Patrick Green QC for the claimants is putting the questions.
QC establishes that this claim is based on MH's imagination.
QC would it surprise you that Mrs Ridge told us she didn’t cover the 3 month notice period?
MH I would assume she did
QC so your knowledge of the checklist she used is based...
MH seems to accept this
QC during interview, would you have mentioned suspension?
MH no - I would have mentioned notice period and termination
QC so if there’s anything significant that everyone should follow, an ACC would be sent round?
QC shows the ACC using voice recording equipment
MH that would have been after the time I interviewed Mr Sabir.
QC there is no ACC telling PO interviewers about a checklist, or that they could be held liable or potential SPMRs about accepting TCs they disagree with or a whole litany of other things they might need to know [I paraphrase]
Judge questions final point - asks if MH would tell applicants they would have to accept a debt (by settling centrally) before rolling over.
We are back to the summary of terms and conditions which applicant SPMs are asked to sign which contains S12:12 of the contract, but which also tells applicants that the summary cannot be relied on for any purpose.
QC do you know why it says this?
MH cos it’s just a summary
QC what is your understanding of the losses situation
MH No I did this in every interview
QC the second possibility that the emphasis you gave it...
MH does not accept this. He says he would have given it equal emphasis.
MH yes absolutely sure because I always do it
QC would you tick this off on your checklist?
MH no but I would have covered it off.
QC and there’s nothing in those pages that you had in your file about the need to take legal advice
QC so you’d have to remember that in every interview
QC were you the only contracts advisor discussing legal advice
MH I wouldn’t have thought so
QC would you expect other CA’s to talk about getting legal advice
MH I would yes
QC why would PO not know that
MH doesn’t know but reiterates that’s what he did do.
We move on.
QC now onto other document which is called Balancing Horizon and asking MH about what the balancing process
MH does not know about this side of things.
QC what’s that based on
MH anecdotal experience
QC notes he says his document notes that there HAS to be an effective dispute process. Does he still...
MH does, but says he doesn’t know what the current situation is, with his change of role.
QC yes but you would agree that the dispute process has to be comprehensive and satisfactory
MH very much would.
MH can’t remember it
QC let’s remind you
QC goes to Mrs Stubbs situation in 2010 when she was told she could take her “debts” of the balance sheet whilst they were being investigated.
QC did you ever get calls about problems from SPMRs
MH not really
QC so usually the only time you hear about a discrepancy is from an auditor, when there’s a problem
MH normally yes.
MH no specific recollection
QC would the helpline ever report back to you if a branch was calling about shortfalls
MH no. can’t remember that ever happening
QC did you ever consult the helpline logs to see what the SPM was saying to the helpline before an auditor’s report
MH no I would have access to them
MH can’t remember
QC would it have been exceptional to do it
MH if the SPM pointed it out [that they’d been calling the helpline] I’d certinaly have a look
QC did you ever show an SPM their helpline calls log on request
[we go back to the Pam Stubbs discrepancies and how she wasn’t aware of the process for raising a dispute]
QC from your knowledge when considering suspensions and terminations. Did you understand there to be any magic words an SPM should utter to initiate...
MH not that I am aware of.
J if someone phoned up and said they were “querying” a loss, how would you expect them to deal with it
MH I would expect that to go though to the next level
J as a query, as a dispute or what?
MH I don’t know.
MH I understand the principle of settling centrally, but…
QC okay let’s go back. you didn’t understand that branch trading forces the acceptance of the TC on to the SPM in order for it to roll over
QC so you saw settling centrally as debts the SPM had chosen to accept
MH the accounts reflect the position in the branch
QC which SPM had voluntarily accepted?
QC have you had Horizon training
QC how much
MH can’t remember. I was involved in the rollout of H
QC to help them understand how it worked?
MH to advise…
QC to help them understand how it worked?
MH does not remember a single instance
QC when considerin a suspension or termination would you get a report from FSC (PO financial services centre) which has details of what has been going on in branch
QC when would you get it?
[gives example of a big loss]
QC would you
MH rely on the auditor, would n’t speak to SPM, probably ask FSC for info
QC and when would you get that?
MH not sure
I am going outside.
Not sure why you needed to know that.
Going through a PO FSC document which describes the process of writing off losses and which part of the PO takes the hit depending on what sort of loss it is.
QC did you made a decision as a CA to write off a discrepancy?
MH can’t remember if he did
QC who makes the decision to write off any unexplained discrepancy?
MH don’t know. above my level.
PO QC asks about some evidence by Elaine Ridge - picks up from the transcript on Day 10. It was said to you that EL couldn’t remember 3 months notice. Now you see what she actually said.
MH yes. as far as I remember it was covered in all interviews.
J what do you understand by your phrase “something untoward”
MH a major breach of their contractual obligation
J have you ever been asked what “something untoward” means?
MH can’t say I remember
MH explains that I customer might give you £90 and you key in £900 and give the customer a receipt for £900. But only £90 has gone into the till. You are liable for remaining £810.
J would you have it with you?
MH I would keep a copy of it
J when did they get it then?
MH my understanding is that it would be sent to them when application was succesful.
Next witness has been sworn in. Andrew Carpenter Agents Contract advisor.
AC says he did 8 last year and that’s about average
AC says it happened in Leeds
QC notes it doesn’t say that in his witness statement
QC when did you notice this?
AC possibly last week
QC why did you not think to change it
AC don’t know
QC so why does it say it did in your signed witness statement?
AC does not know
QC do you still use a checklist?
QC do you have your own checklist?
AC no. I use the official one
QC you use the one currently online
QC you don’t have any old checklists any more.
[goes on to ask questions about personal services]
QC establishing the process for explaining the need for a minimum of 18 hours behind the counter (not with all contracts) to qualify for holiday and sick pay.
QC asserts that any agreement to work a certain number of hours would be notified to the Post Office, but would not form part of the agreement with the SPMC.
[now on to TUPE - former assistants can be TUPEd over into the employ of the new...
QC now going through MH’s internal report on Liz Stockdale’s interview. It is talking about her staff plan, training plan and very positive about...
MH did not have 3 years accounts from previous SPM - automatic red flag
QC formed the view it was a sound application then by this stage
MH yes already had the BP beforehand and then the presentation gives you a good idea
MH interview is centred around the presentation and BP. Once all that area is concluded that’s when I’d move on to the checklist.
QC it says you would discuss the contract carefully with Liz Stockdale
QC would she have it with her?
MH no. well, maybe. I wouldn’t know she may have been sent it
QC would it have been useful to go through the contract in detail
MH she could have raised it
QC because they wouldn’t be liable for a PO mistake?
Judge would you discuss PO errors in an interview?
AC isn’t clear what he’s talking about.
QC shows him a document. Do you see the diagram. Processing Options [presumably for Horizon]. Seek evidence. If it’s not available it goes to Do You Want To Accept TC Now?
J not a level of detail you get into
[there is a problem with the live transcription and the document viewer. Judge decides to break for lunch whilst it is being fixed]
AC now saying he isn’t sure what documents he’s seen.
AC they are looking at it. it is a checklist of his interview with LS.
QC why he didn’t think to exhibit this to the court
AC says it is the same as a previous document but in...
QC wants to go through this denser document, I think (remember I can’t see any of the documents they are discussing) and asks about things he has checked off.
QC says in your WS you says you would have discussed fraud - would you have spent much time on it?
AC well, the Business Plan takes up most of the time
QC would you have not discussed it all?
AC no we...
QC and that was everyone’s standard practice
AC don’t know
QC but it was yours
QC how does the PO office process transactions as far as you understand it? Would you have said anything about it to LS?
AC not quite understanding the questions. QC breaking it down
QC when LS sells a book of stamps...
QC there’s a whole bunch of other processes which go on which the Post Office handle
QC would you discuss that with LS?
AC no it would be too much detail.
She emailed a month later having heard nothing.
AC is saying it is in the hands of her lawyers so he left it in the hands of the Post Office’s
QC you could have told her this, couldn’t you?
QC and I won’t ask you what that advice is
[legal advice is privileged]
AC explaining that when LS did provide info they...
[okay we’ve got to the point of this. LS was already paying back discrepancies and LS said in an email she’d been told that whilst doing this she could NOT settle centrally...
… QC wanted to know if it was right that LS couldn’t settle centrally. AC said she could. QC wanted to know what AC had done to investigate LS’s understanding that she couldn’t...
PO QC on his feet. He asks AC to explain the amount of information that would have been available to LS whilst the discrepancies built up.
AC does this very clearly and says there would have been a lot.
Judge now has questions
AC no block on her settling centrally. She would have had the options that she always had. My understanding is that she wouldn’t be able to request..
J so if she gets a £5K discrepancy whilst she’s on a repayment plan and she settles centrally what happens.
AC she gets an invoice and if she can’t pay the invoice we investigate
AC yes. I would have recommended it to my line manager
J were you aware she was already a claimant when you recommended her suspension?
AC no. But I found out pretty quickly the same day.
AC yes - through me.
PO QC what about the role of the helpline in this?
J is asking if the PO still sells postal orders
J if someone buys a postal order and its cashed elsewhere in another Post Office - that does not involve any external clients.
AC no that’s a Royal Mail product
J anything else that is just a PO product
AC I’m on the spot. I can’t think of one now, but I might think of several later.
J don’t worry it’s fine. It was just for personal interest.
[JFSA QC is on is feet]
QC it’s not a question more an observation
[judge is not interested in observations whilst a witness is on the stand. QC pushes back saying its relevant to a document witness...
Judge rises. 10 minute break.
BT there was no point as her business plan didn’t stack up and I told her that.
JFSA QC asks if he was aware there was a transcript of his iv with Louise Dar
QC did you ask for it
QC now asking about his witness statement in which he says he finds it hard to recall what happened in Louise Dar’s interview
QC so your witness statement is wrong?
QC when did you notice this?
BT probably just now.
QC is it because you need a reason to explain why you didn’t go through the checklist of contract with Louise Dar?
QC why are you being evasive Mr Trotter?
BT I’m not
QC is it because you need an explanation
BT I covered the checklist in the 2nd interview
QC that’s not how this reads.
BT I’m not sure.
QC But this is something you exhibited before the transcript of your interview was disclosed. and with the date on the front being 9 Dec, it looks like it referred to the same date.
BT I don’t believe they do
QC and yet the transcript of this document makes it clear you didn’t discuss these.
BT I knew about the tape
QC but you didn’t believe
[JFSA QC is pulling apart BT’s assertion that his interview checklist refers to the second interview he did with LD as he has now drawn his attention to a second checklist for a second interview]
QC and you didn’t go through it at the second interview, did you
BT I did
QC it was more an informal chat
BT yes it was more informal
QC you didn’t intent to make a full...
Quotes BT saying in a memo he doesn’t intend to file a full assessment.
BT that means a full full assessment
QC when did you first become aware that the recording of your interiew did not
BT couple of months ago
QC did you not want to change your witness statement that made it clear you always went through a checklist
QC did anyone ask you to?
[QC reads out part of the transcript in which LD seems to have some concerns]
QC is it fair to say LD expressed some concerns about taking on the branch, or not
QC notes LD expresses some concerns her accountant passed on
BT but overall impression she was keen
QC she expresses some concerns about training?
BT that’s not how it felt
BT I don’t see that
QC top box
QC she was concerned about staff training
BT at that point I would clarify about the various modules as you can see I did.
BT we had an open and frank conversation
QC quotes from interview transcript
“I’m looking for comfort here…. we’re looking for comfort. It’s me who is making the decision…” see that?
QC quotes BT from transcript: “And I’m just trying to advise you, because you’re the type of person we want."
BT I told her she was a very strong applicant.
QC do you accept you advised her
QC and in the light of that you encouraged her to apply?
BT [pause, and then in a slight yelp] Yes!
BT don’t think we discussed legal advice at all
QC so you didn’t recommend
BT she was taking a lot of advice from her father. I remember that.
QC so when we look at par 8 of your witness statement about always going through the checklist why didn’t you make it clear
BT I don’t recall going through the checklist.
QC then why didn’t you make that crystal clear in your witness statement?
BT I don’t know.
PO QC on his feet to clarify a point.
Judge asks about a document which the JFSA QC can’t find so he won’t ask Brian Trotter any questions.
Judge asks to be sent a document and wants to be told about a document which he wouldn’t allow JFSA QC to
We have finished Post Office witnesses. We are now discussing closing submissions.
Judge orders QCs to get them to him by Friday noon.
Judge is minded to make an order requiring further steps to be taken to progress this
PO QC what steps?
Judge my experience is that when it comes to disclosure at the first look someone says something is encrypted and can’t be unencrypted and then when specific focus is brought to bear, ways are found.
Judge I am going to draft an order for the Post Office to get an IT specialist to unencrypt that file and I am going to go away and write that myself, on a reasonably tight timeframe. And if that doesn’t happen I will require a...
PO QC my lord we are in your hands.
That’s it for today’s live tweets AND for this week, but I will be posting up interesting documents as the week goes on.
If you have enjoyed any of this...
And PLEASE REMEMBER nothing in this thread is a direct quote unless in direct quotes.