Helpline whose unhelpful advice on this I set
out above at paragraph 97.1...
“… I called the Helpline again on or around 21 October 2014 and
again asked for some further training and assistance from Post Office in relation to the
balancing problems I was having. David Longbottom came into my Branch on 29 October
“… to try and work out what was going on. I let him see all of the Horizon records that I
had access to. He printed off various documents from the system but he was unable to find
out what the cause of those shortfalls was…"
“… He said that the problem would be referred to
the Horizon Technical Desk, but I never heard any further from Post Office on this. Instead,
I had a letter from Post Office on 3 November 2014 demanding payment of £3,640.52, being
“the amount you owe to Post Office Ltd”"
"Although I do not recall the details of this visit I am clear that David
Longbottom still did not help me resolve the balance issues I was experiencing.
While I do not remember the date of his visit…"
“… , I recall a Post Office employee called Gary
also visited my Branch in response to the problems I was having with unexplained shortfalls.
Gary apparently worked for Post Office and ran three Post Office branches of his own…"
“...He was unable to get to the bottom of where the discrepancies were coming from, and his
parting advice was simply to “sack all your staff’.
"The same problem repeated itself around six months later. On 29 April 2015, unexplained
shortfalls of £2,692.80 were showing on my Branch accounts. I moved this to the suspense
account and I opted to settle this amount centrally…"
"In response, Post Office sent
me a letter dated 12 May 2015 stating that my account balance due for payment relating to
the period of 30 March 2015 to 3 May 2015 was £3,204.80, including a £2,692.80 branch
"In response to what had happened, I introduced a robust paper recording system for all
cash movement in my Branch. I required all staff to complete manual till and safe logs which
kept track of all cash in the till and safes, what had been paid in or paid out and even the…"
"denominations. I refer to some examples of this at. This allowed me to
manually reconcile cash in and cash out so that I could always check that the cash position
in my branch accounts would be right and that nothing was incorrectly entered…."
"I also had CCTV installed in the Branch. I trusted the staff and did not believe that they
would take any money, but I wanted to be able to have a tight control of all cash in and out
and to be able to completely rule out theft from a third party as a reason for the shortfalls."
"With CCTV and a robust paper recording system in place, I spent hours trying to investigate
the reasons behind the shortfalls. In particular, whenever I encountered a shortfall, Darren
and I sat down and reviewed the transaction log for that day against the paper…"
“… recording system. However, we simply could not get to the bottom of why unexplained shortfalls happened - as far as I was concerned, everything should have been adding up."
"On 18 August 2015,1 received a further letter from David Southall I was told that the points I had raised had been investigated, and that “[i]n theory the losses could have been caused by a range or errors in your branch that have only come …"
“… to reality when the
stock levels have been correctly aligned". David Southall said that “it is now appropriate"
that the discrepancy of £5,655.88 is “made good”…"
“..., and offered a further twelve-month payment plan, noting that “normally we would not allow a further payment by installments
to be set up within 12 months of the completion of an existing plan".
“… I responded in writing on 23 August 2015, I said that aside from the lottery transaction and the stamp discrepancy, despite my own investigations (including trawling CCTV footage) I had found no evidence of wrongdoing…"
“… I felt I had no other option but to
accept the offer of a 12-month payment plan, but made clear I was doing that “under
Liz stops declaring on Horizon and keeps, instead, paper records, where everything balances, until one day she puts her totals into Horizon and ends up with a £18 dsicrepancy. She is suspended. She hires Freeths (the solicitors for this case’s claimants)...
Sorry that’s an £18K discrepancy...
Her WS continues "Even though both I and Freeths raised the possibility of errors with Horizon being a cause
of some or all of the apparent shortfalls, Post Office’s position has remained that…"
“... “if Mrs
Stockdale is unable to show that Post Office was the cause of the loss in the branch, she is
liable for that loss”” She goes to a further interview with the PO, and is terminated. And here we are.
"Following my termination, Post Office, via our respective solicitors, agreed that they would
not seek recovery of the £28,222.52 “losses” outside of these proceedings.”
Okay back listening to the QC xe Liz Stockdale - he is talking about her discrepancies.
On to audit on 30 May 2016 - PO document describing discovering a shortage of £18K-odd.
QC "In terms of how the accounts got into this condition and how this loss had been dealt with…"
Email re loss: auditor says s/he sis asking SPMR to explain the loss and that “false accounting has taken place”. #postofficetrial
QC is reading out a lot from the audit - where the shortages were found. QC suggests judge gives same warning to claimant as before re her right not to answer a question re false accounting if she thinks it might expose her.
LS understands
QC says you must have manipulated your accounts in some way
LS i hear what you ‘re saying, but in this case it was untrue
QC so how did you rollover the accounts?
LS gives an answer that I must be honest I can’t understand. It might explain things perfectly. It might not. Sorry - it’s been a long day and this computer is on go-slow again. Will reboot.
LS explaining she set up a paper system because she didn’t/couldn’t trust Horizon. She says her paper recording system worked, but H was showing the wrong figures.
QC asks how was she making Horizon’s figures balance then?
LS refuses to answer the question.
QC why didn’t you, in order to rollover, just pay in the £5K outstanding
LS where would I get £5K from?
QC all you have to do, is balance the H and then put it into dispute. Why didn;’t you do this?
LS refuses to answer the question
QC you know what you did is a serious matter?
LS I felt I didn’t have any choice with the way things were going on
QC it can’t have been a surprise that the PO suspended you
LS no but who ever proved these losses ever existed
QC but by concealing these losses it made it hard for the PO to discover the cause
LS they were doing nothing to help me anyway
QC as well as being dishonest, I would suggest, you prevent PO from finding out what was happening
LS They weren’t doing anything to find out what was happening.
QC moves on to the staff
LS says she trusts her staff. all of them, one of them was her son.
QC how old was he?
LS 19/20
QC you don’t think he might want some extra money
LS why would he do that to me, I’m his mum
QC but you questioned him anyway, alongside all the staff?
LS yes
QC any notes of that questioning?
LS no
QC I say the errors were caused by mistakes or dishonesty by you or your staff
LS you’re entitled to your opinion, I disagree
QC And that the help you got from the helpline was adequate?
LS no
QC and where you say when you called the helpline and were told “it’s only £3K that’s a drop in the ocean” - that did not happen
LS it did. I was shocked because I was always led towards thinking I was the only one having these problems…
LS …. and yet when I heard that I thought I’m clearly not.
PO QC finishes his xe

JFSA QC Patrick Green re-examination.

Notes internal PO document from 2011, second line - branch trading forces the acceptance of a TC in order to roll over. Did anyone ever show or explain this to you?
And that’s it for Liz Stockdale’s evidence and day 4 of the Bates v Post Office Common Issues trial.
I’m going to write up everything I can and put it in a blog post tonight.
We reconvene at Court 26 for the final lead claimant’s cross-examination at 10.30am tomorrow. We also might hear the dates of the third trial in this GLO decided.
If you have enjoyed these tweets, please do go to where you will find a paypal tip jar. Contributors of £20 or more get the secret emails too….! Thanks
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