QC You would accept there are things that can be done to make Horizon more error repellent?
AB there are, yes.
AB points out that more training elsewhere was offered.
QC onto goodwill payments and introductory fees for payable by incoming SPMR
Judge asks what the difference is in her view
AB explains -
Judge says he’s not sure he understands her explanation. Explains his understanding of the difference in accountancy terms
Judge so the incoming SPMR pays an introductory fee to the PO to take on the branch?
QC moves on to a new area - remuneration for SPMRs
PO QC objects
Judge asks AvdB to leave the room. There begins a discussion about the privileged information which includes a single word in the name of the project.
Judge says he is struggling to understand how a single word can be privileged.
Judge invites AB back in, then rises for 5 minutes whilst PO QC takes instruction. This is clearly a very sensitive document. Possibly named after a furry animal.
AB is asked first of all about three names on this document. Author, reviewer, review and sign-off. Does she know who they are? Are they lawyers?
We establish we are pretty sure none of them are
QC back to the document System? and KPI is robustness of the system?
QC were you aware of a group looking into the robustness of the Horizon system at the time this doc was produced
AB not into the robustness of the system
AB says she wasn’t really focusing on Horizon, it’s an early version of the document and so no - not into the robustness of the system
QC but part of this project was to look into the robustness of the system on the back of the SS report
QC but the robustness of the Horizon system was part of the concerns raised by SS so how did you not look at the Horizon system
AB says they only looked at the individual matters raised and found no problems with H
AB suggests that is not the case
AB Post Office can’t
QC Post Office can through Fujitsu?
Judge asks QC to move on. He says he was going to.
QC asks about the SPM being bound to account to the SPM. How does the SPM account to the PO through for their actions?
AB and when they balance their accounts
QC so when a SPM wants to dispute a TC - they have to settle centrally
AB and then dispute it
QC but on H they have no choice to dispute.
QC the system forces them to accept TCs whether or not they believe they are correct
AB yes but
AB yes - it’s a two-step process
QC you accept the system forces them to make a record on Horizon with which they fundamentally disagree
AB no I don’t accept that - it’s a two step process
AB no there isn’t
QC points to a document entitled debt recovery review in which the idea of a dispute button on Horizon is rejected. He says a dispute button would stop SPMs from having to accept TC with which the profoundly...
QC not possibly, definitely
[AB pushes back]
Last q from QC.
QC SPMs are carrying out PO business on PO’s behalf. He raises AB’s WS
QC no further questions
PO QC asks why
PO QC what about a multi-thousand pound loss - do they happen over night or over a period of weeks
AB period of weeks - they’d usually be aware of it.
PO QC moves on.
QC goes to a 2006 document…
[there is some confusion]
Judge intervenes to say that the clause before notes that settle centrally will be activated automatically...
AB it can be
Judge and this relates to the recovery of money through SPM pay.
AB it does.
AB to correct something that has been transacted incorrectly in branch
[is that right? - just the branch?]
AB is not aware of it
PO QC it’s a seek evidence function...
JFSA QC objects - she’s already says she doesn’t know.
PO QC moves on anyway
PO says on reading this are you satisfied all the SPMs were informed?
AB all the SPMS were refunded or not held accountable and all those who had a surplus were allowed to keep it.
[this has implications for JFSA QCs assertions that an SPM might have had their branch account altered without their knowledge]
AB very helpful
AB losses on camelot products
PO QC CAMELOT products
AB Processing camelot products through H
QC suggested to you it was H training generally
AB no i see this as just camelot processing training
PO QC no further q's
you said you objected to the word defending the PO’s position but said you’d been involved. How long have you been involved in these issues
AB since 2011. It was part of my natural area of responsibility at first
Judge asks what SS’s involvement in...
AB completely independent investigators brought in to look at the nature of each complaint and asses what caused the loss.
Was that YOUR view?
Judge - is that still your view now?
Judge - explain please.
Judge - so you don’t see there are any thematic issues at all?
AB says there are some areas where some SPMs have raised concerns...
[pls remember this is paraphrase NOT direct quotes - do NOT use them as such -they are to give you a flavour of what’s happening in court]
Next q from judge is wrt to a question put to hte JFSA QC yesterday...
AB [doesn’t really say anything]
Judge so you judged the length of your WS yourself?
AB doesn’t know what they are
Judge I was going to ask where I might find them, but if you don’t know there’s no point
AB suspense account sits in the branch, settle centrally takes it out of the branch with the SPMs name on it.
PO QC did you get advice on that scope?
AB yes I took advice on what elements for this trial and what was for the Horizon trial
We take a break. AvdB is leaving the witness box and the court.
Mr Dance is explaining that he assesses SPMs business plans. He speaks a lot more loudly that AvdB
I’m only saying all this because we’re still talking about his job role.
Ah now we’re on to Mr Sabir (lead claimant) and his business plan.
- and a declaration of truth and accuracy
KD why the need to sign a document?
TD to state ensure they haven’t relied on any advice from us
KD you didn’t look at all at documents relating to biz plans
TD I looked at other biz plans
KD Mr Bates?
Have you looked at them since writing your WS?
KD v different aren’t they?
KD reading a disclaimer on the proforma business plan. It is a wide...
KD its’ quite defensive isn’t it?
TD no it’s necessary
KD why does it have to be expressed in this way?
[there is some documental confusion briedfy]
KD it’s on every page of the proforma business plan
Asks if the additional clauses in the NT biz plan proforma is unique to biz plan proforma.
TD no it should be universal
KD do you know which of these is the more recent...
TD - no unfortunately they’re not marked so I can’t tell you which one came first.
KD would this be a convenient moment, my Lord?
Judge - it would.
He rises. We are back after 2pm. I am going document hunting.
TD yes to me as an accountant
KD suggests PO thought that their potential SPMs...
TD disagrees and says that this is just about giving as much info as possible.
KD using more language to suggest this is really low level basic stuff for people who are not hard-headed businesspeople. TD is pushing back. The key phrase was...
KD moved on to a later SPM biz plan doc. it is different language but still very chummy. You wou;dn’t put this in a contract between the PO and WHSmith
KD this is because the PO expects them to be commercially naive?
TD no not inexperienced, but maybe not experienced in writing business plans
KD SOME inexperience?
TD yes I would
KD asks again
Judge intervenes - would you like to put that question for the THIRD time?
KD but there’s no line for losses?
TD disagree. it is robust
KD what BP should mr sabir have got in 2006?
TD the latest one available
KD but he didn’t, did he, he got the 2003. So it’s not robust.
TD I disagree..
KD goes back to the language of another document. Makes point that the language is touchy-feely for inexperienced types, it is a tool FOR SPMRS and the PO slaps massive disclaimers everywhere on it.
TD says its a risk assessment and starts waffling.
TD says I think there is cos if I were to applying for a mortgage I wouldn’t expect the bank to show me their risk assessment
KD it’s differnt tho isn’t it? This is their tool to assess their business
TD agrees it might not be fair. says the policy has changed
KD how long did this go on for
TD don’t know
KD but this document isn’t new to you. Did you not try to find out?
TD no because it was before my time.
KD why do you think those losses might be written in...
KD suggests the first year loss might be down to naiveity on SPM’s part
TD says no - it’s a cash business there is risk attached for a new starter
TD after I did my witness statement
KD that’s why there’s nothing about this policy in your Witness Statement
TD it diesn’t
KD but you don’t know when it stopped
TD I don’t
KD your WS doesn’t explain at all the current process of financial assessment
TD it doesn’t no
KD have you chosen not to put any of this info in your WS
TD because I thought this was about the process rather than detail
TD that it was not realistic to have...
KD so it’s important to include a line for losses. It’s a cash business. I thought it needed to be included.
Judge - so was this your idea?
TD - losses and retail shrinkage, yes.
TD no but they could ask our field advisors or google
KD what? “losses”? There’s no description of the sort of losses here is there
TD don’t know.
KD Why don’t you know? You just said it was important to have a line for losses in there.
TD I don’t know.
TD no never seen any
PO QC but would you need to ask further questions to ascertain how comprehensive it was.
TD Potentially yes.
Judge asks about BPs for Mrs Dar and Mrs Stockdale.
TD first time was today…
HD can’t answer that. Don’t know.
QC you are an investigator. you learned how to trace assets and recover them through Proceeds of Crime Act.
QC and to get an order under that legislation you have to get a conviction. How many cases?
HD roughly 10 as I was in and out of the role
QC and you had no knowledge of absence of dispute button on Horizon
QC so when you talk about rendering accounts you’re talking about figures on Horizon
HD yes - declared accounts
HD I didn’t get involved in that
QC didi you know
HD I was aware if they disagreed they could settle centrally and dispute after.
HD my understanding was that it was parked there to be discussed.
QC moves on.
HD not familiar
QC would you believe if if you heard an SPM say they’d done this on advice?
QC moves on
HD not my area - don’t get involved in contracts
QC were you aware of it at all
HD I was roughly aware of it, yes
33 currently suspended - 112 kept in post who would have been suspended pre policy change with £552,000 made good which would otherwise become agent debt.
QC says this is in the light of change of policy
2010/1 = 31
2011/2 = 38
2012/3 = 42
then a total of 3 people over the next 4 years.
QC asks if this was a recognition within PO that their previous policy was wrong.
QC were prosecutions made so that the Post Office could recover assets?
HD in some cases, yes.
QC No further questions.
Judge asks how well HD could operate Horizon
HD a rudimentary working knowledge - we didn’t get involved in that side during an investigation
Judge and did you learn that in a classroom or pick it up
HD picked it up as she went along
HW asks if there’s anything else he wishes to now change in his witness statement or is the rest of it completely accurate?
MLS says it’s accurate
HW asks if he’s had any involvement with the lead claimants?
HW were you a Subpostmaster in your career?
HW asks if he is aware of the SPMRs contracts for temp SPMRs
HW are you aware of the differences between the SPMR contracts and the temp SPMR contracts and how they are appointed.
MLS don’t think so...
HW is pointing out differences in the contract when it comes to the new arrangements for new SPMRs. You have seen this before?
MLS hasn't seen the document
MLS has not seen this document before
HW asking about what happens during suspension. have you seen this provision before?
MLS I'm sure I probably will have
HW in your role did you look at that contract
HW [reads from NTC contract which talks about a substitute] what is a temp Subpostmaster? Are they effectively a substitute?
MLS never heard the word substitute used before, but yes that's what the wording means.
MLS he has
[they are looking at one now]
PO QC asks what relevance is of mains contract
Judge asks if it is just to make a point that all temp provision clauses in contracts are different
MLS says yes.
We move on
MLS gives answer, but I’m not sure I understood.