HD notes NT contracts makes a specific point of advising SPMRs to get legal advice.
QC asks why it wasn’t in previous contract.
HD doesn’t know.
HD aware that some do do that.
Mr Green does not push her for a figure or percentage.
back to HD’s witness statement (par61) which says it is expected that applicant SPMs will get a significant amount of info from the outgoing SPM
QC the outgoing SPMR is a vendor and so is going to be broadly posititve about it “it’s a nice little runner” etc
QC it’s not likely an SPM is going to talk about the contracts or the clauses in the SPM contract, especially as they have signed their own contract which requires...
So QC and HD agrees that when HD says in her witness statement there is an expectation an outgoing SPM will inform an incoming SPM about the branch, it’s about products and services, not contractual liabilities.
It is not Helen Dickinson in the box it is Mrs Sarah Rimmer. Apologies to HD for getting that wrong.
QC is talking about interview notes using voice recordings. Doc notes that from 08 contract advisors will record SPM applicant interviews. Do you remember that?
JB doesn’t, he thought it was 2006.
JB accepts he was mistaken.
JB says no - they’re just more explicit in the NTC
The QC points out that NTC and SPMC have key differences. NTC where the PO considers it to be “necessary” and SPMC says “desirable”. QC says this essentially materially different, but does it in reality operate like that? Or does PO do what it wants to do as it sees fit.
QC you would accept that suspension is not a neutral act? It materially affects the SPM...
JB not sure what you mean.
QC for an SPMR, being suspended...
JB v serious for both parties. PO takes suspension v seriously.
QC there’s also a serious stigma to being suspended?
QC and if they’d spent many years working in the community you’d respect that
JB well in the context of the whole picture...
QC and in order to have the whole picture you’d have to investigate, wouldn’t you?
JB demurs a little - says it depends what has happened.
QC and a suspension affects their revenue?
JB yes - but they have the option to get a temp...
QC typically when an SPM is suspended, they don’t have access to the counter, their records or Horizon and in many cases they don’t get the ARQ logs from H immediately...
and now quoting another document saying SPMC is required to make good all losses no matter howsoever they occur. That’s not correct, is it?
JB in the context of 12:12, no.
QC and that is one of...
QC shows a standard form letter which also asks PO staff to remind SPMs that they should make good all losses.
JB agrees it is not correct in the context or 12:12.
QC says that when there is a loss the standard letter cites...
JB says he might have been aware of this but no conscious of it.
QC takes us through the sequence of letters sent to Pam Stubbs.
QC first one is a demand for losses based on her responsibilities to cover all losses. Does he accept this is how it reads?
QC takes JB to another letter where PS gets a demand for cash in the next month. “Failure to meet repayment terms will allow us to deduct the amount...
QC notes the letter is from the same person who said he would put PS’s debts on hold whilst the investigation was ongoing.
QC now looking at an internal email which says PS is finding being chased for the sums distressing...
JB agrees it might well be distressing.
QC asking if an investigation should cover any factor which could have caused an error should be checked.
JB says he’s out of his comfort zone here.
JB says it’s hard because at PO you can’t see eveything that’s going on in a branch
QC says and SPMs don’t know everything that is going on at PO. That’s why they’re asking for an investigation.
QC quotes from a letter which says PO is considering a summary termination in view of outstanding terms.
QC says so as the onus on an SPMR to find out what’s going on...
JB don’t know - don’t know how helpline prioritises calls.
JB that would be part of the investigation
QC well from the way this document is noted - losses should be made good immediately...
JB it’s not a true interpretation of 12:12
QC but that’s what everyone is working to at Post Office, isn’t it?
The SPM has no way of finding out how losses might arise or any way of disputing them.
QC They don’t - they can settle to cash or settle centrally - ie accept the debt.
JB and then dispute it.
QC once it has been accepted as a debt
JB yes this allows the PO to know what the sum involved is, which might be settled by a TC.
Judge that’s what I thought.
JB I haven’t, no.
QC does the helpline fall under your purvue
Now we are on to how the PO decides to suspend a SPM.
Doc says it usually comes from an audit with a discrepancy of more than £1k
This is a judgement call by a contract advisor often discussed with other CAs (inc JB).
Guiding principles for suspension.
QC do you remember this?
JB or sttle centrally
QC but you have to accept it
QC but if the next morning than money isn’t in the till because the SPM doesn’t have the cash..
JB it should balance
QC is there then a discrepancy that could lead to suspension?
QC goes through all the things a CA has to weigh up before a suspension decision.
QC let’s have a look at that last factor - “willingness to make good the loss”. So if an SPMR is having a problem that they see is not their fault, their UNwillingness to pay...
JB it might have been when that document was active. I don’t think that is the practice now.
QC was it then?
JB it wouldn’t help. but there is a danger this is all being taken in black and white when there are a lot of factors to take...
QC also notes document which says “if there is any doubt, suspend” and then there’s a star there which says “under review”. Is that still the situation?
JB I think it’s changed. eg the CA no long makes a the suspension. It’s the Line Manager based on...
QC If decision is made not to suspend the CA must draft a document and justify their decision.
QC notes june document which shows 193 suspensions in April 2010 to end March 2011.
FOI shows of the 193 - 54 wer reinstated.
86 summary terminated.
38 appealed against summary termination
QC a lot of reinstatements there.
QC is it not practice to discuss the SPMs case between CAs before doing so?
JB don’t understand the question.
JB correct, but from the moment this happens there is a review. It might be we got it wrong and we would...
QC would you renumerate them for the income the have lost?
JB in the circs where we have got it wrong in the light of info coming to light during our investigation yes we would repay them. We do get things wrong, we’re only human.
JB well don’t forget the SPM will have a temp, so we’d have to look at it all
QC okay so if they got some money whilst suspended via a temp, you would pay them back minus the amount they gained from the temp
QC do you accept you are saying you would act more fairly than this...
QC what is the proper thing to do?
JB we should do what is in the GP
Judge intervenes to be clear about what JB has done in his own experience and what should be done. JB repeats unfamiliarity with GP document, but says...
QC draws attention to Mr Abdulla’s suspension letter (lead claimant) and says it doesn’t give any reason for his suspension. Which contradicts what you told me is the correct practice.
JB that is a letter I thought would precede a fuller...
QC But that contradicts what you said in court this morning.
QC Let’s have a look at Pam Stubbs suspension letter. It doesn’t mention why she has been suspended. Nothing about the allegations against her.
JB yes but at the point of suspension, the charges against her
QC Let’s have a look at Liz Stockdale’s suspension letter (another lead claimant). No allegations. QC says it’s quite difficult for the SPMR to know with precision what’s being said. It’s important that the grounds of suspension are explained in...
JB No but it does normally and explains how it would happen.
Judge intervenes for clarity. There are differences in...
JB says an SPMR wouldn’t normally get reasons for suspension under OLD contract until they get a “reasons to urge” letter of invitation to interview to discuss charges against them.
QC onto how it could be distressing to be suspended without really knowing why
JB I can see how it might be
then reads a letter from PS in which she complains that she is being told it is only her or her….
QC lists what it could be - faults in H, client/data integrity issues, human error at the PO end.
JB says he’s not familiar with Horizon issues,
QC but you’d have to look at everything
QC but you’re not familiar with Horizon...
JB No. It’s very much not my area
QC How long have you been in your job?
JB [says precisely, I didn’t hear how long - a while, I think]
QC now onto access to info on Horizon available to the SPMR post-suspension
JB says SPMRs should only access their info if they are accompanied by a PO employee
QC so it’s even more important they get access to information
JB I can see why you’re saying that
QC But PO don’t accept that any SPMRs have been disadvantaged by not having access to their...
QC you would accept if you are trying to disprove an allegation against you - you need access to the information and the PO has that information...
JB accepts what the QC is saying.
QC asks if h is aware how much it costs for an SPMR to hire lawyers to get ARQ logs requested
QC is it acceptable to have to wait for criminal or civil lawyers to get involved?
JB speaking personally , no.
QC goes to letter received by Alan Bates (main claimant) in which it says PO has reached agreement with NFSP on network reinvention prog...
JB can see all this
QC so says there is the agreement of the discretionary fund (26 months)
QC says when someone resigns, you try to achieve a smooth outcome from the transfer from outgoing to incoming SPMR..?
[really not sure where this is going tbh]
QC talking about handover dates and how the PO can delay handover if not ready, and reasons they may not be ready is sudden departure of previous SPMR.
[I am sure the reason for all this will become clear]
QC PO tries to get someone to fill a vacancy on resignation
JB or they put someone forward
QC and this sometimes takes longer than 3 months...
[There is lots of agreeing going on here.]
QC although the SPMR can give 3 months notice the reality is to pass it on to someone else they have to wait for the PO to organise a transfer date.
JB yes, you are reliant on the applicant to some degree
QC now raising speed at which Liz Stockdale was appointed and complaint letter by LS’s predecessory that it’s taken a minimum of 6 months to effect a changeover.
JB can’t comment on this specific issue but gives context that this was in Network Transformation...
QC goes back to termination clauses in contracts.
JB explains in the old days - contract advisor (CA) would terminate or reinstate.
JB says in NTC, the facility to appeal a termination...
QC but the point is under an appeal process the SPM has a chance to say that the CA has got something wrong. Under NT that is removed...
QC so it’s essential to ensure the decision is taken on as fair as possible grounds
JB the CA would have had a conversation with the SPMR as part of their investigation so it would be fair before they make the final recommendation.
Does that include balancing?
QC and SPMs can expect reasonable help from the PO with that.
QC brings up Mr Bates’ introductory bumf re training. “tailored to individual...
QC unless people are trained how to do it, there’s no way of them being able to perform their job properly.
QC talks about training - managing cash and stock, dealing with problems. These are all fair expectations from PO and to SPM.
POQC to your mind has this doc been sent by Paul Kellet?
JB not sure
QC would that mark between his name and the end of the letter mean anything?
JB not sure
QC would he definitely see this doc or would it be someone more junior
JB not sure.
PO QC is this [refers to doc] a reasons to urge letter?
PO QC what’s it for?
JB get the facts together and investigate
PO QC are there people in the pO who can do that
JB in my own dept the “resolution" team can do that
PO QC what does this bit say
JB invitation to attend informal discussion
PO QC right and see this invitation to a meeting...
PO QC and would they be able to receive representations from the SPM?
PO QC which would ultimately have a bearing on their possible termination
JB mainly branch accounts
Judge - could they interrogate branch data and [back end] data which they could interrogate?
Judge - so they could interrogate branch data and compare it with [back end] data from Horizon
JB they would be my first port of call
Judge why does the Post Office refer to itself without the definite article? I have been trying to find out for quite some time.
PO QC stands up and says it might be a copyright. if you are The Post Office you might lose it, if you are Post Office you are protected.
Angela van den Bogerd has been sworn in. I have been given her witness statement.
11,500 POs in total
7,500 companies small or large
3,300 multiple operators
AB can’t recall
PO QC how many operate more than one branch
AB about 80
Judge has asked AB to speak more slowly.
AB Angela if you can
Judge I think we’ll have Mrs Ms or Miss
AB Mrs then pls
JFSA QC you have been defending Post office’s position in matters relating to this litigation for some time.
AB tells court she is now Business Development director at Post Office.
QC asks about Second Sight’s contraction to get involved in complaint scheme. So SS were contracted by PO at behest of MPs.
AB pretty much across the board
QC and for this mediation scheme Horizon was widely defined to essentially mean the PO’s interaction with Horizon
AB cheque rem out improved, and if forex tx was happening by card - before they had to printout the receipt manually, so I introduced an automatic receipt printout
QC brings up PO reply document to SS briefing report part 2 22 Sep 2014. PO has been unable to endorse the report, this doc is to correct inaccuracies to the report. Did you write...
AB I had input. I don’t think I signed it.
QC response to issue raised - no evidence exists to say that the removal of information has prejudiced any case. Would you agree with Mr Breedon that it’s hard for an SPM to defend themselves without access to information.
QC but that’s rather one-sided. They don’t get any opportunity to investigate
AB that would depend when the issue happened. if it happened in branch they would have access to all the info on H
QC so that would make it difficult for them to prepare for a reasons to urge meeting?
AB well it depends
QC let me postulate an eg. Let’s say someone has a £9K shortfall. They call the helpline and they’re waiting to hear back
AB that assumes it happens on the same day
QC let’s assume it did - they can’t get any info
AB no - but - if there is an audit - it is because there is something looks like its gone awry.
QC but you have accepted it could happen
QC it would be fair-minded to suggest it cause SPM prejudice in certain situations
QC the PO terminated mediation scheme and Second Sight’s involvement
AB yes it was ended by PO
QC and PO published a final document which it saw as the end of the affair.
QC reads from it saying that now PO has investigated everything and cross-referenced it with existing cases thematic issues on the mediation scheme (lottery, power failures etc)
QC asks about Branch Support scheme - was it to deal with SS’s thematic issues...
QC you felt SS hadn’t taken into account the whole universe of contractual relationships between SPMRs and Post Office
AB can I see that please
QC and another point was that you felt SS hadn’t understood relationship….
QC brings up cash and stock provided by PO - that SPMR requires no working capital at all. That’s the basis of the whole relationship. PO provides cash and stock...
AB yep - we provide cash and stock
QC so when you say no investment, you’re only talking about cash and stock.
Judge asks about MRs X wanting to be an SPM. Capital outlay is getting the building and the arrangements...
AB yes - we provide it and that is the property of the PO.
QC that’s the expectation. PO provides working capital, PO provides assistants and a premises to use it in.
AB no not if it’s issued in error
AB it would come with evidence as to what and it would also be discussed with the SPM by the NSBC unit
AB not if they...
QC but you know corrective TCs are a thing?
QC which means that PO have realised a TC was issued incorrectly
AB yes or raised by PO
QC and you accept that the sum put in by the SPM amounts to working capital
AB I would also say TCs can be...
QC but you accept that it exists
AB yes -
QC that is something that the SPM would not be expecting
AB the SPM would expect to be held accountable for any losses.
QC Do you want to go back and have a look at what you’ve just said?
I think this underlines my point that the PO does not make a distinction between losses that are and aren’t the SPMs fault.
Judge asks QC to ask the quesion again
AB if they are not at fault they would not be held liable.
QC goes to losses and gains policy in contract
QC why “purely”? to distinguish contract from actual practice?
QC asks why in another document there is a distinction later between all losses or all losses caused by negligence or error… it’s wrong isn’t it?
AB it’s loose wording
QC goes to letters sent to Pam Stubbs we discussed earlier in this thread...
QC explain to his Lordship why this keeps coming up in standard documents of the PO
AB loose wording
QC you’ll collect more debt if it’s worded this way
AB I disagree - they would...
QC have a look at your last answer.
AB asks to look at Pam Stubbs letter chain.
QC takes her to agreement o put PS debt on hold, then the next letter demanding the money.
Judge intervenes to take AB back to QC’s q
AB no. SPM would be aware of their ability to dispute. The letter is a mistake. The wording is loose, I accept that.
QC it also asks them to settle with debit or credit card. It’s purpose exists to encourage payment. I say this to you and I want you to think about your answer carefully...
AB is depends on the individual
AB yes. I know how they work. it is a mistake.
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