Official hearing page

28 February 2023 – Shaun Turner and Gary Blackburn

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(10.00 am)

Mr Blake: Good morning, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Good morning.

Mr Blake: Sir, before we begin with today’s witness I’d just like to say that yesterday the Inquiry received over 700 documents from Post Office Limited that are potentially relevant to issues to be explored in Phase 3. This disclosure includes documents said to be provided to members of NBSC to assist in dealing with calls for assistance from subpostmasters.

The Inquiry considers that the vast majority of these documents should have been provided further to a Rule 9 Request sent on 18 February 2022.

We have considered carefully whether to seek to postpone hearing some of the witnesses this week until such time as those documents have been fully reviewed and disclosed to Core Participants. However, we propose not to do so. This is because the witness can speak to a number of other issues and those issues should be investigated now. Your legal team will continue to review the newly disclosed documents and provide them, where they are relevant, to Core Participants in due course.

We propose keeping under consideration whether it’s necessary to arrange additional sitting days to hear oral evidence on those issues raised in that disclosure.

The Inquiry can, of course, recall any witnesses heard this week to speak to those documents should it become necessary.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Mr Blake. I think you probably know that I was informed of this state of affairs, to be precise, at about 7.05 last evening, so I have had the opportunity to reflect upon the course of action which you propose overnight and, in short, I agree with it. I don’t think anything would be served by adjourning for a short period and asking witnesses who made themselves ready to give evidence not to do so. I think the course that you suggest is preferable, and so that’s what we’ll do.

Mr Blake: Thank you very much, sir. In light of that, may I please call Mr Shaun Turner.

Shaun Turner

SHAUN TURNER (affirmed).

Questioned by Mr Blake

Mr Blake: Thank you. Can you give your full name, please.

Shaun Turner: Yeah, Shaun Turner.

Mr Blake: Mr Turner, you should have in front of you a witness statement dated 13 January 2023.

Shaun Turner: I do.

Mr Blake: It has the URN WITN04640100. If I can ask you to turn to page 91 of that statement, is that your signature there?

Shaun Turner: It is.

Mr Blake: Thank you. Can you confirm that statement is true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Shaun Turner: It is.

Mr Blake: Thank you. I know that there are couple of areas that you’d like to expand upon or clarify in due course. We don’t need to address those now, we can address them shortly. That statement is going into evidence, so I’m not going to ask you about every single detail contained in that witness statement. The questions I’ll ask today will be supplementary, although I am going to start by asking you a bit about your background.

That takes up several pages of your witness statement because you’ve held a lot of positions and a lot of those positions have quite long titles, so I’m going to try and go through a few of those to assist the Inquiry with a little bit more detail.

But it’s clear you were employed by the Post Office since 1996. Did you hold any other job before that or was that your first significant employment?

Shaun Turner: Apart from part-time work, it was essentially the first job that I picked up after university.

Mr Blake: Thank you. You say in your statement that between 1996 and 1998 you worked in the northeast region helpdesk and customer care. Can you tell us – that was pre-Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: What did working on the helpdesk pre-Horizon involve?

Shaun Turner: It involved taking calls from branches and, at that time, from also Post Office customers, resolving queries, resolving customer complaints.

Mr Blake: You were, at that stage, familiar with balancing in the paper method?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: 1999 you became an NBSC analyst.

Shaun Turner: Mm-hm.

Mr Blake: You’re the first witness from the NBSC, so can you please tell us what was the NBSC?

Shaun Turner: The NBSC was the Network Business Support Centre it was set up in line with the Horizon rollout. So the idea was, as branches migrated onto Horizon, they would stop contacting their regional helpline and start contacting the NBSC and the NBSC would then become the helpline for Horizon branches, fulfilling the same function as the regional helplines did.

Mr Blake: I think we’ve heard in previous evidence about first line of support, second line of support. Can you tell us briefly where you fit into the mix of different levels of support?

Shaun Turner: Yes. I was aligned with the second line of support which was called tier 2, which was operated by Post Office, so that was the advisers that dealt with the more complicated enquiries. The first tier was actually not managed by Post Office; it was managed by another part of Royal Mail Group called SSL and they had their own sort of management structure, team leaders and they dealt with the sort of more basic enquiries, anything that was more complicated or required, so a longer diagnosis would be passed to the tier 2 team.

Mr Blake: If I were a subpostmaster or an assistant and I wanted to speak to somebody about a problem with Horizon, who would I call in the first instance?

Shaun Turner: It depends what the problem was. If it was sort of operational procedures or navigation, it would be the NBSC and, in the first instance, that would be the tier 1 NBSC and, if they couldn’t deal with it, it went on to tier 2. If it was system-related issues, your printer wasn’t working, something like that, it would be HSD, which was managed by Fujitsu.

Mr Blake: Is that the Horizon Service Desk?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Thank you. How would I know which to call?

Shaun Turner: There were communications to branches that made it clear that if it is a system problem, then you ring this helpdesk; if it is a navigation or operational kind of enquiry, then you ring the NBSC. That wasn’t always followed. We did get a lot of branches ringing the wrong helpdesk and that resulted in, at times, transfers between the helpdesks where we had to reroute callers.

Mr Blake: Were there policies in place that clearly defined the roles of the NBSC and the Horizon Service Desk, vis à vis one another?

Shaun Turner: I don’t remember any policy documents as such. I remember communications and, in the materials that went out to branches, that that was made clear. And I think from a contractual perspective, from what I understood, it was quite clear from a contractual perspective what the sort of delineation of those two helpdesks’ scope and responsibility was.

Mr Blake: Let’s say if I had a bug with my Horizon terminal, who would I call?

Shaun Turner: If you thought that there was a problem with the system then you would call HSD.

Mr Blake: If I had a problem balancing but I didn’t know what was causing it, who would I call?

Shaun Turner: NBSC in the first instance.

Mr Blake: You said there was some confusion between the two by postmasters. Can you describe that a little bit for us?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think it was just general – this was new to postmasters, there was a learning curve, they were trying to deal with a lot, trying to learn a lot in the branches and sometimes they just rang the wrong helpdesk and needed to be rerouted. But there were other kind of queries that may involve or may require the interaction with both helpdesks.

So, for example, if you were trying to produce your trading statement, your cash account, and your printer broke, you would need to report that to the HSD but you may also need to report to the NBSC that your cash account would be delayed, for example.

Mr Blake: Was there ever a single point of contact or would you, the subpostmaster, have to make contact with both?

Shaun Turner: We would generally, the helpdesk that dealt with the call first would deal with their bit of the call and then transfer the call across to the other helpdesk to deal with the final bit.

Mr Blake: Again, in relation to policies that existed, was there something that set that out, that the first helpline would be the one that dealt with the problem or took leadership or ownership of it?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us at 1999 what was your role at the NBSC?

Shaun Turner: So in 1999 I was – in late 1999, I became an NBSC incident analyst. So that was a role – one of two roles that were attached to tier 2 in the NBSC and we had accountability for building reports to monitor calls coming in to the helpdesk and we had a link to the Problem Management Team, if there were issues that we saw kind of repeating.

Mr Blake: Would you speak directly with branches in that role?

Shaun Turner: Not typically, no. I’m not saying that that never happened but, typically, it would be the advisers or sometimes the team leaders and they would sometimes bring issues to us, but not typically during the course of my role as an incident analyst, no.

Mr Blake: So your role was principally analysing trends and things like that?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I mean, it did perform a sort of ancillary support function for the advisers because their team leader may not always be about. So, you know, any manager could be approached with queries from advisers. So I’m not saying that there was no interaction with postmasters but I was saying it would be rare, compared to a team leader’s, who would have day-to-day interactions with postmasters.

Mr Blake: September 2001, you became network performance analyst. What, in simple terms, did that role involve?

Shaun Turner: So this was a – I moved out of the NBSC at this point. This was a role, again principally a role related to data and analysis and this was looking at sort of conformance related data. So this may be errors that the branch was making, and trying to build call campaigns, outbound call campaigns, to speak to branches about those errors and ultimately reduce them.

Mr Blake: You moved on to a banking project before becoming network conformance and capacity manager in 2003.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: I think in that role you looked again at error rates in conformance within branches to prioritise calls; is that right?

Shaun Turner: That’s right, yeah.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us briefly what that involved?

Shaun Turner: That was essentially a rerun of the earlier role. It was just moved into the NBSC. So there was a separate team – in 2001 there was a separate team that made those outbound calls, which was from Chesterfield but, when I moved into the network conformance capacity manager role, that work was moved back to the NBSC. It was actually undertaken by the tier 2 advisers, one of the teams. It was kind of rota’d round the teams each week.

And also that role, we did sort of capacity planning, so we were sort of analysing call arrival patterns and trying to make sure we had the relevant cover on tier 2, at the helpdesk, to meet the call volumes.

Mr Blake: In 2005, you became network co-ordination adviser. Again, very briefly, can you tell us what that role involved?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, so this was a – it was initially a project role when I first moved into it. There was some reorganisation at that time in the retail structure, and what they were trying to do at that stage was – traditionally, post offices had a retail network manager that was connected to each branch and this piece of work was to have a much more kind of distinct separation between sales and service. So the sort of on the ground resources would be focused on the top sales branches and the service related issues, things like ordering date stamps, that kind of thing, that had traditionally gone to the retail network manager were kind of rerouted centrally through the NBSC, and if they couldn’t resolve it, it would go on to the service teams who would fulfil a kind of reactive capability of going out to branches to resolve issues.

So it started off with that piece of transformation work, building the processes, developing the processes with NBSC, and then it morphed into a team that was essentially attached to that service function and was responsible for managing relationships with other business stakeholders.

So, for example, Product and Branch Accounting in Chesterfield, the Problem Management Team. We would get sort of issues raised to us from the service managers and we would take those up with our contacts in those various teams.

Mr Blake: After that role, you moved to several different roles. Is it right to say that they were predominantly data-related roles, analysing data; is that your particular area of expertise?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think that’s a fair categorisation of the roles that I held from sort of 2010 to late 2015. They were data-related roles and they were predominantly concerned with conformance and compliance specifically.

Mr Blake: That involves drawing trends together from various pieces of data to see how Post Office can perform better?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, and this is mainly to do with – or at the time it was mainly to do with sort of mails compliance specifically. In 2012, we signed the Mails Distribution Agreement with Royal Mail, and that had certain sort of SLAs that the Post Office were expected to hit and things like segregating your mail correctly in a branch. So it was mainly related to that sort of data, and sort of targeting outbound call interventions to branches to kind of coach them to improve performance.

Mr Blake: I think you’re still at the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: Correct, yeah.

Mr Blake: What level within the company have you reached?

Shaun Turner: I guess, sort of – well, lower senior manager, I guess, in more recent years.

Mr Blake: Do you ever attend board meetings or anything along those lines?

Shaun Turner: No, that would be several rungs above me.

Mr Blake: So in all of your roles, so some were speaking directly with branches on occasion or others in analyst roles, did you look at common problems that were cropping up and think that there was a problem with Horizon?

Shaun Turner: When I was with the NBSC there was certainly problems that were being faced by branches which were coming through in the trend analysis and we raised some of those to Problem Management in due course. I can recall, for example, raising problems on checklistings, which was an area of confusion for branches. I can recall raising problems on the declaration process, so that was rather clunky and could cause confusion, and I recall raising problems on obsolete stock process as well, so various things that would cause calls to come in to NBSC.

Mr Blake: When we talk about bugs, errors and defects in Horizon, were there any trends that you thought, “Hang on a minute, there’s a problem here”?

Shaun Turner: No, I don’t think – there was obviously issues in branches with balancing. That was evident on the desk, you know, we were getting a lot of calls on balancing, not just discrepancies but just the process itself, how to work through it. But I didn’t, at that time, think that there was any kind of particular issues with Horizon.

Mr Blake: When you say “at that time”, which time was that?

Shaun Turner: When I was an incident analyst in 1999 and 2000.

Mr Blake: So the early days of Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: As things progressed throughout the life of Horizon, have you ever thought “From what I’m seeing, there’s a problem here”?

Shaun Turner: I think, as I kind of moved into the sort of service area in 2005, and perhaps in that intervening period, my thinking did evolve. It wasn’t at that stage that I thought that the Horizon System was infallible but what I did think was that bugs were monitored, if there were issues with the Horizon System, and could be identified relatively easily by Fujitsu and HSD; if you referred a branch to them, it should be clear to them.

So I don’t think I thought that the system was foolproof but I thought there was monitoring in place and bugs would be quite easily identifiable.

Mr Blake: We’ll come on to talk about bugs shortly but I’m going to start with training, and that’s something that’s addressed in your witness statement.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us what level of training did you have, when the NBSC started, in relation to Horizon?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall exactly. There was some training. I think either a week or two weeks of training but I don’t recall precisely what I personally received.

Mr Blake: Were you provided, do you think, with more or less training than subpostmasters were provided?

Shaun Turner: Um … I think postmasters, if I recall correctly, had two days or a day and a half. So, on that basis, I’d have to say that we had more, yes.

Mr Blake: Would you have expected NBSC advisers to know their way around Horizon as well as or better than subpostmasters?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: You’ve described in your statement the training of subpostmasters in what you describe, I think, the early to mid-years of your career as having gaps. Can you tell us briefly about those, please?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think this is just a reflection on my experience on the desk. I mean, we’d moved from a situation with the regional helplines where, you know, calls tended to be quite short, even on balancing after Wednesday afternoons when the branches balanced. There was not really too much of a discernible spike in calls. But when we moved to NBSC and the roll out of Horizon, we did start seeing not just more calls but longer calls, calls that took considerable kind of diagnosis to get to the bottom of it and, therefore, that leads me to conclude that there were some weaknesses with the training.

My own personal view at that time was that we had underestimated the sort of step change that branches were going through. This was a considerable – considerably different kind of automated environment that they were operating in when they’d been used to a paper-based system for years. So that’s my view at the time and those were things that were escalated up the chain as well.

Mr Blake: Whose job within the Post Office would it have been to plan for that kind of event?

Shaun Turner: During the implementation of Horizon?

Mr Blake: Yes. So the weaknesses you have identified, whose job was it within POL to make sure that those didn’t occur?

Shaun Turner: The implementation team.

Mr Blake: Who in particular?

Shaun Turner: I think it was led by Don Grey at that time.

Mr Blake: You said in the early to mid years of your career. What period are we talking about where you have identified gaps in the training of subpostmasters?

Shaun Turner: I think it was clear to me that there were gaps during the roll out of Horizon. But I don’t think we’ve got everything right since then. That’s not what I’m claiming. I think there were still gaps and we’ve made improvements even in more recent years in the last three or four years, in areas that I believe improve the sort of training offer to postmasters.

So I think there’s been gaps around the sort of – particularly around balancing the diagnosis of discrepancies and rectification of discrepancies for a good few years.

Mr Blake: Horizon began ‘99, 2000, so are we talking a decade longer?

Shaun Turner: I think things improved after Horizon, in terms of the training offer. But I still think the sort of diagnosis of discrepancies is, you know, that area in particular did need improvement. And, as I say, we have improved things in the past three to four years. So, I would say, I’m happy with where it is now but between the roll out of Horizon and, say, four or five years ago, I would have been less happy. I should make the point here, as well, that during – after sort of 2005, I wasn’t sort of directly connected with the helpdesk or the training area, so these were just kind of my personal perceptions.

Mr Blake: You’ve said in your witness statement that there was an additional optional classroom session of investigating discrepancies. Do you know when that came into force or was brought in?

Shaun Turner: I believe 2020.

Mr Blake: So, again, that’s one of the measures that you’re talking about that’s improved the position in more recent years?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, because I’d moved back into the training area since 2020, so I’m kind of more familiar now with some of the improvements of the last two years. There may have been improvements in the intervening period but, as I say, my perception has been, given that we still had to produce or implement that investigating discrepancies course in 2020, that there were still gaps and still things that needed to be improved on.

Mr Blake: One thing you’ve said in your statement is that there’s still less classroom training nowadays. Can you expand on that briefly?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, so when I joined the Post Office I think I’d three to four weeks’ training in classroom. That was alongside postmasters and people going to work in Crown branches, and that has been scaled back over the years. Now, some of that has been replaced with digital learning. So there is a chunk of digital learning that you do nowadays before you go to the classroom and there is the additional sort of investigating discrepancies course that we have, as well, and on site, as well. Six days on site.

But, yeah, I think there’s no doubt that it has been, you know, scaled back over the years.

Mr Blake: Is that for cost reasons or for some other reason?

Shaun Turner: I think it’s – the digital offer has obviously replaced the need to be in classroom for some of that, as to what the sort of rationale behind it was, I wasn’t connected to those decisions so I couldn’t really say whether cost was a factor or there were other rationale.

Mr Blake: You raise it in your statement, have you raised it elsewhere within the company?

Shaun Turner: Not – I mean, I only came back into – I came into the training area in 2020. So it wasn’t in my sphere, as it were, in the sort of previous years.

Mr Blake: Can we look at POL00035756, please. This is a document you mention elsewhere in your witness statement under a different topic but I just want to talk about this in relation to training at the moment. It’s a document that has the words “Compliance Training” on the left-hand side.

Shaun Turner: Mm-hm.

Mr Blake: It’s dated 25 March 2016. Do you know the background to this document at all?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I believe this was part of the Business Technology Transformation Programme, as it says there. So this was looking at various improvements to Horizon, at which compliance training was one.

Mr Blake: If we look at page 18 of this document, I just want to draw to your attention a couple of entries in a table, it’s the top table on page 18. It says there “Project Sparrow Recommendations”; do you know what Project Sparrow was/is?

Shaun Turner: I believe that it was a project within Post Office looking at discrepancies and ways to identify them. I think, in terms of this particular document, it was – the Project Sparrow was providing information, as I understood it, on ways that the system could be adapted to prevent branch mistakes or discrepancies.

Mr Blake: Have you had any direct involvement with Project Sparrow?

Shaun Turner: Other than their input into the documents as reviewers, no.

Mr Blake: The issue identified there is:

“Postmasters do not have access to enough training to feel competent in running their branch. Where training has taken place, records have not been kept consistently.”

The “Rationale for change”:

POL need to be able to demonstrate training across the network and maintain robust training records for branches and branch staff.”

This is 2016. Is this a broader reflection that postmasters don’t have access to enough training or is this specifically relating to compliance? It certainly seems to be broader than simply the issue of compliance.

Shaun Turner: My take on this is that it is relating to compliance specifically, not least because it is in a document about compliance training but I think “Consideration for Front Office” on the right there does refer to compliance training.

Mr Blake: Is it your belief that in 2016 there was or wasn’t some thinking within the Post Office about the sufficiency of the training that was provided, more broadly?

Shaun Turner: I’m sure there was but I wasn’t party to those discussions around the broader considerations around training.

Mr Blake: I’m going to move on now to the issue of advice and assistance. In a couple of the roles that you’ve set out for us, you were advising branches, to some extent, and assisting them directly. Can you tell us what roles they were and the level of your involvement directly with branches?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, so in the NBSC, as I’ve already mentioned, as an incident analyst you would sometimes be called upon by a tier 2 adviser to support the call that they were dealing with, so that was in both my stints with – within the NBSC, so from 1999 to 2001 and from 2003 to 2005 I would have fulfilled that role.

Wider than that, in the network co-ordination adviser role from 2005, I would occasionally speak to branches, so this – as I mentioned earlier, we would deal with sort of escalations from the service line where, for example, transaction corrections needed chasing up. So I’d deal with the branches directly with that.

And then sort of from 2010 to 2016 when I was in those data roles, that was with the branch standards team, so we were making outbound calls to branches about those various compliance issues so, occasionally, I would interact with branches on those as well.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us your view of the adequacy of support concerning issues such as balancing, in the early years of Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think, speaking about the period when I was on the helpdesk on the NBSC as an incident analyst, I think it was a very difficult and challenging environment for the helpdesk. We were – I think I mentioned this in my witness statement – we were resourcing in line with the Horizon rollout and we were trying to resource to a central location, so that meant that, whereas the previous regional helplines would have had – typically, the route into the previous regional helplines was through the Crown Network, so you kind of worked in branch for a number of years and then you went onto the regional helpline. We were recruiting and resourcing much more of a broad mix of individuals, so there was a steeper learning curve for some individuals, if you’d not had that branch experience.

And we were obviously dealing with new contractual relationships with Fujitsu around the HSD and the scope of that helpdesk. So I think it was – we were going on the learning journey to some extent with the branches, as well, you know, it was tough.

Mr Blake: You’ve also referred in your witness statement to booklets and guides and you say that they didn’t provide branches with adequate tools, if they followed the steps but those steps led to unexpected results; do you recall that?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I mean, there was a couple of different communications and guides that the branches had access to. I think the one I particularly remember was the Horizon System User Guide which had a load of flowcharts in of various kind of processes that the branch was supposed to follow, and the feedback – at least the branches that I spoke to – about those guides was that they just preferred to speak to somebody on the helpdesk and they found them very difficult to navigate.

I think the Quick Reference Guide – I don’t remember when that came in but there was a kind of abridged version that kind of gave you the basic steps, particularly around balancing – was much more favourably received by branches but certainly, yeah, I would say that the guides were in a lot of ways quite complex to follow for branches and the preference was to pick up the phone and speak to the helpdesk.

Mr Blake: But one thing you specifically highlighted in your witness statement relates to following the steps that are prescribed in a guide but even following those steps leading to an unexpected result; do you remember that?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Was that a common scenario?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think it is – it was basically because when you came to a position where you were trying to balance and perhaps you had a discrepancy, a loss or a gain, it was not always easy then to backtrack and find out where that had arisen. And, as I say, the sort of branches at least that I spoke to then preferred to just get on the phone and rather than going through some steps, which seemed to confuse them, they would just get on the phone and speak to the helpdesk instead.

Mr Blake: Moving on to Horizon Online and help with that, I think you’ve said that it has its own Help system. Can you tell us briefly about that?

Shaun Turner: Yeah. So prior to Horizon Online Help, if my recollection is correct, there were guides in the branches, counter operations manuals. So these were physical instruction guides, operational guidance. Horizon Online Help sort of digitised those and introduced a help mechanism that was available from the Horizon counter, so you could press a button on Horizon if you were stuck with something, and look up the process.

Mr Blake: It’s something called Online Help, I think, is that the Horizon Online Help?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: When was that introduced, was that from the beginning of Horizon Online or later?

Shaun Turner: I believe it was from the beginning in 2010.

Mr Blake: You’ve said in your statement that, although that was a step forward, it hasn’t evolved. Can you help us with that, please?

Shaun Turner: Yes. So this was mainly in sort of reflecting upon a later project that I was involved in in 2016, which was to look at improvements to that very Help system and, although it was a step forward in terms of digitising content, it meant that you didn’t have to have people manually updating operation guides in the branch.

I don’t think that’s been taken forward in the sense of providing easy and quick access to Help. So the help’s there, the content is there on Horizon but it’s about the speed at which a postmaster or branch can access it, particularly if they have a customer in front of them, and the fact that you kind of have to step out of the transaction that you’re doing to kind of access the Help, rather than there being a kind of overlay of that Help that pops up in the corner.

Mr Blake: Is that still an issue?

Shaun Turner: It is at the moment, yes.

Mr Blake: Who currently is responsible for that?

Shaun Turner: I believe it is being looked at as part of the replacement for Horizon.

Mr Blake: Who in particular is responsible for that?

Shaun Turner: The programme that is looking at the replacement for Horizon.

Mr Blake: Is there a particular individual in charge of that programme?

Shaun Turner: Well, it would sit under Zdravko(?) ** in Post Office terms.

Mr Blake: Thank you. Can we look at POL00039359, please. It’s the second page of that. It seems that in 2017 there were efforts to simplify balancing. Can you tell us briefly about that, please?

Shaun Turner: Yes, so –

Mr Blake: It’s the second page of that. Thank you.

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: That’s an email from yourself. Who is it to and what’s the issue there?

Shaun Turner: So there was a programme within Post Office at this time called STRN, which was, I think, Simpler To Run Network, and part of was to look at were there ways that we could simplify the balancing such that it was quicker and easier for postmasters.

So I was involved in the sort of very early scoping of this programme, gathering feedback from stakeholders, and I think we investigated three areas, which were suspense account, ATM balancing and also the general sort of balancing steps. And this email is to Alison Clark, who worked, I think at the time, as an NBSC team leader, and I was trying to gather information – we were trying to gather all the collateral together, essentially, all the documents we had on the balancing process. And this email was to gather that information from the NBSC.

Mr Blake: Is there, within the Post Office around this period, a general recognition that balancing was too complicated and that there were issues with balancing?

Shaun Turner: At least in terms of my exposure to it, that was the kind of premise behind looking at balancing simplification.

Mr Blake: Was there any reflection within the Post Office earlier than 2017 that that was something that should be simplified?

Shaun Turner: Not in the roles that I was involved in.

Mr Blake: Do you perceive that there has been a change in attitude within the Post Office, with regards to balancing and simplifying balancing?

Shaun Turner: I think there has been a shift but I don’t think it’s sort of – it’s not led to material changes in Horizon Online at present.

Mr Blake: I was going to say, as a result of this email, have you seen any material, significant material changes in simplifying the balancing process?

Shaun Turner: Not the balancing process itself, not that I recall. I think some things have been taken forward so, for example, the ATM balancing process I think has had two stages of improvement since this document was written, this email was written.

Mr Blake: If we turn to page 1 of this document and it’s the bottom of page 1, there’s also reference to a “discrepancy diagnostics document”. So it’s the bottom of that page. Thank you. Is this something you’re aware of?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection, no.

Mr Blake: No. What was EUHSP?

Shaun Turner: That was the – is that the Help – I think if you can maybe just help me with a document.

Mr Blake: Thank you. You can look in you witness statement, if you like, at the beginning you’ve provided, it says there “Enhanced User Help and Support Programme”?

Shaun Turner: Okay, yeah.

Mr Blake: Is that something you’re familiar with?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, so that was part of the BTTP programme which was looking at enhancements to Horizon in sort of 2016.

Mr Blake: Did that go ahead?

Shaun Turner: The Help specifically, the Help and Support?

Mr Blake: Yes.

Shaun Turner: No, it didn’t.

Mr Blake: Why not?

Shaun Turner: So part of the process for all those initiatives was to present to a senior user forum of what the costs and benefits of that particular change would be, in this case improvements to Help, and it didn’t get through that governance forum. It wasn’t signed off by that governance forum.

Mr Blake: Who is in charge of that governance forum, do you know?

Shaun Turner: I believe at the time it was Gill Tait.

Mr Blake: From the look of the emails that I took you to and reference to EUHSP, et cetera, it looks as though there was some thinking, in 2016, 2017, about how to provide more help to subpostmasters. Are you aware of any concrete significant projects that have gone ahead along those lines?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know whether – I think it was to provide quicker help to postmasters, not necessarily more. I think, as I said, the content is there. I think it’s just about the way that they access it. In terms of things that have changed that help postmasters, there has been some changes in more recent times. For example, branch hub, which is a kind of digital hub that postmasters can access, has access to resources, knowledge articles, videos and the like, downloadable guides, which are also available on the learning management system that we maintain. But, in terms of Help itself, the Horizon Online Help, I’m not aware of any significant changes to that content.

Mr Blake: I want to move on to the Known Error Log. You’ve addressed the Known Error Log in your witness statement.

Shaun Turner: Mm-hm.

Mr Blake: I think you said that your recollection is hazy. Can you tell us what your recollection is of the sharing of a Known Error Log between Fujitsu and the Post Office during your involvement in those matters?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I don’t think I can really go beyond what I’ve said in the witness statement, which is that there was a lot of activity at that time to try to improve the working relationship, operational relationship between NBSC and HSD to prevent, for example, calls being bounced between those two helpdesks. And my recollection is that, as part of that, there was some information sharing between the two helpdesks of issues that the NBSC were aware of and issues that Fujitsu were aware of, in terms of HSD, and the Known Error Log was part of that information share.

I believe it was a spreadsheet. As I’ve said in my witness statement, I don’t know whether that was a full set of error logs or whether it was a subset but I do recall seeing a spreadsheet when I was working on NBSC.

Mr Blake: So this is ‘99 to 2001 or thereabouts?

Shaun Turner: No, I’d say it was later than that. I think in my witness statement – so it probably – I mean, this is speculation because I don’t remember specifically but it feels like it was in the later period, when I was – was at Network? So this would have been 2003, I think. Around about that time.

Mr Blake: So 2003 onwards. How long were you in that role? You were in that role until 2005, so 2003 to 2005 or did it extend that, to the best of your recollection?

Shaun Turner: I’m not sure, given I left the role, I don’t know. And I don’t know how frequently it was shared.

Mr Blake: At the end of that period, there’s something called the Callendar Square bug and I’m going to move on now to the Callendar Square bug. That first presented in October or September 2005?

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: Do you recall how you first found out about the Callendar Square bug?

Shaun Turner: From the service manager who’d been speaking to the branch.

Mr Blake: Who was the service manager?

Shaun Turner: Sandra MacKay.

Mr Blake: Can we look at FUJ00083812. When you say Sandra MacKay was the service manager, what do you mean by “service manager”? Can you tell us a little bit about that role, please?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think I explained earlier that in the early – sort of 2005 or thereabouts, the Retail Line did split, so into Sales and Service, that the sales managers would deal with generating sales and coaching on sales in the branch. Anything else that wasn’t sales was referred to an area intervention office and they had various service managers who worked out of that area intervention office and Sandra MacKay was one of those.

So this was dealing with any issues that were not directly related to sales and they would contact branches or they would go out and visit branches to investigate and resolve those issues.

Mr Blake: Were they in charge of particular regions or was it all centralised?

Shaun Turner: The area intervention offices themselves were in designated regions but it could be any of the service managers that went out to a particular branch for that area intervention office.

Mr Blake: Do you remember Sandra MacKay being in charge of any particular region?

Shaun Turner: I don’t.

Mr Blake: There’s mention there of Callendar Square, 7 October 2005. Can you tell us what is this log because we’re going to see a few of them?

Shaun Turner: This is a standard log that was completed by service managers for any interactions with branches. That might be a visit, it might be a call.

Mr Blake: What would happen to those logs?

Shaun Turner: They would get stored against the branch record on the electronic filing cabinet, I believe it was called.

Mr Blake: Can we go to the second page. I’m going to read to you a little bit from that entry. It says:

“Expand on any letter requested …”

So this is the entry on the log. It says:

“Telephoned Alan [I think Alan is the subpostmaster] as requested. He is concerned that he has still not heard anything regarding the loss that he is rolling. I told him that I had now involved the C&SM …”

Who was the C&SM?

Shaun Turner: I don’t remember what the job title – it may be contracts and service manager. I think that would be Sandra’s boss.

Mr Blake: Thank you:

“… who in turn has contacted Andy.”

Who is Andy?

Shaun Turner: I think Andy Bayfield.

Mr Blake: Thank you. And what was his role?

Shaun Turner: I think he was the sort of regional service manager, so this – he would have been the C&SM’s line manager.

Mr Blake: “I agreed that I would make some enquiries and let him know my findings. I discussed this with Andy who has agreed to send another email relating to the shortfall due to the Horizon failure to Shaun Turner …”

Why are you being mentioned there?

Shaun Turner: At that time I was in the network co-ordination role. So if there were issues, not necessarily related just to issues with Horizon but any sort of issues that required the input of other stakeholders within the business outside of Service, it would be referred to myself or one of my colleagues to kind of chase up or escalate.

Mr Blake: Chase up or escalate with who?

Shaun Turner: In this particular case, it would typically be – well, it depends. If we could resolve the issue through Fujitsu taking ownership and fixing the problem, it would be that route. If it was – if we felt it was a wider or more significant problem, then we would raise it through to the Problem Management Team.

Mr Blake: To who, sorry?

Shaun Turner: To the Problem Management Team.

Mr Blake: Who was in charge of the Problem Management Team?

Shaun Turner: Not sure at this point. I think it was later Dave Hulbert. But I don’t know at this particular point in time.

Mr Blake: After your name is mentioned there, it says:

“… meanwhile the office should continue to roll the loss.”

Can you explain to us what “roll the loss” means?

Shaun Turner: My take on this is that it means not bringing the loss to account while it is investigated.

Mr Blake: Was that common advice that the NBSC or others gave to subpostmasters if there was a problem?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know about the NBSC, but it – I don’t think it would be uncommon for a service manager to advise that while something was being investigated.

Mr Blake: Typically, how long would somebody roll the loss for?

Shaun Turner: I don’t think there was some specific period of time. It would depend on how long the investigation takes.

Mr Blake: If the investigation takes quite a while, might it be that a subpostmaster is asked to roll the loss for quite a significant period of time?

Shaun Turner: It could be.

Mr Blake: Can we look at FUJ00083815, please. Sorry, that’s the same document. Can we look at FUJ00083664.

Now, this is a significant email chain. I’m going to start at the back so I’m going to start at page 6 of that chain. Thank you very much. So we’re here on 11 January 2006. It’s an email from Sandra MacKay to yourself. What was your position at this time?

Shaun Turner: I was still in the network co-ordination role.

Mr Blake: Thank you. I’m just going to read that email. It says:

“You may recall that in September the above office had major problems with their Horizon System relating to transfers between stock units.”

So September, that’s the reference, really, to the document we’ve seen just now, isn’t it?

Shaun Turner: Yes, it is.

Mr Blake: We’re now in January:

“The [subpostmaster] has reported that he is again experiencing problems with transfers, ([5 January 2006]) which resulted in a loss of around [£43,000] which has subsequently rectified itself.”

£43,000, would that have struck you as a significant sum or was that typical?

Shaun Turner: An alarming sum, I would say, yeah. It would have struck me as significant.

Mr Blake: “I know that the [subpostmaster] has reported this to Horizon Support …”

Horizon Support, who was that? Was that Fujitsu or was that yourselves?

Shaun Turner: No, I take that to mean HSD.

Mr Blake: Thank you:

“… who have come back to him stating that they cannot find any problem.

“Clearly the [subpostmaster] is concerned as we have just dispute number of months trying to sort out the first instance and he doesn’t want a repeat performance. He is convinced that there is something wrong with his Horizon kit. I would be grateful if you could investigate this and give him any support that you can. I’m due to visit the office tomorrow to have a look at his paperwork and discuss the situation with him.”

Why were you, in particular, being contacted about this problem?

Shaun Turner: Firstly, because it had happened before and it appeared to be a system issue and, if it was a system issue, it was important to get that – give that visibility to the Problem Management Team.

Mr Blake: When you say a “system issue”, do you mean a wider problem than an individual branch, or?

Shaun Turner: Not necessarily. But a system issue – an issue with the Horizon System not functioning as it should.

Mr Blake: Rather than, say, a hardware problem?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Could we scroll up and look at the email above. This is an email from Brian Trotter to yourself. Who was Brian Trotter?

Shaun Turner: I believe at this point he was Sandra’s boss so the C&SM who was referred to earlier.

Mr Blake: He says:

“Further to Sandra’s email, I visited the branch with Sandra last week and the [subpostmaster] provided clear documented evidence that something very wrong is occurring with some of the processors when carrying out transfers between stock units. To be absolutely sure from our side can we either carry out a thorough check of the alleged faulty processors or swap them out.”

Can we turn to the email above that, please, so that’s page 5. We have here your response – sorry, your email to Gary Blackburn.

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: I think you’ve mentioned Gary Blackburn. Who was he?

Shaun Turner: Gary Blackburn was in the Problem Management Team in Post Office.

Mr Blake: You’re forwarding the issue to him and you say there:


“Need your advice on this branch. There appears to be an ongoing problem at this branch with transfers between SUs causing a receipts and payments mismatch. This first came to my attention some 3 or 4 months ago, when the branch was chasing up an error notice to account for loss [et cetera].”

Can we look at the final paragraph there, it says:

“Since then it appeared to have happened again, although Fujitsu are saying no issue could be detected. I am concerned that there is a fundamental flaw with the branch’s configuration, and would be interested to know how FS …”

That’s Fujitsu Services, is it?

Shaun Turner: That’s correct, yes.

Mr Blake: “… put the first issue to bed.”

So what did you believe you were doing in that email? Were you escalating the matter, raising it with somebody who would speak to Fujitsu, or what was the purpose?

Shaun Turner: I was trying to firstly understand what was happening in the branch and I thought Gary would be able to assist me with that because he had contacts in Fujitsu that I didn’t have access to.

Secondly, I’m trying to get to a position where we can fix this for the branch, given it appears to have happened in September and then repeated in January.

Mr Blake: Can we scroll up, please, to page 4. There is an email from Liz Evans-Jones to Gary Blackburn. Now, Liz Evans-Jones seems to be from Fujitsu; is that somebody you were familiar with?

Shaun Turner: Only in passing but, yeah, I believe she was a Fujitsu problem manager, so Gary’s counterpart.

Mr Blake: So she would be a direct person to speak to in relation to a bug in Horizon?

Shaun Turner: For Gary, yeah.

Mr Blake: For Gary. She says there:

“Hi Gary,

“I have checked the call and this issue is scheduled to be resolved in S90.

“S90 has already been deployed to the Datacentre and counter release is scheduled to start on [4 March 2006] due for completion [14 April 2006].”

Now, that response is sent to you. Why were you being kept in the loop in relation to this issue?

Shaun Turner: So that I could keep the service manager in the loop and therefore the branch.

Mr Blake: Did you at this stage think that it might be a wider problem than just this one branch?

Shaun Turner: Not at this stage, I had no reason to suspect that.

Mr Blake: Can we scroll up to page 3, please. So we have there:


“S90 fix for this problem, in the interim TC correction will have to continue. Let me know if you need any further assistance.”

Then we have an email from yourself to Gary Blackburn, saying:


“Thanks for looking into this … Couple of questions occur:

“Do we understand why this particular branch has been having problems? Or are there any branches in the network that have been having this problem?

“Can the branch be front ended on the counter release of S90 such that it gets a fix as soon as possible?

“The email from Liz suggests that there may be a recurrence following S90. What degree of certainty do we have that it will definitely be fixed?”

I mean, you’ve said that the amount, the £43,000, is an alarming amount of money.

Shaun Turner: Mm.

Mr Blake: Were you concerned at this stage about recurrences?

Shaun Turner: I was concerned to make sure that the S90 release was going to fix it and I was concerned to make sure, as indicated by my question there, that this was, as I believed it to be, a single branch that was having this problem.

Mr Blake: Can we look at POL00081928, please. It’s page 6 that I’d like to begin. Thank you. This was an email from Anne Chambers. Who was Anne Chambers?

Shaun Turner: I believe that she worked within Fujitsu on the second or third line support.

Mr Blake: And Mike Stewart?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know who Mike was.

Mr Blake: This is 23 February 2006, and this email isn’t copied to you originally but it is subsequently forwarded to you; have you seen that?

Shaun Turner: I have.

Mr Blake: I’m going to read to you briefly from Anne Chambers’ email. If we could scroll down slightly, it says:

“Haven’t looked at the recent evidence, but I know in the past this site had hit this Riposte lock problem 2 or 3 times within a few weeks. This problem has been around for years and affects a number of sites most weeks, and finally Escher say they have done something about it. I am interested in whether they really have fixed it which [is] why I left the call open – to remind me to check over the whole estate once S90 is live – call me cynical but I do not just accept a 3rd party’s word that they have fixed something!”

Further down in that email, she says:

“Please note that KELs tell SMC that they must contact sites and warn them of balancing problems if they notice the event storms caused by the held lock, and advise them to reboot the affected counter before continuing with the balance. Unfortunately in practice it seems to take SMC several hours to notice these storms by which time the damage may have been done.”

Were you aware of this problem at the time, the significance of this issue?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall reading this email. I mean, it was copied to me, so I may have seen it. I certainly didn’t pick up on the significance at the time. My main focus was getting the branch or branches that were impacted by this fixed, which was going to be done shortly through the S90 release.

Mr Blake: Having heard about the Callendar Square incident and the £43,000, having thought that it was likely to have only related to one particular branch, might this not have struck you as quite concerning at the time and something really that should be raised to quite a significant level within the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: I regret not being more curious about that, the line where it is said that it is affecting several sites a week. But I think at the time, if I’d have read that, I would have assumed that this was being managed through the sort of cross to main problem management space, especially since Gary and Lynne were on the circulation.

Mr Blake: You had been on the distribution list of this, and you were also copied in or sent emails in the early days. I mean, dating back to 2005, you were involved in the Callendar Square incident. Is there a reason why it didn’t strike you at the time as something more significant?

Shaun Turner: I think, as I say, my focus was to make sure that the branch issue was fixed. I was told that was being done as part of the S90 release. My accountability, therefore, was to push that forward to the service manager, so that they could keep the branch up to date. In terms of this particular aspect, I would have expected that to be being, you know, the wider sort of branch impact, if there were other branches that were being impacted by this error, to be managed and monitored through the problem management process.

Mr Blake: It says at the bottom there:

“Please note that KELs tell SMC that they must contact sites and warn them of balancing problems if they notice the event storms caused by the held lock …”

Do you know how event storms would be noticed?

Shaun Turner: I don’t. That’s the other thing about this email. There’s some technical content that was beyond my ken.

Mr Blake: Do you know what an event storm is?

Shaun Turner: I don’t.

Mr Blake: How, at this time, did you believe a bug such as this would be known to the wider Post Office community, whether it’s branches or within Post Office itself?

Shaun Turner: At this time, my assumption was there were two things that would – two processes that would surface a bug like this. One would be receipts and payments mismatch messages in the branch and the other would be Fujitsu monitoring.

Mr Blake: Was your belief that Fujitsu monitoring was infallible?

Shaun Turner: Not infallible but I thought they had robust monitoring in place and if a branch contacted them, they would seek to replicate that, and if it wasn’t included in their existing monitoring processes, that it would be added.

Mr Blake: If a branch didn’t contact them, because they didn’t know about the problem or didn’t connect the dots, how would they have found out about the problem?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, that’s a fair point. I don’t know. If there’s no monitoring in place and the branch doesn’t contact them, it seems to me that they wouldn’t know about it.

Mr Blake: If we scroll up to page 5, we have the email to yourself from Gary Blackburn. It’s the top email on page 5, please – thank you – sent to you on 1 March 2006:


“It appears that Callendar Square is not alone with its mismatch problem. It also appears that Fujitsu are expecting S90 release to resolve this quirk.

“We have opened a cross-domain problem record. Lynne Fallowfield is the contact.”

Who was Lynne Fallowfield?

Shaun Turner: She was a colleague of Gary Blackburn’s in Problem Management.

Mr Blake: Thank you. So it’s not just a matter of Anne Chambers’ email being forwarded to you amongst a large distribution list, or anything along those lines. I mean, it is being sent to you as the sole recipient by Gary Blackburn, telling you here that Callendar Square isn’t alone with the mismatch problem. Again, would it not have struck you as significant?

Shaun Turner: As I say, the key thing for me was getting the branch or branches that were impacted, the situation fixed, and I was being told that that would be implemented with the S90 release and, as I previously mentioned, my feeling at this time was that Fujitsu had adequate monitoring in place to identify these branches.

Mr Blake: But weren’t you also being told by Fujitsu, that is Anne Chambers’ email, that she’s a little sceptical of the fix?

Shaun Turner: Yes, yeah. I would expect post-S90 monitoring to be in place to prove that the fix had worked. That was normally part of the standard problem management process, in my experience.

Mr Blake: Was it your experience that somebody from Fujitsu would put in an email that they were sceptical about their own fix?

Shaun Turner: I’d not seen that before. I don’t think I ever saw it again.

Mr Blake: Can we look at page 4, please. There’s an email from you to Sandra MacKay and to Brian Trotter, and you say there:

“As you can see from the email below though, there is now recognition that this is a wider issue than just a software ‘quirk’ at just one branch, which means it is now being actively managed as a cross-domain problem within Fujitsu.”

Why were you sending the email to them?

Shaun Turner: Predominantly to – so that they could update Callendar Square.

Mr Blake: So we know that this problem has been going on at Callendar Square since September 2005. We know that the software release S90 is going to take place in April 2006. But we know that there are concerns about it still existing after the software fix. We know also now that it affects more than one branch. There seems to be in this chain a bit of a lack of urgency with regards to this particular problem; would you agree with that?

Shaun Turner: I think things could have been done quicker, yeah.

Mr Blake: Were, as far as you’re aware, messages being cascaded across the network to branches about a problem that affects balancing?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection there weren’t, no.

Mr Blake: Who was responsible for passing the information to branches that didn’t call the helpline?

Shaun Turner: Once something like this was accepted as a problem, the Problem Management Team would consider what communications were required both to internal stakeholders and to branches, so I would see it as their accountability to make that judgement.

Mr Blake: We’re talking about a problem that’s gone on for years and that, as you have said – I mean, in the Callendar Square case, £43,000, significant sum. Who do you think, in Post Office, was responsible for making that message more widely known?

Shaun Turner: As I say, I think that would be the Problem Management Team.

Mr Blake: So that’s a team. Who in particular?

Shaun Turner: I’m not sure who was heading up that area at this time, but whoever is managing that problem – in this case Lynne Fallowfield in consultation with her seniors – would need to make that judgement based on the number of impacted branches and the likely fix time.

Mr Blake: Did you ever have a conversation with her about it?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection, no.

Mr Blake: Who was responsible for telling auditors about this problem?

Shaun Turner: Again, I would see that coming through the Problem Management Team. They should be considering internal stakeholders and branch communications.

Mr Blake: Who was responsible for telling investigators and prosecutors about this problem?

Shaun Turner: The same.

Mr Blake: Were there policies and procedures in place for them to have raised the issue with auditors, investigators, prosecutors?

Shaun Turner: I was never part of the Problem Management Team but I believe there were processes that they could follow to determine who they should be communicating to. That was my understanding as an outsider to that team.

Mr Blake: As someone who had spent a considerable part of your career analysing data and analysing trends, was the issue that was being raised here – so more than one branch, number of years – was that something that you would have considered to be significant?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I think in the moment, yeah, it’s significant, which is why I was asking those questions. But I think I would have seen it – I think from the documentation that we saw earlier, the email was suggesting that the S90 release was imminent in March 2006. So that would have been my focus at this time, to get the branch situation fixed.

Mr Blake: So I think the software fix wouldn’t be complete until April 2006. It’s been going on, at least from the Callendar Square incident, since September 2005. Did you consider the historic position, looking back, even if it is soon to be fixed, albeit in a couple of months’ time, what about all those branches that were affected over the course of that year?

Shaun Turner: As I say, I would have expected that to come through Fujitsu monitoring and be raised. If there were incidents earlier than Callendar Square, I would have expected that to have been monitored by Fujitsu and raised as a problem by them earlier. I had no reason at that stage to believe that wasn’t happening.

Mr Blake: Raised with who?

Shaun Turner: Raised – so the Fujitsu Problem Management Team should raise it to the POL Problem Management Team, across the main problem.

Mr Blake: Can we look at POL00070134. We’re now on 6 December 2006 and there is an email, the subject of which is “Callendar Square URGENT”. You are a recipient of that email, from Mandy Talbot, Dispute Resolution. She says there:

“In [February] of this year you wrote to Gary Blackburn and he wrote to Shaun Turner and then Sandra MacKay about these branches which had apparently registered complaints about the HORIZON system. Fujitsu have told us that in respect of Callendar Square that there was a problem when stock was transferred from one stock unit to another but this would any apply when there was more than one stock unit, ie more than one position at the counter.”

So it seems as though, even in December 2006, you were still being sent emails relating to the Callendar Square. Do you remember that at all?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I don’t remember receiving this particular email prior to getting the pack, the bundle. But, yeah, I can see that I was sent the email and I think Lynne responded with some details of those four branches.

Mr Blake: Can you think of why, in December 2006, you would still be being sent emails related to Callendar Square?

Shaun Turner: I think it is because there was previous correspondence between Mandy Talbot and Lesley Joyce where the visit logs were sent, and I presume from the content of this email that Mandy Talbot may have seen the emails that were sent back and forth at that time and that’s why – my name is on those, so that’s why she’s sort of send out a sort of blanket email.

Mr Blake: Was the Callendar Square bug still something that was bubbling away in December 2006?

Shaun Turner: Not in my world it wasn’t, no.

Mr Blake: Do you believe it was or wasn’t?

Shaun Turner: I believed it had been fixed by S90.

Mr Blake: Did you check that it had been fixed by S90?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall checking. That’s not to say it didn’t happen. I would have expected, as a matter of course, where I’d raised a problem with the Problem Management Team to be notified that it had been successfully resolved.

Mr Blake: So you would have expected the Problem Management Team to have kept a tab on whether S90 had fixed the problem or not?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, once they’d got it across the main problem record, that’s the purpose, is to manage that through and ensure that it’s resolved or mitigated.

Mr Blake: Given the significance, the sums involved, the length of time that it was happening, are you aware and did you keep tabs on whether any significant investigation had taken place into whether S90 fixed it?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall doing that but that’s not to say that I wasn’t speaking to Gary and Lynne about this post the implementation of S90.

Mr Blake: Having been quite a significant issue at the time, significant in number, significant in effect, is there a reason why you can’t remember whether you did or didn’t?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know what to say to that. I can’t remember. So …

Mr Blake: Was it not significant for you?

Shaun Turner: No, it was. It was significant. But I don’t remember – I believe subsequently, from the GLO findings, that it was fixed in S90. That’s my understanding. But I don’t remember speaking to Problem Management – I would have expected – that would have been my expected process at that time for something like this, and I can only assume that, if I had spoken to them, I would have been told that it had been fixed in S90.

Mr Blake: You had previously been responsible as network conformance and capacity manager and looking into things like error rates and conformance. Had you come across similar issues to this one in that role?

Shaun Turner: No, not really, because when we’re talking about error rates in that role, it’s not branch balancing issues; it’s more presentational issues or it may be not correctly sizing parcels, so it’s not specifically related to the balancing process.

Mr Blake: How about as network co-ordination adviser? Were you coming across similar issues to the Callendar Square issue?

Shaun Turner: No, not typically, no. There were escalations to me about Horizon Issues but, typically, it was more things like engineers not being sent out on time, where I needed to chase them up. This was fairly unique.

Mr Blake: Thank you.

Sir, it may be an appropriate time now to take our mid-morning break.

Sir Wyn Williams: By all means, that’s fine.

Mr Blake: Thank you very much, could we take 15 minutes, which –

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, 11.35?

Mr Blake: Thank you very much.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

(11.20 am)

(A short break)

(11.38 am)

Mr Blake: Thank you, Chair. Can we bring up POL00070133, please. Now, at the bottom of this page, there is that email I took you to just before the break, but then that email is forwarded by Mandy Talbot to somebody called Steve Parker, do you know who Steve Parker is, was?

Shaun Turner: Other than he worked in Fujitsu, no.

Mr Blake: Yes. As you say, he worked for Fujitsu, and it says that he’s been copied into an email because:

“… it may be that you might have to do a repeat performance tomorrow once the FAD codes had been identified and the name of the branches revealed”, et cetera.

The second paragraph is the one I want to draw your attention to. It says:

“Stephen and Richard our legal team at the Court will be doing their best to persuade the Court not to allow Castleton …”

That refers to Lee Castleton. Are you aware of a Lee Castleton case?

Shaun Turner: Any in passing, yes, I believe it was Marine Drive Post Office, I think. But not at this stage, I wouldn’t have been aware.

Mr Blake: So on 6 December 2006, when you’re – the email that was sent to you is being forwarded, you weren’t involved in the Lee Castleton case in any way?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: Thank you. I’ll just continue that email. It says:

“… to call this evidence because it is failed late and does not relate to the problems at his branch office. If they are successful there will be no need to progress any further with these investigations but as Castleton is a litigant in person it is common for Judges to be sympathetic and may allow him to rely on his evidence. If so you will have to pull out all the stops to investigate what if anything went wrong at these branches and why we can distinguish them from Mr Castleton at Marine Drive.”

So it seems as though the Callendar Square case is being used potentially as an example of an issue with Horizon in the Castleton proceedings; is that a fair interpretation or your interpretation of that email?

Shaun Turner: That’s a fair interpretation, I would say.

Mr Blake: Yes. Were you asked about the Callendar Square bug in December 2006 by anybody?

Shaun Turner: Other than the email we’ve seen from Mandy Talbot, no.

Mr Blake: Did you know about the context in which that email had been sent, relating to the Lee Castleton case?

Shaun Turner: Other than what is the content of the email, that’s all I would have known at that stage.

Mr Blake: So you wouldn’t have had a conversation with Mandy Talbot or anybody else on that bottom email about why Callendar Square is being raised now?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: What was the relationship like between those who worked in NBSC and those who were involved in court cases, be they investigators or prosecutors or the legal team?

Shaun Turner: In my experience, rather distant. I don’t recall any specific interactions with investigations. They were a little bit further down the line than where you’d be involved with NBSC in dealing with branches.

Mr Blake: Would those in the NBSC ever be asked about common problems with Horizon or bugs, errors or defects?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection. You mean by investigation specifically or technically?

Mr Blake: We see here, for example, Mandy Talbot and Fujitsu in correspondence about ongoing proceedings and that relates to, or in some way relates to, the Callendar Square incident. Was there ever any discussion, to the best of your recollection, with those kinds of people or anybody else involved in court proceedings and people who worked on the NBSC about bugs, errors or defects within Horizon?

Shaun Turner: No, not to my recollection, no.

Mr Blake: I’m going to now ask you about another bug and now we’re moving on to Horizon Online. Can we look at POL00034433, please. Before we go on to that particular bug, I just want to ask you, this is a document that concerns Horizon Online migration and it seems to have been written by yourself or it’s got your name in the bottom left-hand corner. Is this a document you recollect?

Shaun Turner: Only after having seen the bundle. I didn’t recollect it before but it does appear that I’m the author of it, yes.

Mr Blake: In the first paragraph there it says:

“The delivery of Horizon Online is a key business strategy in delivering some of the cost savings that underpin bringing the business back into profit by 2011.”

Do you recall at this stage, so 2010, 2011, there being financial pressures at the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: In general terms, yes. But I – in terms of the business benefits of Horizon Online specifically, I don’t recall.

Mr Blake: Do you recall any pressures to get on with Horizon Online, following delays alongside these possible profitability issues?

Shaun Turner: Not specifically, no. But then I wasn’t connected to the programme directly; I wasn’t working on the Horizon Online programme.

Mr Blake: Can we look at POL00028838, please. This is the issue that I’d like to ask you about. It’s a “Receipts/Payments Mismatch issue”. We can see that at the top. You’re not listed there as an attendee of this meeting, you are mentioned – I know you’re aware of this a bit later on in this document, but let’s see where we get to with looking at this page. So it says:

“What is the issue?

“Discrepancies showing at the Horizon counter disappear when the branch follows certain process steps, but will still show within the back end branch account. This is currently impacting circa 40 Branches since migration on to Horizon Online, with an overall cash value of circa £20,000 loss. This issue will only occur if a branch cancels the completion of the trading period, but within the same session continues to roll into a new balance period.”

Is this something you recall at all at the time? So we’re here now in 2010.

Shaun Turner: Yeah, this was in the additional documents bundle that I received, and I think I also saw this in some previous evidence – it may have been by John Simpkins – and, at that point, I did recall there being some issue that I was advised of in 2010. Specifically, I remember it because it was in the very early days Horizon Online but, beyond that, in terms of the nature and the number of branches and what the specific underlying technical problems were, I don’t remember anything.

Mr Blake: It says below that:

“At this time we have not communicated with branches affected and we do not believe they are exploiting this bug intentionally.”

Now, you’re somebody who has spent your whole career at the Post Office. Are you aware of branches not being told about bugs dependent on whether or not they are using it intentionally, exploiting it intentionally.

Shaun Turner: Only from my experience of the Callendar Square bug. I don’t believe there was a wider communication on that to branches.

Mr Blake: But it seems from the wording here that it’s not being communicating because it’s not being exploited intentionally and they would only communicate if it was exploiting the bug intentionally. Do you think I’ve misread that or do you think that is a fair reading of that sentence?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a reasonable reading of that sentence, yeah.

Mr Blake: Do you think that the Post Office was better at communicating with branches, in respect of bugs, errors or defects, if the Post Office felt that such bug, error or defect was being exploited intentionally?

Shaun Turner: I think my experience with bugs is – it’s sort of limited that I wouldn’t want to make that judgement call more generally. I can only go on where I’ve been involved.

Mr Blake: From your experience, was the Post Office better at communicating with branches, where the Post Office had something to lose?

Shaun Turner: No, I don’t think so. As I say, I’ve not been involved in communications or these decisions and it seems to me you’re asking about what underpins certain communication decisions, which I’ve not been party to.

Mr Blake: It then goes on to say:

“The problem occurs as part of the process when moving discrepancies on the Horizon System into Local Suspense.”

Can we turn over the page, please. Page 2, it talks about the impact and it has some bullet points at the bottom of that page. The impact is:

“The branch has appeared to have balanced, whereas in fact they could have a loss or a gain.”

So that’s one of the fundamental uses that this Inquiry is looking into. It says:

“Our accounting systems will be out of sync with what is recorded at the branch.

“If widely known could cause a loss of confidence in the Horizon System by branches.”

Again, is that something you were aware of from your long experience within the Post Office, that there is a concern in the Post Office, certainly at this time, that by spreading the word there would be a loss of confidence in the Horizon System.

Shaun Turner: That as a general theme, yes, I was aware of, yes, and I would say that is the case in my experience.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us how you got that impression?

Shaun Turner: Largely from the messaging that was coming out from the business, particularly in the sort of post-2009 period, around the robust nature of the Horizon System, which does lead to particular sensitivities around any issues or any perceived issues with the Horizon System.

Mr Blake: We know in 2009 there was the Computer Weekly article, for example. Was that the driver or was there some other driver?

Shaun Turner: From my recollection, I think it was the Computer Weekly and, you know, the early days of the Justice for Subpostmasters, were certainly things that were mentioned in the business and where messaging was coming out to internal staff like myself, around the sort of robust nature of Horizon.

Mr Blake: Where was that messaging coming from?

Shaun Turner: I don’t remember specifically but senior leaders.

Mr Blake: When you, say “senior leaders”, do you mean Chief Executive level or below that?

Shaun Turner: I don’t think I can say for certain but, you know, I was a recipient of some of that messaging as it came down the chain and my impression was that that was coming from senior leadership.

Mr Blake: Can you clarify just so that we know who you mean by senior leadership?

Shaun Turner: I guess in my area it would be a couple or three rungs up the ladder from my direct line manager. But I would imagine that messaging was coming from board level down.

Mr Blake: When you say some way up from your level, can you give a name?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know, at that stage. I can’t remember the structure.

Mr Blake: Board level, though, again, Chief Executive level?

Shaun Turner: That – this was my impression of where the messaging was coming from. We received it down the management line.

Mr Blake: But your impression was it was coming from Chief Executive level?

Shaun Turner: That was my impression, yeah. It was a significant concern within the business, so my impression would be that that would be coming from senior leaders within the business.

Mr Blake: “Potential impact upon ongoing legal cases where branches are disputing the integrity of Horizon Data.”

Again, was that something you were aware of?

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: So you mention the concern arising, for example, from the Computer Weekly article. Did you also get the impression or were you told that there was concern relating to ongoing legal cases?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, yeah, certainly.

Mr Blake: Both of those?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: “It could provide branches ammunition to blame Horizon for future discrepancies.”

Again, that’s all rolled up with the same issue?

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: If we go over the page, please:

“The Receipts and Payment mismatch will result in an error code being generated which will allow Fujitsu to isolate branches affected, by this problem, although this is not seen by branches, we have asked Fujitsu why it has taken so long to react to and escalate an issue which began in May. They will provide feedback in due course.”

Now, we saw in relation to the earlier bug that there was interaction with Fujitsu. We saw that Anne Chambers email, et cetera. Was that something you experienced with Fujitsu, that they take a long time to react to problems such as this?

Shaun Turner: I don’t think typically that was my experience but my exposure was very limited. If I did need to have – or put forward issues for particular branches, it would generally be other people that were having the interaction with Fujitsu rather than myself.

Mr Blake: So it wasn’t something you had direct experience of but were you aware of any complaints from anybody within the Post Office about the time that it took for Fujitsu to react to these kinds of issues?

Shaun Turner: I wasn’t aware of any particular issues that were flagged to me.

Mr Blake: If we go down to the “Proposal for affected Branches”, we have a number of different solutions and the recommendation is that Solution Two should be progressed. Let’s just look at those solutions briefly. We have Solution One:

“Alter the Horizon Branch figure at the counter to show the discrepancy. Fujitsu would have to manually write an entry value to the local branch account.”

Were you aware, at that time, that that was something that Fujitsu had the facility to do, to manually write an entry to the local branch account?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: It says:

“IMPACT – When the branch comes to complete next Trading Period they would have a discrepancy, which they have to bring to account.

“RISK – this has significant data integrity concerns and could lead to questions of ‘tampering’ with the branch system and could generate questions around how the discrepancy was caused. This solution could have moral implications of Post Office changing branch data without informing the branch.”

Were you ever aware throughout your time at the Post Office of issues relating to manually altering data within the branch?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection, no.

Mr Blake: Solution Two, which is the one that they recommended, was:

“P&BA will journal values from the discrepancy account into the Customer Account and recover/refund via normal processes. This will need to be supported by an approved POL communication. Unlike the branch ‘POLSAP’ remains in balance albeit with an account (discrepancies) that should be cleared.

“IMPACT – Post Office will be required to explain the reason for a debt recovery/refund even though there is no discrepancy at the branch.

“RISK – could potentially highlight to branches that Horizon can lose data.”

Were you aware of a concern within the Post Office of highlighting to branches that Horizon could lose data?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: Solution Three:

“It is decided not to correct the data in the branches (ie Post Office would prepare to write off the ‘lost’).

“IMPACT – Post Office must absorb circa £20K loss.

“RISK – huge moral implications to the integrity of the business, as there are agents that were potentially due a cash gain on their system.”

Were you aware, at this stage, the significance of these huge moral implications, and debates of this nature taking place within the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: Only in a more generalised sense about a concern, you know, after the Computer Weekly article about the robustness of Horizon. And, as I say, the messaging on that down the chain, to me at least, was the system is robust, it’s audited and there is monitoring in place. But nothing in terms of this specific problem.

Mr Blake: If we scroll down to the next page, you’re aware that your name is mentioned there in an action point summary.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: It’s the fourth one down, it says:

“Branch Performance review: Confirm with Shaun Turner any future audits for Branches and any performance issues flagged.”

Do you know why you’re mentioned there?

Shaun Turner: I can speculate or take an educated guess, which would be, at this time, part of my job role was the production and maintenance of a sort of branch profile, which had the branches for all the network in there, which was used to – as one of the tools to guide audits. I suspect that this action is to check with me that there’s no impact from this particular issue on that profile.

Mr Blake: In this period, so we’re talking about October 2010 or thereabouts, we know that, for example, Seema Misra, a subpostmistress, was being prosecuted. Did anyone ever discuss with you these kinds of concerns and the potential impact that they may have on ongoing legal cases?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: Were you aware, at this stage, that people were being prosecuted for shortfalls on Horizon?

Shaun Turner: I was aware that there was a business process to do so. But, yeah, in terms of direct involvement or interactions with those individuals in the business that were pursuing those cases, I didn’t have any contact with them.

Mr Blake: We saw from the Castleton case, for example, earlier on, an email that had been sent to you being forwarded in the context of legal proceedings. Were you aware at this stage that some people were raising faults with Horizon in their defence in legal proceedings?

Shaun Turner: In 2010?

Mr Blake: Yes.

Shaun Turner: I was aware, because of the Justice for Subpostmasters, that yeah, that was being raised, yeah.

Mr Blake: We’ve seen earlier about your knowledge of the Callendar Square bug. Was this the time, perhaps, to have raised that issue more widely?

Shaun Turner: Perhaps but, you know, my feeling on that bug was that that had been fixed and that the impact of it would have been monitored through the two Problem Management Teams. So if there were concerns to be raised to wider stakeholders, I would have expected that to happen through that process.

Mr Blake: But by 2010 you had known that the Callendar Square bug had gone on for quite a while, affected quite a few branches, a significant sum. You’re now informed about an issue relating to the receipts and payments mismatch in Horizon Online. The knowledge that you had developed over those years, was that not something that you thought “Actually, this is an issue now”?

Shaun Turner: I don’t think it’s so much that; I think it is that I had a kind of institutional trust in the processes and teams that were managing these issues.

Mr Blake: Do you think the teams were acting in silos and weren’t really communicating with each other in respect of bugs, errors and defects in Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Which teams do you mean?

Mr Blake: You often refer to other teams dealing with issues and it not being within your sphere at that time. Was that caused by any inherent problem with the structure at the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: I think – I mean, I think the reason, in the Callendar Square case, for example, that I wanted to get that in a Problem Management, was that I saw them as the most appropriate people to resolve it. They were the people with the expertise, the people with the contacts. So I don’t think there was – from my perspective at least, at this time – that there was sort of institutional or process failings, as such. In retrospective, I think you can make that argument, certainly.

Mr Blake: Because there was this team that existed that you could pass over the problem to and it no longer became your problem?

Shaun Turner: Well, I don’t see it like that; I see it as passing it to the individuals who are most appropriate to resolve that particular issue for the branch.

Mr Blake: During this period, so 2010, you were the branch standards data analyst. In that role, you made outbound calls, I think, to branches to tackle common issues; is that right?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, conformance and compliance issues, yeah.

Mr Blake: Can you tell us how such calls would be made? What was the process involved? Why would you call branches?

Shaun Turner: So we had streams of compliance data coming in to the team. So this would be things like mails data or cash declaration data, and that was analysed by myself and a colleague, and we would identify sets of branches to pull together a call campaign based on their performance.

So you’d be looking at the branches that were struggling the most with, say, oversized mails, identify those, upload them for the team and then they would make outbound calls to the branches to do some coaching.

Mr Blake: Was there a process of making outbound calls to branches that may be affected by bugs, errors and defects in Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Not in the team that I was in at this stage, it was conformance and compliance.

Mr Blake: Was there a team that was carrying out, to the best of your knowledge, those kinds of outbound calls?

Shaun Turner: If there was, I – it would be HSD, I would say, and then further down the line, if there was discrepancies, it may well be that P&BA and Chesterfield or the contracts adviser would become involved.

Mr Blake: But the idea of making these proactive calls, which is what you were doing for a certain type of problem –

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: – are you aware of an equivalent of that in relation to bugs, errors and defects with Horizon?

Shaun Turner: Proactive calls? No, I wasn’t aware of anything.

Mr Blake: How, in your view, would an issue such as this receipts and payments mismatch issue in 2010 be cascaded down to branches, branches that didn’t know that they were affect by the bug?

Shaun Turner: Well, if a decision was made to communicate it, there was the sort of weekly Counter News, I would imagine, or Branch Focus, I think it may have been named at that stage, or Memo View, through the – which is a broadcast, messaging broadcast. Those would be typically the channels down to the branch, if we were going to communicate.

Mr Blake: What would they typically have said about an issue such as this receipts and payments issue?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know. I wasn’t involved in communications so I can’t say what, typically, the messages would say. But I would imagine it would outline the nature of the problem and advise branches on how to avoid any sequences of icon – you know, icon pressing that would result in that particular bug.

Mr Blake: Taking this one as an example, if that didn’t happen, would you be concerned by it?

Shaun Turner: It depends on the bug and the level of branches impacted and how robust the monitoring is to ensure that we’re picking up any other impacted branches.

Mr Blake: So we have here “Receipts/Payments Mismatch” affecting circa 40 branches, Horizon Online, overall cash value of £20,000 loss. In those circumstances, would you have expected it to have been communicated via those channels that you’ve just described?

Shaun Turner: Um, yeah, as I say, I wasn’t involved in the decision-making process around communications but, to me, it feels significant enough that we would want to communicate something.

Mr Blake: Are you aware of the processes involved in how that communication took place?

Shaun Turner: As I say, it would either be through Branch Focus or, if it was more urgent, it would go through the message broadcast service. But in terms of the sort of process for generating that communication, as I say, that would generally come through the problem management process and then to internal stakeholders and the comms team ultimately to distribute.

Mr Blake: I’m going to take you to an even later problem, and that’s the smart ID receipts and payments mismatch you’ve mentioned in your statement. Can we look at POL00043585, please. So this is a very late issue in the context of this Inquiry. We have the date there, 27 November 2018. Are you aware of this occurring?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Yes. Are you aware that this was during the Group Litigation against the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: Can you summarise for us, looking there at the incident detail, what issue this caused in recording transactions?

Shaun Turner: I believe it caused a receipts and payments mismatch in the branch.

Mr Blake: You’re named there, “Shaun Turner, Enhanced User Management Product Owner”. Why are you named as having attended that update?

Shaun Turner: At this time, I was working on the Enhanced User Management Programme as a product owner, and that role involved taking the business requirements to the technical teams to build the solution.

Mr Blake: Having been aware of the Callendar Square bug, having been aware of the bug in 2010, the receipts and payments mismatch issue that we just looked at, now being told in 2018 about this particular incident, were you concerned about the integrity of Horizon?

Shaun Turner: I was concerned about this bug and the impact it might have. As to why the questions about the integrity, I –

Mr Blake: Were people at this meeting discussing historic issues, historic bugs?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Blake: Did you, at this meeting, mention those two incidents that you had previous knowledge of?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection, no.

Mr Blake: There are a large number of people named here as having attended, both from the Post Office and also we see from Fujitsu. We see Steve Bansal, Pete Newsome. Do you remember Fujitsu people attending?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I do remember there were Fujitsu attendees, yeah.

Mr Blake: Do you know when the Post Office started raising incidents such as this with such a wide group of individuals? Was there a particular moment in time when these issues were escalated in the way that this one seems to have been escalated in 2018?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know. This was my first exposure to a kind of forum like this.

Mr Blake: Did you question why it was taking place?

Shaun Turner: Well, I knew why it was taking place. It was to drive the solution for the bug that we’d encountered in the network.

Mr Blake: I mean, you have quite significant people from the business there, Angela van den Bogerd we’ve heard about, and others. You also have the head of Legal, Rodric Williams, attending this meeting. Did it strike you as surprising that an incident was being raised among such a significant group of people?

Shaun Turner: Not considering the business context at the time, no.

Mr Blake: What was that context?

Shaun Turner: The ongoing GLO proceedings.

Mr Blake: Do you think it would have been helpful to have had meetings of this sort involving senior individuals within the Post Office and Fujitsu discussing earlier incidents of the type that we’ve discussed today?

Shaun Turner: In hindsight, yes.

Mr Blake: Do you know by this stage, as late as 2018, how this incident was being cascaded down to branches?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall specifically the communications to the branches but I believe there is mention of communication to the branches further down this document.

Mr Blake: Perhaps we can look down page 3. There’s mention of Impact there:

“As of [22 January 2019] 19 branches are impacted. Impacts are:

“Confusion for the user.

“Transactions accounted for against the wrong BP/TP.

“Calls into contact centres from users/branches impacted.

“Remedial action required by POL to resolve cases.”

Now, are you aware of there being a significant effort to notify branches, branches that may not know that they’re affected by this incident, that it is a known incident.

Shaun Turner: In terms of the sort of branches that were identified by Fujitsu, there was a specific process to contact those branches, discuss the cause of the issue and the branch and rectify any accounting issues.

Mr Blake: In terms of branches that hadn’t been identified by Fujitsu, was there a way of notifying them of this particular incident, an incident that presumably has an affect on the cash balancing?

Shaun Turner: As I say, I think further down in this – I think it’s this document, there is mention of a wider communication to branches that were on Smart ID at this point. I don’t recall the content of that communication.

Mr Blake: We can scroll down, if you like.

Shaun Turner: Yeah, sorry the top of that page there, “BAU impact”.

Mr Blake: So:

“Contact centres … minimal impact …

“Live service desk: minimal impact …

“Finance Service centre: minimal impact … Transaction correction team are contacting branches to ensure accounts balance.”

Do you know if that is affected branches or those that are known to be affected or do you think that’s contacting branches more broadly?

Shaun Turner: I think that is the branches that are impacted but there is some documentation that I have seen – apologies, like – I can’t find it at the moment, but it is one of these Horizon issue management reports where it mentions wider communications to branches that are on Smart ID. I think I provided a later version of this particular report. Could we bring that up?

Mr Blake: We may not need to. I can ask you a very broad question, which is are you aware, as at 2018 or as at now, of a policy being in place within the Post Office that, if you get a significant incident that affects cash account balances, that it is distributed widely across the network to as many subpostmasters as you possibly can, as many branches as you possibly can?

Shaun Turner: I’m not aware of a policy to that effect. I can only reflect on my experience of this particular incident, which I believe the project manager tried to manage with maximum transparency, both with internal stakeholders and with the branches that are impacted.

Mr Blake: Can we look at POL00037819. This is a paper that seems to have been written by you. Do you remember this paper?

Shaun Turner: I do.

Mr Blake: If we look at page 3 we have there what seems to be the same issue. Can you tell me if it is in fact the same issue. It’s 4.3, “Receipts & Payments Misbalances – FIXED [September] 2019”.

Shaun Turner: Yeah, that’s the same issue.

Mr Blake: So it seems there the issue was fixed a year after that earlier paper. So it took quite a while to fix; do you remember it taking quite a while to fix that issue?

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Blake: I’ll just read that for the record. It says:

“Multiple login functionality allowed a user with the same Horizon ID … to be logged in at more than one terminal providing any one of the sessions was active … Fujitsu identified in cases where an SU or Office Balance was initiated in those circumstances then it could cause receipts and payments misbalances in the branch which had to be corrected by a Transaction Corrections.

“These issues were fixed by the Horizon release in September/October 2019, which put in place further controls on multiple logins related to Stock Unit and Branch Balancing and changing Stock Units.”

You have in your witness statement, it’s paragraph 282 of your witness statement, listed a wide range of people who were kept in the loop about this particular issue.

Shaun Turner: Mm-hm.

Mr Blake: You said that Esther Harvey sought to ensure various internal stakeholders were informed. Who is Esther Harvey?

Shaun Turner: She was the project manager for the Smart ID or Enhanced User Management Programme.

Mr Blake: Why was she responsible for ensuring various internal stakeholders were informed about this issue?

Shaun Turner: That was part of her role as project manager.

Mr Blake: Which stakeholders do you have in mind when you refer to informing stakeholders?

Shaun Turner: The Smart ID project team itself, in the first instance, so that would have been myself and my colleagues that were working on the Smart ID project; Angela van den Bogerd; Julie Thomas, who was the project sponsor; the relevant parties in the FSC, which was the Finance Service Centre in Chesterfield, who would be dealing with any rectification of accounts. So that would kind of be broadly the ones I’m thinking of.

Mr Blake: How high up within the Post Office was this receipts and payments misbalancing issue known, 2018/2019?

Shaun Turner: At quite senior levels, I would say. I mean Angela van den Bogerd was certainly quite senior and involved with the GLO.

Mr Blake: Do you think it went above her?

Shaun Turner: I couldn’t say.

Mr Blake: What was the relevance of this particular issue to the GLO?

Shaun Turner: Well, because the GLO were looking at Horizon Issues, bugs, defects, and obviously this was a defect that was causing – impacting accounts, branch accounts.

Mr Blake: Can you remember any conversations with anyone in management within the Post Office about the significance of this issue in that context?

Shaun Turner: Not that I had, no.

Mr Blake: Are you aware of any conversations that others had?

Shaun Turner: Not in terms of the content but I’m aware that conversations were held with Julie Thomas and Angela van den Bogerd and, of course, they were on the weekly calls that we were having to track and monitor this, which is sort of documented in the reports that we brought up earlier.

Mr Blake: You say in your statement at paragraph 296 that this is an example which shows that the Post Office’s management of Fujitsu was lacking. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

Shaun Turner: There was – when this happened, not least because we were going through the GLO at the time, there was a lot of soul searching within the team about how this had occurred and whether we could have done anything to identify it.

And, at least from my perspective, I felt that these kind of issues, given that the functionality that led to this was a change, a significant change to the way that user management was managed on Horizon, I personally felt that this should have been flagged to us as part to the impact assessment of those changes, such that we could have avoided these issues.

Mr Blake: Have you reflected on previous bugs, errors and defects that you’ve identified or been involved in and whether, in those particular cases, there were issues with the management of Fujitsu?

Shaun Turner: I think particularly since the GLO findings and being aware of some of the points made in those cases, I would say, yes, we weren’t finding out about bugs quickly enough, in my view. So yeah, I would agree that, following reflection, there should have been better management of Fujitsu.

Mr Blake: You say you weren’t finding out about them enough or quickly enough. Whose responsibility was that on either side?

Shaun Turner: My – as I say, my understanding is, in terms of the incident management and problem management processes, is that it should be flagged through that route. Where there are issues with the system, it should be raised as across the main problem and managed with communications going out to branches as appropriate.

Mr Blake: Raised by who?

Shaun Turner: In cases where the branch is aware of it, the branch, or from Fujitsu themselves through their monitoring. So it should be raised by the branch to Horizon System helpdesk and then by Fujitsu across the Post Office, if it’s something that’s going to impact multiple branches.

Mr Blake: Has that improved in recent months, years?

Shaun Turner: Well, I can only go on the experience that I’ve had with the Smart ID bug and I did find, in that particular case, that Fujitsu were very quick to react, they did a lot of work in terms of identifying not just the scenarios that had caused issues in the live estate but also other potential scenarios that could potentially cause issues in the live estate from the same sort of functionality. So, yeah, my experience was that that was improved, if you looked back, compared to something like the Callendar Square issue.

Mr Blake: Was there a marked shift of any sort following, for example, the Group Litigation or since the beginning of this Inquiry?

Shaun Turner: My exposure has been through, you know, some very limited windows where I have been dealing with bugs. So I can only say that compared to the Callendar Square, my experience of working with Fujitsu collaboratively to resolve the Smart ID EUM bug in 2018 was much improved.

We had a good working relationship with Fujitsu at that time. I found them very helpful and, as I say, there was a – there was documentation produced that identified all of these various scenarios that could potentially cause the receipts and payments mismatches.

Mr Blake: I’m going to move on now to a few discrete issues. I won’t be very long with them but they’re ones I have been asked to raise with you. The first is transaction correction process and can we go to POL00039024. You’ve dealt with this at paragraph 137 of your statement. This is a document from October 2007. Can you briefly tell us what your involvement was in issues concerning transaction corrections?

Shaun Turner: With this particular document, I think I stated this in my witness statement, my colleague Nicky Barraclough wrote the document. I was – I’m listed as a contributor here and I believe that my contributions were predominantly reviewing the process flows, the process flows in the document, and also the reporting that are in the appendices the spreadsheets that we use to manage deductions from remuneration.

Mr Blake: Thank you. I’m just going to take you to two passages in this document and the first is on page 2, and it’s the bottom of page 2, “Timeliness of Issuing Transaction Correction”, it says:

“The time taken to issue Transaction Corrections can be slow, including some cases where it has taken 2 years to clear the ledger. Not only does this delay the time taken to recover outstanding debt, but it also leaves the subpostmaster feeling frustrated that they are being notified to rectify a mistake that they may not remember, or where the evidence has been destroyed that would support a dispute to the Transaction Correction.”

This is 2007. Is this something that you remember, an issue that you remember?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I remember concerns about the length of time it took to issue transaction corrections.

Mr Blake: Looking at it from 2007, was that a historic issue at a particular point in time, in 2007, or something that continued after this document had been written?

Shaun Turner: I don’t think it was any different, in my experience at least, before this document. But there were always issues that branches would raise about the length of time it was taking to create an issue, transaction corrections to them. I think some of it, from my recollection, was tied to getting information from clients, which often had, sort of, long lead times. But, yeah, it’s not an issue that suddenly appeared in 2007.

Mr Blake: If we go over the page to page 3 there’s another section on “Disputing the Transaction Correction”. It’s the first paragraph there that I would like to ask you about. It says:

“The current process for disputing Transaction Corrections allows the subpostmaster to challenge the error at every stage of the process, even after pressing the button on the Horizon System to settle the debt centrally. This delays the process in recovering any outstanding monies, and can be used as a deliberate delaying tactic in order to delay making payment.”

Is that something that you remember?

Shaun Turner: Not specifically. No.

Mr Blake: The mention there of a deliberate delaying tactic, do you recall a culture within the Post Office to assume that subpostmasters, assistants and others were up to no good or using particular tactics to delay payments?

Shaun Turner: No, not to my knowledge, no.

Mr Blake: Thank you. Totally different topic, the PING Project. Can we look at FUJ00091292, please. Very briefly, because you have dealt with it in your witness statement, what was the PING Project?

Shaun Turner: The PING Project was a way of improving the accounting for third-party terminals, for example the Camelot Lottery terminal. Before the PING Project was implemented, branches would have to key their transactions into the Lottery terminal as they were doing Lottery sales, and so forth, and then they would go and key that into Horizon for accounting purposes. What the PING Project sought to do was remove that human input by harvesting the transactions directly from the third party terminal, eg the Lottery terminal, and send those over to Horizon as transaction acknowledgements.

Mr Blake: Thank you. If we turn to page 5, you’re listed as a reviewer in respect of this particular document.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Blake: If we look at page 9, there is the background. I just want to briefly take you to that background. It’s the second paragraph and down. It says:

“The client data is uploaded into POL-FS and compared with the equivalent HNG-X data which has to be manually input by the agent/counter clerk. Ideally the data, when compared, should be the same but number of conformance issues have been identified where agents/counter clerks do not perform end of day routines correctly, do not input the Camelot details into HNG-X as they should, and can key incorrect figures, leaving Product and Branch Accounting with a reconciliation difference. This difference may require the issuing of a transaction correction.”

Can you tell us what a “conformance issue” is?

Shaun Turner: In this particular context, I believe it means either not inputting the lottery figures into Horizon at the end of the day or inputting them incorrectly, such that there would be a mismatch.

Mr Blake: In terms of non-conformance, is that something that the Post Office generally understood would happen?

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I mean, it’s reliant on the postmaster in branch keying figures and keying figures correctly.

Mr Blake: To what extent do you think the Post Office put too much emphasis on conformance issues rather than, for example, bugs, errors and defects, historically, or …

Shaun Turner: Yeah, I mean, I was involved in a team that was managing conformance for a number of years, and I think, in retrospective, there should have been – there certainly should have been more focus on bugs and issues and the management of those bugs and issues but it was still important to manage conformance. We had contracts with clients, Royal Mail being most notable, that if we didn’t achieve certain levels of performance, we were financially penalised.

But, in terms of the balance between those two things, I think an argument can be made that we should have put more emphasis on bugs and defects, certainly.

Mr Blake: Thank you. My final issue is IBM, who you’ve mentioned in your witness statement. Between December 2015 and March 2017 you were business readiness lead and that involved working with IBM to replace Horizon. Do you know why the Post Office wanted to replace Horizon at that stage?

Shaun Turner: I think it’s just old technology and it was time to move on to something that was quicker to develop, easier to develop, so that new products could be brought on more easily. That was the sense that I got when I joined that programme.

Mr Blake: Do you know why IBM was chosen for that?

Shaun Turner: I wasn’t party to those sort of contractual discussions. I don’t remember anybody talking to me about what the options were and whether there were other alternatives that we’d looked at.

Mr Blake: Do you know why the decision was taken to withdraw from that project?

Shaun Turner: I wasn’t directly involved but I did hear suggestions that there were concerns over cost and there were concerns over whether it would be deliverable to the timescales we needed it to be. I think this was not just a simple changeover, like Horizon Online, where we were introducing new software; it was hardware, data centre and the front office as well, so it was a considerable challenge.

Mr Blake: Thank you very much, Mr Turner. Those are all of my questions.

I think Mr Stein has some questions.

Mr Whittam? No.

Oh, and Ms Page has a question as well.

We’ll start with Mr Stein.

Questioned by Mr Stein

Mr Stein: Sir, I’m grateful, my learned friend, Mr Blake, raised the question, sir, this morning of disclosure and I’m just going to pause to note that on 14 February this year, we wrote to the Inquiry concerning the difficulties with disclosure and, indeed, concerning the difficulties that the lack of closure of scripts and other documents were going to be causing us with putting forward questions for this witness, Mr Turner.

So I’m going to ask that that letter be resent so that it goes directly to you, sir, and therefore you can see how it is that we frame matters at that date. That wasn’t the first time, sir, we’ve raised issues regarding scripts.

With that as a starting point, I’ll now move to my questions for Mr Turner.

Mr Turner, as you’ve heard from Mr Blake and indeed myself, there have been some issues regarding disclosure that may inhibit our ability to ask you some wider questions and that could cause, therefore, a need for you to return to the witness box at a later stage.

Shaun Turner: Okay.

Mr Stein: I’m just going to refer you to your own statement, I’ll read a part of it, paragraph 12, page 5. You refer to your role to analyse the data arising from calls to identify trends and common issues experienced by subpostmasters.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: Okay. Do you call yourself a data analyst? What would be the term that you would use?

Shaun Turner: At that time it was incident analyst.

Mr Stein: Incident analyst. Right. Now, help us on the other side of the calls from the subpostmasters. You were aware at that time that Fujitsu also had their own helpdesk taking calls?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: We know that because indeed you have spoken today about the fact that some calls were taken by the Post Office team and some were taken by Fujitsu; is that correct?

Shaun Turner: That’s correct.

Mr Stein: Right. Now the analysis of common issues experienced by subpostmasters, that job would need to be shared, I assume, between the Post Office and Fujitsu?

Shaun Turner: Yes, so the – both helpdesks should have had an incident management framework in place that included analysis of calls coming in, trends, and I would expect that if system issues were coming through, common system issues, that that would manifest in HSD and be raised to their Problem Management Team, if appropriate.

Mr Stein: Now, within that answer you used the word “should” and the words “I would have expected” –

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: – in relation to those sorts of systems. Now, clearly you can give evidence about the Post Office system. What knowledge did you have at this time about the Fujitsu equivalent systems?

Shaun Turner: I’m trying to remember. I know there was documentation that showed how Fujitsu should manage incidents and track common themes, and that would have been the basis from my knowledge. My sort of layman’s view of it was that they would be replicating something very similar to what we were doing in the NBSC. In other words, they would have some kind of data team that was looking at trends. I didn’t have any direct contact with their own incident analysts myself.

Mr Stein: That was going to be my next question which is: how were these things tied together? If it wasn’t tight together at your level at that time, at what level was it tied together and who can you direct us to, who should be able to know how these things came together?

Shaun Turner: There were forums at our level where common issues were discussed. I didn’t have any direct contact with their equivalent of the incident analysts but there were forums between the helpdesks. But I would imagine if there were common themes coming through, these should have been raised throughout the problem management process and then managed at that level between the two Problem Management Teams.

And then there was a Service Management Forum, as well, where the two parties met to similarly discuss problems.

Mr Stein: The numbers of calls, in terms of working out numbers of calls coming into the Post Office helpdesk versus Fujitsu, can you give us an idea whether this was an even spread of 50/50 that came into the Post Office versus Fujitsu, or whether it was more Post Office or more Fujitsu? Have you got any …

Shaun Turner: I’m sorry, I don’t recall the numbers or the sort of volumetric data at this stage.

Mr Stein: Just remaining with this question, you’ve explained that there should have been something operating in a similar way by way of incident analysis with Fujitsu?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: Did you see documents that would have provided the other side of the coin, the Fujitsu side of the coin, and your documents synthesised, put together, so that you’ve got a picture? Did you see such things?

Shaun Turner: Not to my recollection, no.

Mr Stein: Were there such things?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know after this amount of time. There were forums where common issues were discussed, so there was some interaction between the two helpdesks, and we tried to resolve issues, operational issues through those forums as well. But I don’t remember seeing specific documentation other than what I’ve referred to in my witness statement.

Mr Stein: Just before I then ask you a little bit more about how documents were kept, shouldn’t there have been documents that provided a combination of these are the issues we are seeing within POL and these are the issues we are seeing within Fujitsu, and they are showing similar issues being raised or similar problems or good things or indeed bad things. Shouldn’t such things have existed and shouldn’t they have come to you?

Shaun Turner: Yes, yeah.

Mr Stein: Now, you have remained at the Post Office for quite some time, indeed I think it’s essentially your career so far?

Shaun Turner: That’s right.

Mr Stein: You describe in your statement the analyst work you carried out in relation to incidents. Can you just help us with access to those, the analysis that you’ve carried out. There must be, going back now to what, the early days of Horizon and then through, there must be hundreds of these documents that you’ve been created or been part of the creation of; where are they?

Shaun Turner: What type of documents are you talking about, specifically?

Mr Stein: Well, let’s go with the analysis of the NBSC call performance, call operating performance, as an example, or trends within difficulties being experienced by subpostmasters. Where are these documents?

Shaun Turner: I don’t know at the moment. There certainly were reports produced. I know where problems were raised off the back of those reports they were logged in a system that we used at that time called Remedy, which was –

Mr Stein: Did you say “Remedy”?

Shaun Turner: Remedy, yes, which was both the incident management tool and also the problem management tool so that’s where the calls were logged, and any problems that were raised to the Problem Management Team were also logged in there with the originator.

Mr Stein: We’ve encountered some problems with terminology being used, so scripts for helpdesks are sometimes called other names other than scripts?

Shaun Turner: Right.

Mr Stein: Okay? So help us identify, the analysis work you would have carried out, so this was the analysis to identify trends and common issues experienced by subpostmasters, what would have been the title or what would be the title of such analysis reports?

Shaun Turner: It would be an incident analysis report on topic X and, if the problem was raised, it would be a problem record on that topic.

Mr Stein: Do you have access to systems that contain this documentation?

Shaun Turner: I don’t.

Mr Stein: Help us why not?

Shaun Turner: The passage of time. I’ve moved through various roles since then.

Mr Stein: Have you been asked by either the Post Office or lawyers on their behalf regarding your knowledge of access to this material where it might be?

Shaun Turner: No.

Mr Stein: Despite the fact that you’re the author of such documentation over time?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: Now, I’m just going to complete this particular topic range. Oversight of the helpdesk, this is the Fujitsu helpdesk. Now, you would expect, I imagine, that Fujitsu should carry out its own oversight, governance operation regarding helpdesk; okay? Who within Post Office monitored Fujitsu’s oversight of its own helpdesk?

Shaun Turner: The service management team, I think, from recollection.

Mr Stein: Service management team?

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Right, and a particular name of an individual you would recall at any given time?

Shaun Turner: At any given time, somebody like Dave Hulbert would have been heading up that team. That’s where I believe the monthly service management reviews were managed.

Mr Stein: There’s a term used, which is used within your statement and referred to in a document that you were taken to today by Mr Blake, which is a cross-domain problem.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Mr Stein: Is that a term of art within the Post Office to describe a type of document or report or system where there is a problem that is known to both Fujitsu and the Post Office?

Shaun Turner: It’s terminology to describe any problem that requires interaction with a third-party supplier, ie it’s not just within Post Office’s gift to resolve.

Mr Stein: Right. Is there any sort of risk analysis system that has been developed to decide when such a thing does reach the stage of it being a cross-domain problem? Is there a trigger for this to say “Look, this is cross-domain”?

Shaun Turner: There were problem management documents around prioritisation, and so forth, in terms of issues.

Mr Stein: Right. And risk analysis similar? Were there documents around that considered risk analysis in the way that traditionally regulators often do, thinking about either use of a traffic light system, like green or amber or red, to analyse risk?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall specific documents but I do remember conversations with problem managers about rating problems based on the number of branches impacted, and so forth.

Mr Stein: Thank you. One remaining question. You were asked a number of questions by Mr Blake regarding the receipts/payments mismatch issue.

Shaun Turner: Yeah.

Mr Stein: He referred you to a document, which is a Post Office Fujitsu document, that discussed that. That’s the “Receipts/Payments Mismatch Issue”. He referred to that at around the period of time which is 2010 and ongoing.

One thing that is unclear from your evidence so far is what were you actually told about that issue, the receipts/payments mismatch issue, around about that time? What were you told about it?

Shaun Turner: I don’t remember. I remember being told that there was an issue, having seen the document last week. But I don’t remember exactly what I was told, whether the nature of that conversation was just as per the action point out of that meeting, can you check whether this would cause an issue with the profile that I managed at that time, the branch profile? But I’m sorry, I don’t remember what I was told.

Mr Stein: I am grateful, Mr Turner because your evidence was clearly hesitating – you were hesitating in your evidence at the time regarding this and so it led to these questions, which is: what access did you actual have to this information?

You refer to that as a conversation. Was it actually a discussion, an oral discussion or was this is an email discussion or some other means of discussing it?

Shaun Turner: As I say, I don’t remember and, using sort of “conversation” in a more informal context, I don’t remember whether it would have been somebody dropped me a note, saying, “Can you look at this?” I hope if it was, we’d be able to find documentary evidence of that but it may very well have been a phone call.

Mr Stein: Yes, and if I ask whether you recall being briefed, in other words being given a written document “Mr Turner, this is something you need to be aware of, this is the issue, we want you to do X action”, do you recall getting anything like that?

Shaun Turner: I’m sorry, I don’t.

Mr Stein: No. If someone were to send you such a document, who would that – which team would have given you that kind of heads-up or that information?

Shaun Turner: Well, I think considering that the action listed was against Julia Marwood, who was an attendee of that meeting, I would imagine that any interactions that I had had, and if there was an email trail, I imagine that would be from Julia to me.

Mr Stein: Yes, because she’s listed as being the owner of that particular issue, under her initials “JM”?

Shaun Turner: That’s right.

Mr Stein: Yes. Excuse me one moment.

Shaun Turner: Sure.

Mr Stein: Sir, I’m grateful, thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

Ms Page, I think, has a question.

Questioned by Ms Page

Ms Page: Thank you, sir.

In your witness statement, Mr Turner, you note that because of a baseline faith in Horizon as a robust system, POL was perhaps not as attuned to concerns raised by SPMs as it should have been?

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Ms Page: Can I just ask you about that when you were in your role when the Callendar Square bug was brought to your attention. I don’t know if you’re particularly aware of this, but in Scotland it was a rather different prosecutorial process and Post Office were not allowed to bring their own prosecutions; were you aware of that?

Shaun Turner: I was not no.

Ms Page: Well, what we’ve obviously got here is a Scottish problem with a Sandra MacKay picking up the issue in Callendar Square in Falkirk. It was first noticed then in Scotland.

Shaun Turner: Yes.

Ms Page: Does that make sense?

Shaun Turner: It does.

Ms Page: Did you ever receive – what I’m interested in is the possibility that people in Scotland were more attuned to the problems that subpostmasters faced because their experience of having to deal with third-party prosecutors may have made them more attuned, if that makes sense?

Shaun Turner: I never received or had a conversation to suggest that, no.

Ms Page: Did you ever receive any problems like the Callendar Square bug type problem, or indeed problems generally? Did they ever come across your desk from area managers working in England and Wales?

Shaun Turner: I don’t recall any specific instances but I would expect, yes, there were cases from England and Wales. My role in terms of that escalation role covered the entire country, so it could come from any area of the country.

Ms Page: You described earlier in your evidence that the Callendar Square problem was perhaps somewhat unique. What was the qualities of it that made it unique?

Shaun Turner: Unique in my experience, at least?

Ms Page: Yes.

Shaun Turner: You know, I think it was – in terms of my exposure, I’d not come across anything like that previously. I think I said in my witness statement that of the issues I dealt with during my time as network co-ordination manager, I didn’t remember the details, but I still remembered that I’d dealt with this particular bug at Callendar Square.

Ms Page: But do you not particularly have memories of other bugs that you dealt with?

Shaun Turner: No. I remember other issues with Horizon and other parts of the business but this, to me, would have been an unusual and anomalous kind of case, at least in terms of my exposure to it.

Ms Page: So in terms of your exposure, bugs of this nature were not raised to you at all from England and Wales?

Shaun Turner: No, that’s – I’m not saying that I didn’t have some issues raised, but I think – I don’t remember whether there were issues raised from England and Wales, but I would expect that there would be.

Ms Page: But they didn’t stand out in your mind as a significant problem in this way, in the way that the Callendar Square bug did?

Shaun Turner: No.

Ms Page: Thank you. Those are my questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Ms Page.

Is that it, Mr Blake?

Mr Blake: I believe that is, sir, yes, unless you, sir, have questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: No, thank you very much.

Mr Turner, I’m very grateful to you for providing such a detailed witness statement in response to very many questions, and I am equally grateful that you’ve come before the Inquiry to give oral evidence. So thank you.

The Witness: Thank you, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: I should say that in view of the fact that, as you will have gathered, there appears to be a glitch in the disclosure process. It is not inconceivable that you will be asked to return, but we will keep that under review, all right?

The Witness: Okay.

Mr Blake: Sir, shall we say 1.50?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, by all means Mr Blake, yes.

Mr Blake: Thank you very much.

(12.50 pm)

(The Short Adjournment)

(1.50 pm)

Mr Stevens: Good afternoon, sir. Can you see and hear me?

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

Mr Stevens: If I may call Mr Blackburn.

Gary Blackburn


Questioned by Mr Stevens

Mr Stevens: Mr Blackburn, as you know, my name is Sam Stevens and I ask questions on behalf of the Inquiry. Please could I ask you to state your full name?

Gary Blackburn: Gary David Blackburn.

Mr Stevens: Firstly, thank you for giving evidence to the Inquiry today and thank you for providing a written statement to which I’d like to turn now. Do you have a bundle of documents in front of you?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t.

Mr Stevens: You don’t. Right. Bear with me, I’ll see where that is.

Apologies, sir. We will just wait while that bundle arrives.

Sir Wyn Williams: Sure. Yes.

Mr Stevens: Thank you, Mr Blackburn. Now, one of those bundles should have your witness statement at the front of it, behind tab A.

Gary Blackburn: Yes, got that.

Mr Stevens: Excellent, apologies for that and thank you. So that witness statement should run to 16 pages.

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: If you turn to page 15, you’ll see paragraph 28 being the last paragraph, and at the bottom is that your signature?

Gary Blackburn: It is.

Mr Stevens: Can I ask you to confirm that the facts within that statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Gary Blackburn: They are.

Mr Stevens: Thank you, Mr Blackburn, that stands as your evidence in the Inquiry. I am going to ask you some questions about that. You joined the Post Office in 1985?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, I did.

Mr Stevens: From 1985 to 1994 you worked, I understand, in Crown Office branches around Huddersfield?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: Then in 1994, you were posted to the northeast regional office?

Gary Blackburn: That’s correct.

Mr Stevens: At that stage, you say in your evidence that you worked on a relatively new helpdesk that was created to support the region?

Gary Blackburn: That is also correct.

Mr Stevens: At this point, the Post Office was split into seven regions?

Gary Blackburn: It was.

Mr Stevens: You say that, subsequently, those individual regional helplines merged in to become what we now know as the Network Business Support Centre –

Gary Blackburn: That is correct.

Mr Stevens: – or the NBSC?

Gary Blackburn: The NBSC, yes.

Mr Stevens: Do you remember when that was?

Gary Blackburn: It coincided with the introduction of the Horizon solution, so prior to that, it was – the northeast regional desk or the various regional desks were there pre-automation and then also for – I think it was called the ECCO+ system. So I’m fairly certain it was a part of a larger reorganisation of the Post Office and the introduction of Legacy Horizon.

Mr Stevens: Casting your mind back to when you worked on the pre-NBSC desk and pre-automation desks, what were the types of enquiries you would most often receive?

Gary Blackburn: It was very transactional in nature it was really supporting the branches in terms of “How do I complete it”, particularly a transaction for a member of the public, interspersed with accounting queries but, as we may well end up discussing, nowhere near to the extent it was post-automation. That was the old paper-based cash account, which was relatively straightforward and simple to follow.

We also supported the Retail Network Managers at the time in any enquiries that they may have had and we were also there as a bit of an emergency point of contact for events such as burglaries and robberies, that kind of thing.

Mr Stevens: What did you think of the quality of the advice and assistance that was able to provided by the regional helpdesk in comparison to the national one?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah, it was, in my personal opinion, better, and purely based upon the fact that it was staffed with people who had similar career profiles to myself, so that all worked in the branch network, primarily in the directly managed branches in the Crown Offices, but one or two of my colleagues at the time had also worked in the independent branches, so they had got a wealth of experience of completing the varied transactions that we had at the time in the business.

Mr Stevens: So when you say in the regional helpdesk, you pointed to the experience of the people within it as a strength.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Can you explain why that was different from the NBSC?

Gary Blackburn: Well, when – so the regional helpline converted into the Horizon trial desk. So I was part of the trial desk then, which was run out of an office in Leeds. I think the branches in the trial were from both the Leeds and Bristol regions, I want to say. It was still very much the same group of people, albeit everything was new to all of us at that time, in terms of Horizon itself. But the business knowledge was still the same, the transactions were still the same, although completed in a different manner.

As we moved then into what was the national – the Network Business Support Centre and the national – the only helpdesk for business enquiries, naturally we had to expand and recruit more people. We moved from Leeds to a greenfield site in the Dearne Valley, it was fairly isolated at the time. There was one or two other contact centres in the environment, so we picked up new recruits from the surrounding area, people, in effect, who had – it was their first experience of working for the Post Office, they’d no prior experience.

So, for me, naturally, there was just a slight diluting of the quality of the individual on the desk, as they obviously that to go through a steep learning curve themselves.

Mr Stevens: Is it fair to say there was a lot of institutional knowledge when moving to the NBSC?

Gary Blackburn: That is my opinion, yes.

Mr Stevens: For that reason, is it fair to say that, because of that loss of institutional knowledge, it was important to ensure that the new members of the NBSC were adequately trained?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, vital. Yes.

Mr Stevens: We’ll come on to training shortly. Before I do, the pre-NBSC regional helplines, I appreciate you can only speak for the northeast, but did they ever have any communication, the helpline as such, with people involved in bringing prosecutions against subpostmasters for false accounting or theft?

Gary Blackburn: No, not at that time, no. It wasn’t part of the remit.

Mr Stevens: The same question, but in respect of auditors: was there any communication between the regional helpline and the audit teams?

Gary Blackburn: I can’t remember, if I’m honest. There may well have been, because regional auditing was a very, you know, business as usual part of everyday Post Office life. So there may have been. But it’s not something I recollect.

Mr Stevens: So in paragraph 4 of your statement, which we don’t need to turn to, you say that you were a team leader on the NBSC. Could you just summarise, briefly, what that role entailed?

Gary Blackburn: It was line management of a group of individuals who would be actually manning the telephones and taking the calls from the branches. When we had busy times, I would also take calls from the branches but it was providing a layer of people management and support and guidance for any calls that they were struggling to answer.

Mr Stevens: When did you finish that role as a team leader?

Gary Blackburn: I think – now this is where chronology becomes quite hazy for me but I think it was – I’m going to say around about 2001/2, I think, and I went down – what was downstairs into business service management, as it was called at the time, and I –

Mr Stevens: Pausing there, could you say what business service management’s role was?

Gary Blackburn: It’s what I today would refer to as IT support, some vital processes, change management, problem management, secondary layers of incident management. Things like that.

Mr Stevens: What was your first role?

Gary Blackburn: I started as a problem manager when I first went down there.

Mr Stevens: For how long did you hold that role?

Gary Blackburn: Now, that’s the bit I really can’t recall. From memory, even looking through all of the documentation, I really have very little recollection of my time in that team. I don’t think it was for very long, because I seemed to move on quite quickly into other incident facing and live service facing roles, so I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you.

Mr Stevens: We’ll come to those roles in a moment. In brief terms, could you summarise what your role as a problem manager was?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah, and I think, as I’ve said in my statement, it felt, looking back with hindsight, reactive rather than sort of proactive, in the sense that we would literally take trends and analysis from the Network Business Support Centre, we’d also have it provided to us by the Horizon System Helpdesk and we would look for where there was any remediation activities that might be required to prevent future occurrences of whatever the incidents had been.

Mr Stevens: Your role after problem – we don’t know the date, specifically, but what was your role after that of a problem manager?

Gary Blackburn: So I – this is where my career, I do apologise, becomes quite hazy, because I did so many roles including interspersed with taking parts in various programmes from a support perspective.

My next recollection was a live service desk recall, that’s the key role that I remember, which was also a new desk which we’d set up at the time, an internal facing desk.

Mr Stevens: We’ll come to that again in due course but, just for chronology purposes, you were transferred understanding TUPE to ATOS in 2014?

Gary Blackburn: That’s correct.

Mr Stevens: Could you just explain what ATOS was doing at that stage for you to be TUPE transferred across?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, so ATOS in – for me, in simple terms, it was Post Office outsourcing that – what I’d just described as the business service management functionality and it was implementing a new operating model for management of Post Office’s IT supply chain.

Mr Stevens: I understand you left that role in 2017 –

Gary Blackburn: I did, yes.

Mr Stevens: – and you no longer work for the Post Office?

Gary Blackburn: That’s correct.

Mr Stevens: Could we, please, turn up your witness statement on the screen. It’s WITN04650100, and paragraph 10, please, on page 6. Thank you. You state that:

“The purpose of the NBSC was to support the branch network through answering ‘how do I’ related transactional questions alongside the Fujitsu Horizon Service Desk … which was there to support the branch network with technical questions and queries in relation to the technology (Hardware, Software and Network) that had been provided.”

What do you mean by “‘How do I’ transactional questions”?

Gary Blackburn: I mean literally a member of the public, being in the branch, wanting to conduct a particular transaction type and the branch not being quite sure how to do that. At the time of Horizon, that also involved, you know, what were more complex navigational type questions through the solution. So that was – that is what I would refer to as “How do I complete this transaction for, you know, an item going overseas” or something to that effect. That was the type of things we did.

Mr Stevens: That document can come down for the time being. Thank you.

I think you’ve mentioned already a large part of the NBSC’s role was to assist with balancing as well.

Gary Blackburn: Very much so, yes. Yes.

Mr Stevens: What training did you receive on joining the NBSC to enable you to carry out your role as team leader?

Gary Blackburn: I think the only training that I remember was training on the Horizon solution. So there was no additional business training or anything like that. It was a standard counter training course, as it was at that time, which included use of the Horizon System.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall what that training involved?

Gary Blackburn: I’m sorry, I don’t.

Mr Stevens: What about the new candidates, the people who hadn’t the institutional knowledge that you had? Did they receive the same training or different?

Gary Blackburn: Number 1, I believe, you know, they received that element of training because the Horizon System was now ultra-important but they also received what I would call the standard Post Office training, as if they were going to work in a directly managed branch, for example.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall if there was ever updater or refresher training given to members of the NBSC on how to use the Horizon System?

Gary Blackburn: Not specifically, no, I don’t.

Mr Stevens: I’d like now to turn to the relationship between the NBSC and the Fujitsu helpdesk, which you’ve mentioned in your statement. Please can we turn up FUJ00080405.

This is the “ICL Pathway/Post Office Counter Limited Interface Agreement for the Network Business Support Centre and the Horizon System Helpdesk”. If we could turn to page 4, please, towards the bottom. Under “Contributors” we can see that you – the name on the right towards the bottom, you contributed towards this document?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall the level of input you had on it?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t but I would assume, given my role at the time, it was one really, you know, coming from a point of managing a team of people who might possibly have to interact with the Horizon Service Desk or exchange ownership of an incident that had been logged.

Mr Stevens: Please can we turn to page 7 of that document. So section 5 sets out general responsibilities, and under (h) it says – I’ll summarise – Post Office Counters Limited and ICL Pathway:

“… are responsible for ensuring that known problems or events, that may impact on the everyday business of NBSC and HSH, are made known to both helpdesks.”

Can you recall how the bodies, the NBSC and the Horizon Service Helpdesk, communicated with each other regarding problems with the Horizon System.

Gary Blackburn: At that time, when we were talking of Legacy Horizon, as opposed to HNG-X, the two desks were very distinct, in fact the responsibility, in effect, had been passed to the branch network to determine which number they rang and, therefore, who they spoke to. So I do remember there being a lot of interaction between the two desks in terms of swapping ownership. We also had – the NBSC had an admin team that, if there was a wider sort of unplanned event that was impacting either desk or a large volume of calls suddenly started coming into the desk, they would take the responsibility for the interface and the communication.

I don’t really remember anything further, I’m afraid.

Mr Stevens: Well, it may help assist your memory if we look at page 16. Section 9 describes daily interactions, which I don’t need to trouble you with but, if we can go to 10 the “NBSC/HSH Review Forum” says:

“The performance of work undertaken across the NBSC/HSH interface will be the subject of monthly review. The output of the review forum will provide input to:

“The Horizon Service Review Forum.”

Gary Blackburn: Right.

Mr Stevens: Were you involved or do you recall being involved in these monthly reviews?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t but, given my role, I would be very likely to have been involved in at least some of them, yeah.

Mr Stevens: I’ll ask the question but I can see the answer: you don’t recall the types of matters which would have been discussed in these meetings?

Gary Blackburn: It would have been primarily contact centre focused, I would imagine. But it wasn’t really the – as I recall, it wasn’t really the forum for raising of concern around, let’s say, the performance of the solution. If we’d have had an incident that we couldn’t answer with the information that we had and the knowledge that we had on the desk and we felt it was the system, let me say, not working in the way we had understood it should work, we’d have passed that, at the time, down into the business service management function, a second level of incident management and problem management, for them to investigate and determine whether or not there was something deeper that needed Fujitsu support and investigation.

It was very contact centre focused, was the NBSC/HSH and the reviews.

Mr Stevens: So when you said it would – if there was a problem – you feared problem with the system, it would be passed to a different team. Would that be the Problem Management Team?

Gary Blackburn: It would have been and if it would have gone in a much more timely manner. It would have gone at the time that the event occurred rather than, you know, post-monthly review.

Mr Stevens: Your evidence is, to the best of your recollection, this review forum mainly concerned maybe operational contact centre elements of types –

Gary Blackburn: Volume of calls, types of calls, absolutely, to see whether there was a need to produce knowledge articles for the advisers in the NBSC, or perhaps even suggest that there may be reminders that need to go in the Counter News article out to the wider network but not really focused at all on the technology.

Mr Stevens: Another purpose of this document was to delineate the role, which calls would go to the NBSC and which to the Horizon or the HSH, later HSD. Can we turn to page 18, please, which should be an appendix. Yes, that’s right, it’s not formally an appendix but this is the table I was looking at. We see here, on the left column “Postmaster Incident”, and the first two are “[unable] to log on” and, if it was because of a system failure or user error the Horizon Service Helpdesk would deal with it but, if it was a lost password, we see the third line, it was the NBSC. So this was separating those roles.

The last entry “Cannot use the Horizon counter system or part of the system” refers to matters such as – sorry, we’ll just wait for that to come back on screen. Thank you.

The last entry, here we’re talking about monitor failure or equipment failure, which results in the subpostmaster not being able to use the system and that’s clearly a helpdesk issue, a Fujitsu issue.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to page 20, please. The bottom two entries, one says, “Has an EPOSS discrepancy” and the next is a weekly one. That’s referring to an issue in the cash account when balancing, isn’t it?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: In both cases, it says the first contact is the Fujitsu helpdesk, and the comment says:

“HSH are responsible for assisting the PM in the correction of the discrepancy. However, if HSH cannot resolve an EPOSS discrepancy the PM will be referred to NBSC for approval to accept the discrepancy.”

In both situations, the sole cause is listed as “user error”. Can you explain why this document doesn’t refer to what to do if there’s an EPOSS discrepancy caused by the Horizon IT System?

Gary Blackburn: No, I can’t. All I can say at the time, and this is a long time ago when we were first automating the network, there was no belief or understanding at my level, at my operational level, at my team’s level, that there was any reason to distrust the technology. So, you know, we were told quite clearly, in fact on numerous occasions throughout my time, that there were no Horizon integrity issues, and there were no systemic issues. So at the time, I think the stance would probably have been the solution works as per Post Office’s requirements, as per the design, therefore there wouldn’t be – such a situation arise, I’m assuming that would have been the stance, rightly or wrongly.

Mr Stevens: At this time, can you recall who was saying or telling you that the system was robust? So this is in 2000?

Gary Blackburn: I can’t be specific but I’d have to say the wider business. I can’t remember the names of the senior managers or the leaders of the programme and the rollout, I’m afraid, at the time, although I do remember Don Grey because Don Grey was northeast regional office so that’s where I came across Don. I knew he had some role to play within that.

But the general message was one, which I can understand, even looking back, of trying to ensure that, you know, operational people had confidence to go about the processes that we’d been – that had been implemented and what we were asked to do on a daily basis.

Mr Stevens: You’ve mentioned Don Grey. Are you aware of whether this message that Horizon was robust, did that – are you aware whether that came from any higher than Don Grey?

Gary Blackburn: I’m sorry, I couldn’t say.

Mr Stevens: You said as well in your evidence that it wasn’t just then that message was repeated.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Can you provide other examples? I know we’re jumping ahead but other examples of when you were told that the system was robust?

Gary Blackburn: Well, I guess as well there was a – I suppose I’ve got to try and convey the – and give context. So, you know, it was a massive transformation for the Post Office from manual to automation. Of course, we were all understanding of it was that or Post Office ceases to be relevant and probably exist. So we understood the journey and the strategy. We didn’t go into it doubting it, I guess, is what we were saying. We went into it accepting that it was going to work. No reason to challenge it at that stage.

Now, over time, evidence obviously started to came in. We had improved knowledge, improved experience over that same time frame, so, therefore, we became much more comfortable with our ability to question or challenge or certainly escalate to Fujitsu to investigate something when it wasn’t working correctly. Legacy Horizon, that was incredibly difficult because of the, you know, the steep learning curve that we were all on. Probably not brave enough either, if I’m honest, looking back to challenge some of the things when maybe we weren’t sure.

So I can think of, when it started to be in the press, when there were postmasters who were starting to take, I think, personal litigation, then, I think, there were more frequent messages to reaffirm that Horizon was robust, Horizon integrity was there and there weren’t issues. I think there was also a third party – I think it was called Second Sight – enquiry. Even post that I remember the message being the same, and I think there were also subsequent internal inquiries undertaken, and I might be in HNG-X chronology now, to also check – and I think that might have been done from my colleagues in Product and Branch Accounting, I can’t remember the names of any of the individuals, I’m afraid.

And that also confirmed – and those messages were filtered down to the operational teams.

Mr Stevens: Actually, we’ll come to that bit of the chronology later on. Back to 2000, when this document was being created and the message was – and I think you said the belief was that the system was robust.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Do you accept that document is one of many which is setting up support services that were to be made available to subpostmasters using the Horizon Helpdesk –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – or the NBSC?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Is it fair to say that those systems that were put in place to provide assistance to them, were built on an assumption that the Horizon System was robust?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: Moving, then, to knowledge sharing within the NBSC. We’re going to come to some examples of problems later on. It’s uncontroversial that there were problems in the Horizon IT System. As a matter of generality, how – when someone in the NBSC at the top became aware of a problem, how was that shared amongst the other members of the team?

Gary Blackburn: Within the NBSC environment itself?

Mr Stevens: Yes.

Gary Blackburn: It was verbally cascaded. We also had bulletin boards, or there was ad hoc, infrequent team meetings where the information was provided. Now, I can’t remember the exact introduction but I don’t think it was at the very, very beginning of the NBSC, but we also introduced knowledge articles, and those knowledge articles ultimately, over time, became, I would say, mandatory in terms of their usage.

You had to use a knowledge article. You had to associate the call that you’d had, the ticket that you’d logged, with the knowledge article that you had used to advise and guide the caller. And there was a team of people set up to produce those articles, manage those articles, maintain those articles. So that was the other method.

Now, naturally, if there was something fresh or new came in that was slightly unexpected or the timing wasn’t great in terms of internal communications, there would sometimes be a gap between the Go Live of that, say, new transaction or that knowledge, whatever it was, and the creation of that knowledge article. So that’s where we fell back on the more manual methodologies that I just mentioned, which would really be ensuring people were informed word of mouth, emails and bulletin boards.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall when this change occurred, when it was mandatory to rely on knowledge articles?

Gary Blackburn: I think it was after I had gone down to the business service management function and, in fact, myself and one of my colleagues, Shaun Turner, were involved in supporting the initial set-up of a number of, you know, existing processes in terms of the documentation.

Mr Stevens: Could you just describe what a knowledge article looks like?

Gary Blackburn: It would literally be a Word document. It was put on to the Remedy – it sat independently but accessed via what was the call log-in system, the Remedy system. It could involve anything. It could involve Counter News articles that were literally just almost copy and pasted into an electronic format. It could involve process flow maps with, you know, swim lanes in terms of start and finishing and different people might need to be – interact or involved. It could involve diagrams. There were pictorial evidence as well to show what screens looked like in terms of trying to guide the NBSC agent and the office.

Mr Stevens: To what extent were the use of scripts used in the NBSC, call scripts?

Gary Blackburn: There may have been a script on occasion. Normally, I would have said that would come off the back of an unplanned event of some description, something that’s happened untoward and, therefore, there would be a scripted response given. I don’t actually remember a time where we were told quite, you know, precisely to follow, almost word for word, a script, but that would be the situation, where we’d have something that was perhaps more temporary in nature than the more permanent way of responding to the enquiries.

Mr Stevens: So perhaps in response to a major incident?

Gary Blackburn: Perhaps response to a major incident yes, something that’s occurred that branches may call in about and need to be aware of.

Mr Stevens: Were you ever aware of subpostmasters being told by members of the NBSC that they were the only person experiencing problems using the Horizon IT System?

Gary Blackburn: No. I mean, that’s not something I certainly would have told my team. That sounds – I’m offering an opinion here but that sounds slightly rogue to me, rather than anything that would have been directed.

Mr Stevens: That’s internally to Post Office. Were you aware of anything along the same lines being communicated to people working on the Fujitsu helpdesk?

Gary Blackburn: No, I didn’t really have a great deal of visibility of their internal ways of working.

Mr Stevens: I want to move now to your problem management role, and please can we been up paragraph 5 of your witness statement on page 2. I’ll read the last line and then go over the page. What you say is:

“But what I do remember is that the role was largely reactive in nature not particularly predictive or preventative and therefore a lot of the work that I would have undertaken alongside my colleagues came from analysis of the calls that had been received by the NBSC or thematic incidents.”

In general terms, what were the types of problems that you were seeking to analyse from these call records?

Gary Blackburn: You were looking for any trend at all in terms of a volume of call, a particular type of call, business in nature, potentially technical in nature and absolutely in relation to accounting. Anything that might indicate there was a way of us operating better, doing something better or something potentially that needed fixing.

Mr Stevens: When you say the role was not particularly predictive, what do you mean by that?

Gary Blackburn: I think – again, I come back to a bit of a chronology and a bit about the learning curve and everyone being, you know, on the same journey, very difficult back in the time – in the day, when I think about it. I guess I’m trying to suggest that we probably had limited capability of predicting what might happen and we were learning through experience what could happen.

So to start off with, the problem management role in my time was very much just simply reacting to what had already occurred. Hopefully, we would learn from that lesson, though, and increase and mature over time in terms of the ability to look out for certain things and prevent things from being repeated. That’s kind of what I mean about it being largely reactive at the time I was the problem manager.

Mr Stevens: In your role as problem manager, would you have benefited from more internal technical support, technical IT support?

Gary Blackburn: Oh, without doubt. I have no personal technical background whatsoever: Post Office man and boy, business training. Yes, I could answer transactional queries and help postmasters, I’d done the job. Technology-wise, no. I felt that we were in a position where Fujitsu were the chosen supplier. If we needed to go to Fujitsu, I’d go to Fujitsu. Whatever Fujitsu came back with, it was incredibly difficult to challenge, if at all, if it was technical.

If it didn’t feel right, if there was something that wasn’t sitting well with you, we had a few strategic individuals in the business that we could go to and ask them to have a look, people like Ian Trundle and Bob Booth are two people I know particularly supported me, not necessarily with accounting issues but with certainly large-scale geographic incidents that we had, but no, we were very much trusting the supplier for the technical knowledge.

Mr Stevens: Just on that, please could we bring up page 5 of your witness statement and the paragraph at the top. I think this relates to evidence you just gave. You say that:

“The Post Office IT function did have a team of Business Relationship Managers run by Chris Taylor that were technical.”

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Just to clarify, those are different, are they, from the managers, the contract managers who –

Gary Blackburn: Oh yes. Yeah, yeah, those guys were all based down in London. They were very much working with the business from an innovation and a future transactional perspective but all of them naturally very technical in understanding in terms of the Horizon System. So they weren’t there for us to be used on the process. You won’t find it written in a document, you know, “Escalate to Chris or the team”, but we did lean on them when we felt it was necessary.

Mr Stevens: Again, you refer to Ian Trundle and Bob Booth. You say:

“Whilst also supportive, these individuals/teams were primarily strategically focused and not designed to be regularly engaged in the operational day-to-day running.”

What do you mean by “strategically focused”?

Gary Blackburn: On next steps, on the future, on development of software, it tended, as I say, to be linked to my knowledge to business activity, rather than, you know, focusing entirely on the technology. But they were the people who would, from my perspective, interact with Fujitsu on a very regular basis in terms of how of the solution worked. I’m sure they were both involved in an awful lot of programme activity and an awful lot of determining Post Office’s requirements of the technology.

Mr Stevens: Did you ever request at the time for more IT, internal IT support on the operational day-to-day matters to be able to test what Fujitsu was saying to you?

Gary Blackburn: No, I don’t believe that we did. Again, that sort of stems from a belief of there were no issues with the Horizon System. So back in HNG or Horizon Legacy, I think you refer to it, it was part of the learning curve again. So it just didn’t really necessarily occur at the time.

Mr Stevens: I’m going to come on now to some of the processes involved in problem management and we have a distinction between incident management and problem management.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: The Inquiry has heard evidence that incident management relates to dealing with the symptoms of a particular issue such as a server failure, whereas the problem looks at the underlying causes of the incident. Do you broadly agree with that?

Gary Blackburn: Yes. My role in incident management, we always focused on service restoration and then, you know, ideally we’d identify the root cause but, if not, that was always part of problem management’s job once handed off.

Mr Stevens: Please could we bring up the document FUJ00079946. This is “[Post Office Account] Customer Service Major Incident Escalation Process”. Is this something you would have worked towards – well, worked with when dealing with major incidents?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, I’m fairly sure, looking at the Post Office distribution list, those two gentlemen were either my line managers at one point in time or line manager’s line manager, so Dave Hulbert and Richard Ashcroft.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to page 7, please. I should say that document was dated 3 October 2006. Under the heading “Process Objective”, the fourth bullet point says one of the objectives was to:

“Avoid unnecessary alerting of the customer.”

In this context, who was the customer: a subpostmaster or the Post Office itself?

Gary Blackburn: My reading of that would have been “clients” would be another way of looking at it. So at the time a major one was – well, they were Alliance & Leicester at the time, I think. So I think it’s referring to them rather than to the branch network.

Mr Stevens: I see. So the clients of the Post Office.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: What do you understand then of the purpose of “avoiding unnecessary alerting”?

Gary Blackburn: It just doesn’t sound right, does it, when I read it today at all. I’d be guessing, to be perfectly honest. I’m not entirely clear. It’s a bit ambiguous, isn’t it? I don’t know if it was just purely wanting to protect brand.

Mr Stevens: We have the last, and four bullet points up:

“Demonstrate to the Post Office a more professional approach [and]

“Improved governance.”

Had there been, before this document, what was perceived to be a lack of a professional approach from Fujitsu, from your perspective?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t actually know, if I’m honest, because this – is this 2006? Sorry.

Mr Stevens: I think if we can just come just to double check, if we can come out to the full page, please. Thank you. Ah, sorry, 27 June 2005.

Gary Blackburn: It’s near enough, isn’t it? No, if I’m being honest, and it is recollection, no, I don’t remember there being poor governance. Perhaps on occasions communication was inconsistent, if we want to look at it that way. But I don’t remember there being governance issues, but it might be a more appropriate question for David Hulbert or Richard Ashcroft.

Mr Stevens: Could we turn to page 8, please. The bullet point at the bottom of this – well, the penultimate one now, says:

“The Fujitsu Service Delivery Manager (or Duty Manager out of hours) is responsible for communicating both up the Fujitsu Organisation and across (see appendix A) to their counterpart in POL.”

Now, in your experience of dealing with incident management, did you feel that Fujitsu kept you or the Post Office appropriately aware of any incidents as they arose?

Gary Blackburn: Well, they certainly made us aware of the incidents when they arose. It would be difficult, I guess, for me to second-guess that and challenge whether or not it was always done in a timely manner or whether it was always exactly what they knew at the time. It would be – the communication, basic communication, ie would they call our duty manager out of hours to tell us there was an issue? The answer’s yes.

Mr Stevens: Well, at the time, do you recall having any concerns that, to put it bluntly, you were being kept in the dark about any incidents?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t have any particular evidence but, on occasions, when you finally ended up with the full root cause analysis and the full documentation of the events, the timeline, et cetera, there would be an ability to reflect and think that it hadn’t been your experience, in terms of the timing of, in terms of the quality of the information you were being provided.

Mr Stevens: When you say “on occasions”, how often would that be?

Gary Blackburn: Rarely. Rarely.

Mr Stevens: Could we please turn to page 9. Under “Incident classification”, it says:

“As a general rule a Major Incident will always be an incident rated with severity level A (critical) in the POA Customer Service Incident Management Process Details document … However not all incidents rated as severity level A qualify. This is because the severity levels do not necessarily translate to the global business impact on POL’s business. For example a single counter post office which is unable to transact, regardless of its business volumes, is rated as a severity A.”

It then goes on to say:

“For simplicity, Incidents are classified into three impact levels”, and uses high, medium, low.

Did an incident have to be a high impact to be a major incident?

Gary Blackburn: I think this is where – I think the answer is yes and no and sorry for that but the way I remember the incident process management working was it’s based upon knowledge and information at the time so it would be perfectly reasonable for us on occasions to have what might turn out to be false alarms that have been raised through that way and a decision taken by Fujitsu in the first instance that it was a high, and therefore the process followed and it might end up high and remain high post-understanding what the impact was, resolution and root cause.

Equally, you know – or conversely, it could work the other way – it could turn out that a decision was made by the Fujitsu duty manager that the incident was medium or low, and it might not have been rung through but, subsequently, called through the following morning, often triggered by calls from the branch network, for example.

Mr Stevens: If the incident wasn’t declared a major incident and just an incident, how did that affect the way it was investigated?

Gary Blackburn: It would be timing, more than anything, in terms of waiting for the next – you know, the following working day, excluding weekends, as well, so there could be some significant delay if a wrong diagnosis was made in the first instance. But that would never stop.

It’s that thing about reacting and predicting and preventing again. You get into that kind of scenario where you might have been able to look back and think we could have done something sooner if it had been identified as high and therefore communicated.

But branches, you know, if they were open and they didn’t have the ability to trade, they would call into one of the two desks. That in itself could also then trigger what would turn out to be the major incident management response.

Mr Stevens: Looking at problem management, if we could go to FUJ00079886. This is 23 December 2002, “Fujitsu Services/Post Office Limited Interface Agreement for the Problem Management Interface”, which is presumably a process you would have used as a problem manager?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah, I think that’s about the right timing. Yes.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to page 7 of this document and, under 5.3, there is “Fujitsu Services specific responsibilities”. It says:

“Fujitsu Services will update the problem Management Database daily (as problems are updated).

“Fujitsu Services will provide POL with remote access (via dial up) to the Fujitsu Services problem management database.”

Do you recall whether, in your time as a problem manager, you had access to that Fujitsu database?

Gary Blackburn: Yes. I’ve got to say it wasn’t the best experience. I seem to remember we had two machines that allowed us that dial-up access to the tool, but it was a way of audit trailing and recording updates to whatever the problem record was. It wasn’t – you know, you had to get up, if you like, and go sit there and go and look for an update, though often, is how I felt about the process rather than receipt of an email, receipt of a phone call, there’s an update in the problem record or things like that. But that might be my memory and just my recollection.

Mr Stevens: Did you consider that the information on problems stored within it at the time was adequate for your purposes as a problem manager?

Gary Blackburn: I’m going to have to say yes but that is not based upon an awful lot of recollection. You know, I can’t think of any particular instance, for example, that would allow me to be more specific but certainly, you know, the basic intention was that the update would be provided for and, you know, if it wasn’t appropriate, I certainly would have expected to have been challenging it and/or escalating it.

Mr Stevens: Was this another point when you were relying on Fujitsu’s technical expertise?

Gary Blackburn: Oh, totally, yes. Yes.

Mr Stevens: Please can we turn to page 12 of the same document. Under section 11.1, it refers to a:

“… Cross Domain Problem Management Forum [being] held monthly prior to the Service Management Forum … and is intended to highlight and discuss all problems if time allows.”

Would you have attended that?

Gary Blackburn: No, I don’t think I did, actually. Because of the age of the document, I was relatively new to the team and junior, therefore. Some of names on the front of the document I recognise, I notice Stephen Potter’s name there, for example. He was a colleague of mine. He would have been much more likely but I would have said I do think it was Richard Ashcroft that was managing this team at the time, and Bethany Newton, that would have been their forum.

Mr Stevens: The last sort of process I wanted to go over which I’ve been asked to go over with you is the branch issue management process. Can we please turn up FUJ00080015. So this describes the branch issue management process. Do you recall the role of the Fujitsu branch issue management process?

Gary Blackburn: Only very high level. I certainly remember many dealings with Nick Crow in particular. But for me, the difference for this role was it was meant to be much more proactive, from Fujitsu’s part, in regards to actively going out and looking for issues. Again, I’m sure Nick would use lots and lots of helpdesk data to guide him and help him, but he would be very, very field based in regards to his role. Network more than accounting discrepancies being, what I remember, are lots and lots of challenges with the various network methodologies that we used at the time and Nick was an expert in that area and particularly assessing the geographical location of the branch environment which could, on occasions, cause issues with the connectivity.

Mr Stevens: So just to clarify that, when you say “network” rather than “accounting”, does it mean, in your experience, this process was looking more at, say, issues where a rural branch may not be able to connect to the servers rather than a balancing discrepancy?

Gary Blackburn: I think the scope would include both but my recollection was that volume-wise would be much, much more challenging and high numbers of network connectivity issues than accounting.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to page 12 of the document, please. At the top, the Proactive BIM process. It says:

“The BIM is also responsible for analysing trends and anomalies experienced at Branch level. The BIM will review the monthly statistics, ie the Branch League Tables to identify exceptionally high instances of call numbers from Branches or other possible indicators of potential issues.”

Did you or anyone at Post Office have access to the branch league tables?

Gary Blackburn: Not that I recall. It might have been something we’d have done similar from an NBSC perspective. I don’t actually remember having visibility of Fujitsu’s branch league table. That’s not to say that I didn’t. I just can’t really remember.

Mr Stevens: So these sort of issues, where there’s problem management, incident management and this process, the BIM process, how did that work, or the problem management team’s work feed into the NBSC and the advice that the members of that team would provide?

Gary Blackburn: Of course, all of the roles are supposed to interact and share knowledge, share information, update as I mentioned earlier, knowledge articles, for example, ensure that end users on the helpdesk were appropriately informed of anything that was particularly important, out there at the moment, major incidents.

Incident management was, for me, very much what it sort of says on the tin: it was service restoration, hand off, root cause, problem management.

BIM was very much more, as I say, proactive is how I thought about it but Nick and the team, I feel, would interact with any relevant section of the Post Office. So if what Nick had have found or was asked to investigate was accounting discrepancies, for example, it’s just as likely that he would have been involved with Product and Branch Accounting within the Post Office as he would be the business service management function.

Mr Stevens: But are you aware of a person within the Post Office who was to draw all of that information together to provide it to the NBSC to update the knowledge articles, and things like that?

Gary Blackburn: No, no. I’m sorry, I’m not. I think it would have fallen to each functional area to ensure that they were informing the NBSC of – or advising the NBSC at a later stage of the benefits of a new knowledge article or updating an existing.

Mr Stevens: Was there a risk or did you think there was a risk at the time that this knowledge wouldn’t be passed on to the NBSC without a co-ordinating role?

Gary Blackburn: I think on reflection, yes, there would have been definitely been a risk that some information may not have – may have been lost in translation or may not have been communicated or articulated in a way that it meant to be. So it’s entirely possible.

Mr Stevens: Are you aware if the training for members of the NBSC was ever updated to take account of findings or information gleaned through the problem management process?

Gary Blackburn: I’m not. Post my time, I believe I’m correct in this, the NBSC was, in effect, outsourced, albeit to Royal Mail. They were the owners of Dearne House, they provided a range of contact centre services to other clients of theirs, and were perceived as contact centre experts. So once that was relinquished, if you like, as a service, they, in effect, became another supplier to the Post Office and I think they were managed accordingly. I can’t comment on Post Office’s contribution to training for those agents post that time.

Mr Stevens: In your recollection, when did that transfer occur?

Gary Blackburn: It would be a wild guess, I’m afraid, but I’m going to say around about, I think, 2006/7 might be the time frame.

Mr Stevens: The same questions really about these findings that problem management would make or incident management would make. How were those findings – let me rephrase that, sorry.

Was there one person who would be responsible for cascading that information to the people responsible for prosecuting subpostmasters?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t know the name or whether they would but I wouldn’t have expected it to have been the individual problem managers. I would have expected it to have been the leadership of that function.

Mr Stevens: When you were a problem manager, were you ever approached by anyone in the team responsible for prosecuting subpostmasters to provide information on potential problems in the Horizon IT System?

Gary Blackburn: I remember receiving requests to investigate and, therefore, engage Fujitsu, gather evidence potentially from the branch in regards to, you know, trial balances, et cetera, transaction logs and relay that information. So I certainly remember having those on occasion. I do, from perception, believe that they were quite low in comparison to the other types of problems that we handled at the time. But I don’t then have any recollection, I’m afraid, at all about what happened post the conclusion of that problem, particularly if it was inconclusive, perhaps, rather than a very black and white response from Fujitsu that declared that the system was working as per design and, therefore, there was no issue.

Those would go back to, I don’t know who would send them, but they would go back to and be due to go back to the appropriate retail network manager.

Mr Stevens: So you might have – your evidence is you might have or you remember someone involved in prosecutions asking you about particular cases. Do you have any recollection of a more proactive approach of someone in the prosecution department saying, “Can you provide us information generally on problems in the Horizon IT System?”

Gary Blackburn: Not that I can remember but all of those types of enquiries would come from internal teams and that, for me, from my recollection, was the Retail Network Manager or the Field Intervention Officers, I think, some of them were called at a later date. So they would be the people out in the field who would have that day-to-day relationship and interaction with the branches.

They may come to us for – to request Fujitsu support and, in those examples, once we’d a conclusion of the investigation, it would go back from whence it came, so back to the Retail Network Manager for consideration.

I think it’s fair to say that, if it wasn’t the answer that we’d all hoped for, in the sense that we’d found something that would explain whatever was occurring, that the retail network manager may have needed to then engage other parts of the business, again including Product and Branch Accounting who, you know, naturally had visibility of the general accounting procedures, the records for every single branch in the network.

Mr Stevens: Again, I apologise if I misheard this but I asked about someone in the prosecution team asking you directly for that broader information –

Gary Blackburn: No.

Mr Stevens: – I think you said no. You then pointed to Retail Network Managers.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: I think again you gave examples of when it would be specific cases that they would ask you about. Do you recall the Retail Network Managers ever asking you proactively and broadly about general problems in the Horizon IT System?

Gary Blackburn: Not proactively. It would be off the back of them being approached by a branch or them noticing a trend within a branch. Sorry, if I’ve understood that question, they would react to the knowledge and them becoming aware of a situation that they felt warranted further investigation.

Mr Stevens: Sir, that might be a suitable time to take a break.

Sir Wyn Williams: Let me just unmute myself to say yes.

Mr Stevens: Excellent, sir, if we could say 3.05?

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine.

(2.55 pm)

(A short break)

(3.05 pm)

Mr Stevens: Mr Blackburn, we’ve talked to about general matters, I now want to get into some of the specifics and the first one is a major incident on 9 May 2005. Please could I ask for POL00091917 to be brought up. This is the major incident report and we can see in the external distribution list, which is at the bottom, that you were included in this. Does that mean it’s an incident that you would have dealt with or was it just for information only?

Gary Blackburn: No, it’s quite possible that I would have played a major incident management role during the event itself.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall this incident at all?

Gary Blackburn: I’m sorry, I don’t. Unfortunately, there were quite a few, from memory.

Mr Stevens: Could we turn to page 6, please. This says that – the “Introduction” says that the:

“… document details the initial incident that occurred within the live estate between 09.00 and 10.00 for a four minute period on Monday 9th May 2005 and the activities that were carried out for the remainder of the business day by the appropriate POA Service Management and support teams.”

If we go to page 8 now, please. Under the “Description of the fault”, I’ll read this for the record. It says:

“The incident that occurred presently hasn’t a determined root cause and occurred within the live ate whilst the SSC word analysing the Correspondence Server volume capacity using the RiposteVolume Command. The purpose of this activity was to ensure that there available spare disk capacity across the Correspondence Server disk volumes.

“The work activity was carried out as a precautionary measure as a result of an archiving job not completing following an event storm that occurred the previous week.

“The RiposteVolume command has been used on numerous occasions before with no impact to service, as it simply displays the details of Riposte Volumes.

“Running this command stops Riposte services running for a micro-second and then starts (unlocks) the services again after the volume is taken. It is believed that in this instance, due to a bug in Riposte, the services did not start again. A PEAK [with the number there] has been raised with Escher development.”

Would you accept this appeared to be a significant problem, in that it’s referring to a bug in the Riposte code?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Did this concern you at the time?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Is it right that, in your evidence, that these types of incidents would not be – the outcomes of them would not be reported back to the branch network?

Gary Blackburn: I certainly wouldn’t have reported them back to the branch network. It’s unlikely, I would have said, but I can’t remember the particular event. There may have often been other circumstances where it was a necessity, because, you know, we couldn’t perhaps establish which branches were impacted to what degree, so we may have understood the impact, but not been able to identify it was branch A, B and C, for example, and therefore you may have been on alert for waiting for a call. And that’s the kind of thing that we referred to earlier that might have generated a script on the Network Business Support Centre, to capture that information and then make sure it’s processed accordingly, ie a correction, if a correction was required, is applied.

But I’m sorry, I really don’t remember the detail of this particular incident.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to paragraph 13 – sorry, page 13. My apologies. Under the table, the first three paragraphs refer to “E Top Up Transaction failures”, which presumably relates to mobile phone top-ups?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: “… displayed in the table above occurred due to the interface between Fujitsu and Epay. When authorised transactions timeout at the counter a reversal is automatically generated by the counter. Transactions were timing out due to the correspondence server problems on this day. Epay’s systems have to match the reversal to the original authorisation request. The reversal has to get to Epay within a time limit of 10 minutes.”

Then the paragraph, skip that paragraph. The next one is:

“Because of the problems with the Correspondence server replication on this day, a number of these reversals did not get through within the time limits.”

Do you think because of that, because of reversals not being to be made, that could have led to discrepancies within accounts –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – and this would affect branches?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: But if we now turn back to your witness statement, please, at paragraph 5, page 3 of your statement, in the middle, you’re referring to a different incident but say:

“Post incident findings such as March 2005 were not shared with the branch network to my knowledge …”

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: So you said you don’t have knowledge of this being shared.

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: Is there anyone else who would have been dealing with this at the time who might have shared it without your knowledge?

Gary Blackburn: Not directly, no. I don’t have any recollection of it being communicated. At least what I probably alluded to just a minute ago, in regards to there’d have been a number of people NBSC, HSH included, who would be looking out for calls. I think this is where Product and Branch Accounting would have played a large role as well, in regards to observing the accounts that were being completed. They would have had the ability to focus in on E top-up transactions as an example and see whether there were discrepancies that I guess, in theory, could align with that event.

Mr Stevens: If a subpostmaster had a discrepancy when they came to balance, that may be because of a transaction that occurred some time before?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: So when they come to balance, some time has passed, and it might be that a subpostmaster simply accepts a discrepancy as an error?

Gary Blackburn: As has always been problem, I think, yes, often the value would be a trigger. Large values, you know, would likely be reported. Low values may well have just been accepted without the knowledge, yes.

Mr Stevens: What’s the justification for the general policy that incidents such as this wouldn’t have been shared with the branch network, so that the SPMs could be aware of potential errors in the system?

Gary Blackburn: I couldn’t comment on what the policy was or the reasoning beyond, you know, operational role for me, restore service, and the belief that there were no issues that were generated with the solution. Clearly, this was a major incident not necessarily software related, per se. It was something unintended that occurred that generated a discrepancy. I’d have expected Product and Branch Accounting to have cleaned up this particular situation but can’t say categorically that was what occurred.

Mr Stevens: So is it your evidence that the communication – the responsibility for the communication lay elsewhere?

Gary Blackburn: It – exactly that, yes.

Mr Stevens: I want to now look at what’s been called the Callendar Square bug. Please can we turn to POL00028984 and page 10. At the bottom there’s an email from Sandra MacKay. Do you remember who she was?

Gary Blackburn: I’m sorry, no, I don’t.

Mr Stevens: The project is “Callendar Square”, which was a sub post office and the first line says – this is to Shaun Turner, I should say, sorry:

“You may recall that in September the above office had major problems with their Horizon system relating to transfers between stock units.”

Go over the page.

“The SPMR has reported that he is again experiencing problems with transfers … which resulted in a loss of around [£43,000] which has subsequently rectified itself. I know that the SPMR has reported this to Horizon Support, who have come back to him stating they cannot find any problem.”

Firstly, did you have any dealings with the Callendar Square branch in September?

Gary Blackburn: No, my dealing with this branch was triggered by Shaun Turner reaching out to me.

Mr Stevens: We’ll get to there in a moment. Could we go to page 10, please. Just to follow the trail, we have – we had Sandra MacKay’s email at the bottom. We then have an email to Shaun Turner from Brian Trotter. Do you remember who Brian Trotter was?

Gary Blackburn: I’m going to say retail network management but I couldn’t say specifically – oh he’s contract and service manager there, isn’t he? But yes, I do recognise the name.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“… I visited the branch with Sandra last week and the SPMR provided clear documented evidence that something very wrong is occurring with some of the processors when carrying out transfers between stock units.”

If we go over the page to page 9, we see what you just referred to as your involvement. It’s an email from Shaun Turner dated 6 January 2006. He asked for your advice on this branch. Why would Shaun Turner have come to you for this particular issue?

Gary Blackburn: Purely the interaction and relationship with Fujitsu, so we were an escalation team. We weren’t outwardly facing to branches. We were a level 2, if you like. And the Retail Network Management, all of them had the opportunity to raise escalations with us for us to engage Fujitsu and get them to investigate a particular occurrence. And that’s what happened on this occasion.

Mr Stevens: Indeed, at the bottom, he describes a problem and his last sentence is:

“I am concerned that there is a fundamental flaw with the branches configuration, and would be interested to know how Fujitsu Services put the first issue to bed.”

At this point in time, did you think this was an issue that was affecting a single branch or a wider issue?

Gary Blackburn: Single.

Mr Stevens: If we go up the page, I think it’s to the next page, we’ll see you email Liz Evans-Jones. Do you remember who she was?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah, she was a higher level than me. In effect, she was my line manager’s opposite. So I went straight to an escalated level within Fujitsu rather than go to the people I would ordinarily engage with.

Mr Stevens: Why did you decide to escalate it?

Gary Blackburn: Shaun was somebody I’d got the greatest respect for and trust for, I’d known him a very long time. His email was casting enough concern for me to do this on this occasion.

Mr Stevens: The £43,000 discrepancy, that’s a large discrepancy?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, I mean obviously it is ridiculously large. Having said that, numbers are everywhere in the Post Office, and so it isn’t necessarily a trigger. It was really the fact that Sean was coming to me. Number 1, he was escalating to me which meant it was important and, number 2, it just looked like something on the basis of his knowledge, his experience, that he was saying the system not working as it was intended. So I went straight to an escalated level on that occasion.

Mr Stevens: Liz Evans-Jones’s response is immediately above this.

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: She says:

“I have checked the call and this issue is schedule to be resolved in S90.”

What was your understanding of S90 at that point?

Gary Blackburn: A new software release that the business was working on. It would have contained many things. I am assuming there are lots of business related reasons for a new software release but it would also have contained a backlog of fixes for any bugs or defects that had been found. I couldn’t say on over what time frame but, for me, I do remember S90 being very important. I do seem to remember a lot of communication about its need being rolled out to the branch network.

Mr Stevens: At page 7, if we could go up, we see that you pass this on to Shaun Turner and then Shaun Turner goes on to reply to you.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: If we carry on up. Thank you. This is 17 February now. The first question – Shaun Turner asks three questions, the first of which says:

“Do we understand why this particular branch has been having problems? Or are there other branches in the network that have been having this problem?”

Now at this stage, had your view changed on from it being a single branch issue to having concerns with it being a wider issue or not?

Gary Blackburn: It wasn’t actually, no. So whilst I’d taken from Liz Melrose-Jones (sic) response that clearly Fujitsu were aware of it and/or a risk of it, this was my first experience of it actually occurring within the network. So at this point in time, clearly I was aware now that there was a risk of others being impacted that this was the only branch specifically that I was aware of.

Mr Stevens: If we look at page 3 on this email chain we see on 23 February 2006, there’s an email from Anne Chambers to Mike Stewart, which you were subsequently sent this email.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: You would have read it at the time?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: The second paragraph says:

“Haven’t looked at the recent evidence, but I know that in the past this site had hit this Riposte lock problem 2 or 3 times within a few weeks. This problem has been around for years and affects a number of sites most weeks, and finally Escher say they have done something about it.”

What did this mean to you when you read it?

Gary Blackburn: News. It’s not something – you know, I do actually – when I’ve looked at all the evidence you’ve provided, whilst I couldn’t remember the detail until I went back through the evidence, Callendar Square was a name and a Post Office that I remembered immediately because this was long running from my involvement, but that, to me, that statement was, I believe at the time, news to me. Not something I was aware of that branches could have this issue from Smart post transactional problems.

Mr Stevens: Would this problem concern transfers from the stock units, Callendar Square?

Gary Blackburn: I’d understood it was – yes, but I thought I’d understood it was triggered by a particular transaction. I may be incorrect on that.

Mr Stevens: But in terms of the problem itself, the fact that it’s saying it’s been around for years and it affects a number of sites was weeks, did you believe that was significant?

Gary Blackburn: It’s shocking. Yes, shocking. If – especially on the basis of, as you could see from Liz’s response, that if there was an awareness of it, there wasn’t enough awareness of it, and it had been parked, obviously, for quite a while in the backlog, if we were only going to look to fix it in the S90 software release.

Mr Stevens: Did you have any concerns at the fact that, where we went the first email we went to, Callendar Square branch were initially told that there was no problem in the system?

Gary Blackburn: I wouldn’t say concerned until you get, you know, you get the rest of the detail and then you understand and then you can reflect back and go, yes, you would be concerned. I think it points to my earlier point around having to trust, you know, the expertise in terms of the advice and guidance that had been given.

But, again, I’ll also say this was my first awareness of this particular problem and this particular branch experiencing this problem. What had gone before, I couldn’t say whether that was just calls logged into the Horizon Service Desk and how those had been resolved and managed.

Mr Stevens: The last paragraph of this email says:

“Please note that KELs tell SMC that they must contact sites and warn them of balancing problems if they notice the event storms caused by the held lock, and advise them to reboot the affect counter before continuing with the balance. Unfortunately in practice it seems to take SMC several hours to notice these storms, by which time the damage may have been done.”

Do you know what this refers to when it’s talking about “event storms” or what was your understanding at the time?

Gary Blackburn: At the time, that would have been – as I’ve just said, my first reading of it, it would be a question for Fujitsu, I’m afraid, as to what an “event storm” actually is or contains. But it clearly shows that Fujitsu were aware of it, they’d created a Known Error Log and were managing the calls, at least reactively, but I don’t equally remember any proactive communication on the – from when this was originally identified.

Mr Stevens: Did you discuss this issue with anyone within Post Office once it came to your attention?

Gary Blackburn: No, but I think not long after this particular email, I think more evidence became available to me, I think three or four, maybe five post offices having the same problem, for the same reasons. At that point, I’d made sure that it was escalated into our problem management function to get greater visibility and awareness. Prior to that additional set of branches, though, I’ll be honest and say that I’d accepted Liz’s position, in that S90 was the fix.

Mr Stevens: In any of the conversations you’d had with anyone in Post Office about this, were you aware of anyone in Post Office who was aware of this problem before –

Gary Blackburn: No. Personally, no. I find it had to sit here and believe that no one did know but personally, no, I didn’t know.

Mr Stevens: What steps were taken in respect of communicating this issue or this bug to teams outside of Problem Management?

Gary Blackburn: I can’t say, I’m afraid, what I can say is I didn’t communicate it further than Problem Management. What happened to it beyond then, I’m sorry, I couldn’t say, I can’t remember.

Mr Stevens: Do you know who was responsible for communicating that outside of Problem Management.

Gary Blackburn: Someone somewhere in the business at a reasonable level would have had to have made a decision as to whether it was communicated in its entirety and a warning provided to branches aligned with that Fujitsu knowledge article, for example, which seems to be sat, as I’m saying, reactively waiting for a storm to occur and then a response. I’m not sure, though, that a branch would have had the ability to have noticed or known what a storm was, or looked like or felt like, so that, you know, may have been the most appropriate response.

Mr Stevens: So you say you pass it on to the knowledge – the Problem Management Team.

Gary Blackburn: Mm-hm.

Mr Stevens: Are you aware of this issue being known about by other members of the Post Office outside of that Problem Management Team?

Gary Blackburn: No, as I say, it was news to me so –

Mr Stevens: Sorry, after you’d discovered it?

Gary Blackburn: After I’d discovered it, no, I don’t know whether – I can’t remember what or who they communicated with post raising of the problem record but I would suspect, given that clearly there was already awareness of it within Fujitsu, and the fix cued to go out within S90, that the process that’s described in there just continued up to rollout of S90.

Mr Stevens: Do you think that subpostmasters should have been made aware of this issue?

Gary Blackburn: Ideally, yes. As I say, I think the trigger is worrying me somewhat because I don’t have an understanding of what “event storm” means or whether it would be obvious to somebody at the branch counter end but, ideally, I think, you know, as a basic principle, all branches should have been aware of any particular defects or issues that could have affected accounting.

Mr Stevens: Were you involved with the handling the problem after initially discovering it?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t think I was, actually, no.

Mr Stevens: Did it influence the way you thought about the Horizon IT System thereafter?

Gary Blackburn: I think not only this but, at that time, others were now already more prevalent, probably for any number of reasons, just, you know, knowledge, understanding, the way that people were then more confident in reporting and reported them through the procedures. There was certainly an upward trend in regards to any number of instances where people believed Horizon may have caused the discrepancy.

Mr Stevens: I want to move on to a different issue. Please can we open FUJ00121072. This is an email to you from Gareth Jenkins. Did you work with Gareth Jenkins often?

Gary Blackburn: No. Gareth was sort of development level from what I remember, deeply technical. It was a rarity for Gareth to reach out to me, particularly if he’s copied in Mike Stewart, which would be much more likely my point of contact, occasionally Anne.

Mr Stevens: So the date is in the American form but it is sent on 13 February 2007 –

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: – and it attaches a document called “Rem Misbalance”. If we could look at that now it’s FUJ00121073. Do you recall receiving this document at the time?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t recall, no. Sorry.

Mr Stevens: It describes:

“… a serious bug introduced into Live that can result in accounts misbalancing.

“This bug was introduced as part of LFS_COUNTER 35_6 which went to a limited number of branches for a pilot from 4/2/07 to 11/2/07 and then to the whole estate on 12/02/07.”

It goes on to describe the history of the issue. If you could go down, please, to “Basic Problem Effects”. It says:

“The basic problem is when Rem Outs …”

Can you help us with what rem outs are?

Gary Blackburn: Sending out remittances, probably of cash rather than stock, back to cash centres or back to the Swindon Stock Centre.

Mr Stevens: So it says –

Gary Blackburn: Surplus.

Mr Stevens: Oh, sorry?

Gary Blackburn: Sorry, surplus.

Mr Stevens: “… incorrect transactions are recorded. Specifically some of the Rem transactions are missing.

“Take an example of 2 £500 coin bags being Remitted out, then the following was recorded …”

Then if we look at that table, effectively it’s showing the cash out on the top line, the rem out cash is 500 when it should be 1,000.

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: It says below:

“The Stock Unit will show a £500 excess cash and a Receipts and Payments mismatch.”

If we can go over the page please:

“Some branches have made a further Rem of £500 in an attempt to correct the situation. If this Pouch is subsequently Despatched, then this should result in the branch accounts being correct.

“Note that this will result in further incorrect data being sent to [Post Office Limited] FS see discussion in section 3.2.

“However, if this Pouch is not Despatched, then the Stock Unit will balance and report correctly but the £500 will remain Stuck in Suspense.”

It goes on to say:

“It is recommended that all Branches are advised to do such a Dummy Rem and to Despatch the pouch to ensure that the Branch Accounts are clear.”

Can you just in broad terms explain what that advice is, the dummy rem?

Gary Blackburn: Creation of a false rem, a remittance amount, to trigger the balance accounting being accurate, but it’s something that it doesn’t exist in terms of, I think, the example £500.

Mr Stevens: So, in effect, redo the transaction –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – without sending the cash so that it balances?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“It has been agreed that POA SSC will contact each branch with detailed advice as exactly what to do.”

Please can we now go to the technical appendix of the Horizon Issues judgment. It’s POL00022841, page 52. This is the judgment of Mr Justice Fraser in the Group Litigation Order where the judge was looking at bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon IT System from which this Inquiry is building on the findings.

Gary Blackburn: Okay.

Mr Stevens: Section 6 refers to a remming out bug. If we could go over the page to 201, please, it says:

“Issue 6(i) arises as follows. What is called ‘a remming error’ leads to a mismatch between the amounts of cash remmed out to one place and the amounts remmed in from another. The Post Office has submitted that remming errors are a clear violation of Data Entry Accounting and are picked up by Horizon. The two different issues are as follows.”

It says:

“As the obverse of the coin of remming in, SPMs rem out pouches of cash to be returned to the Post Office Cash Centre. A single pouch may contain multiple bags of coins or cash and each bag can only hold one denomination, and there is a limit as to how much cash can be placed into a pouch. The cash can be remmed out before it is physically collected. When remmed out, the cash appears in a different line in the branch accounts. On collection, the collection team scan a barcode on the pouch and the cash is removed from the ‘cash in pouches’ line of accounts.”

It says:

“When remming out, branches should have made one entry for each denomination and value and, if there were multiple bags for a particular denomination, the quantity of bags should have been specified in that single entry …”

So two times £500 of £2 coins.

“However, if the SPMs had made multiple entries for each denomination and value (eg one entry for 1 x £500 bag of £2 coins and a second entry for 1 x £500 bag of £2 coins), Horizon would only record the first bag as having left the branch’s cash holdings, but all of the bags would show on the ‘cash in pouches’ line. This would have created a discrepancy in the branch accounts because all of the cash would have been collected.”

Is this the bug that you were dealing with, with Gareth Jenkins in February.

Gary Blackburn: I can’t be absolutely certain but it’s certainly reads and appears to be, yes.

Mr Stevens: So, in essence, the problem in lay terms is two pouches, say, of £500 are sent to the cash centre but Horizon only logs that one has been sent?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: So Horizon records that there is an additional £500, which isn’t actually there?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: Can we please go to FUJ00120587. This is a Known Error Log, “KEL acha508S” and you see it’s created on 12 February 2007 or raised then, so at the time this was made this issue was being dealt with, and last updated on 15 February 2007. We see from the “Symptoms” that we are referring here to this bug.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Please can we go down to the bottom section. It says:

“Calls about inconsistencies in stock rem outs should be redirected to NBSC. SSC have contacted all branches who have had a problem with cash rem outs, quoting ref PC143435.”

Is it the position then at this stage, on 15 February, the SSC had called the branches or contacted the branches where there was a discrepancy arising from this bug and sought to deal with it.

Gary Blackburn: That’s how I’m reading that, yes, that they’ve called the ones that have been identified.

Mr Stevens: Please can we turn now to FUJ00121071 and turn to page 3 at the very bottom. We see your name at the bottom.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: An email on 15 February. If we can go over the page to see the content of that email. The subject is “T30 Release – Impact on Stock Rems – Monday 12th February”. You say:


“Whilst the T30 release was out in the branch network, Monday 12th Feb only for all bar 120 branches that were incommunicado during the initial regression progress. We have a potential situation where a branch completing the stock rem out [so that’s the cash going out to the cash centre] on that day could have a discrepancy due to the fact that not all stock physically returned by the branch may have been deducted from Horizon from the stock on hand table, this despite the fact that the rem slip produced matched the physical stock returned.”

You then say under “Latest position”:

“We have a possible 570 branches that were affected by last weekend’s T30 release, now regressed.

“The pouch IDs have been identified by Fujitsu.

“The branches who sent those pouches have also been identified, and the value of the stock returned from each has been established from the POC file.”

Do you know what the POC file is?

Gary Blackburn: I’m sorry, I don’t remember.

Mr Stevens: “We still don’t know which of these branches has actually got a discrepancy due to the problem.”

So these are potentially affected branches, unknown if there’s a discrepancy?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: In terms of “Next Steps” you say:

“Identify which of those branches have a discrepancy between Horizon and the rem slip – Options here are to contact the branches or wait and react to calls made into NBSC, HSD – I will then arrange a conference call to discuss way forward tomorrow …”

So is it fair to say that these 570 branches are different to the branches the SSC had already contacted in the KEL we’d referred to?

Gary Blackburn: I can’t actually remember but that’s the way I am reading this yes, that they’re additional.

Mr Stevens: In respect of these branches, there’s essentially two options, is it fair: one is a proactive approach of contacting those branches to advise them of the issue –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – and the second is to wait for calls to come into the NBSC; do you accept that?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Thank you. Now, at this stage, the subpostmasters again would have no idea that there was a bug in the system, would they?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: A subpostmaster would only be aware of the issue in balancing when they came to balance the stock unit?

Gary Blackburn: Correct.

Mr Stevens: Again, this could be some time after remming out?

Gary Blackburn: It could.

Mr Stevens: So, again, it’s another example of when a subpostmaster may have thought that discrepancy on balancing was caused by a mistake?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: They had no reason to believe, if they’re not told, that it was due to a bug, error or defect in the Horizon IT System?

Gary Blackburn: That’s also correct.

Mr Stevens: Please can we go to page 3. It’s quite confusing the way this email is set out, but you see halfway down there’s an email from Dave Hulbert, 5 February 2007 –

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: – forwarding on your email to Andy McLean. Just starting out with some identities, who was Dave Hulbert?

Gary Blackburn: My line manager at the time.

Mr Stevens: And Andy McLean?

Gary Blackburn: His line manager.

Mr Stevens: It says:


“See update below.

“Not much progress today. The dilemma for Gary is approaching branches is proactive but opens the risk of litigation in future ie we’re telling 570 branches that Horizon may have caused a discrepancy – low risk but a risk – being reactive doesn’t feel right as we’ve caused the problem for branches but this may be the right option in this situation.”

To what extent was the risk of litigation taken into account at the Post Office at this time when deciding how to handle a known bug, error or defect?

Gary Blackburn: It’s possibly more of a question for David and Andy. My reason for escalating this, obviously beyond the seriousness of the situation, is just a growing awareness of the volume of defect or bug related calls and enquiries that we were undertaking. But also very aware that the mantra and message was still “There are no Horizon integrity issues and there are no systemic issues that cause problems”, and yet here’s clearly an example, whether driven by human error or not, that was creating discrepancies in branch.

Mr Stevens: But in this case – it’s right to say in this case there was a known error –

Gary Blackburn: There was, in this instance a known error, yes.

Mr Stevens: – that caused discrepancies –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – and your line manager is suggesting here of not taking a proactive approach, and one of the reasons given is the risk of litigation?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: The risk of that litigation presumably is that someone will turn round and say, “Horizon is causing discrepancies” –

Gary Blackburn: Absolutely.

Mr Stevens: – which, in fact, it was in this case?

Gary Blackburn: It was.

Mr Stevens: What did you think to this email when you saw it?

Gary Blackburn: It’s different because now I’m in a position many years later where I’m reflecting on it, of course with the benefit of hindsight. But it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable reading today and it was uncomfortable reading then.

Mr Stevens: Was this reflective of a broader culture in the Post Office at the time, that Horizon shouldn’t have been challenged?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t want to repeat going back to the messages but, absolutely, on the basis that there was no accepted agreement, that there was Horizon integrity issues, that was the general culture and that is what drove the behaviour.

Mr Stevens: Please can we turn to page 2 of this email. At the bottom you email – I think it looks like you email Dave Hulbert and Andy McLean?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: You say:

“Bad news.

“On further investigation today we have established that the POC file actually matches POL-FS.”

What does that mean?

Gary Blackburn: It meant that we still didn’t and couldn’t identify the values or the branches involved in this particular issue.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“This means that we still don’t know what value stock has been returned by these 570 branches. Furthermore the only way we could find out would be for someone at Swindon to find the specific pouches and physically open each one and count the stock.

“This rules out a proactive recovery plan.”

Do you still agree with that?

Gary Blackburn: Roll it out in the sense that what would we have told the branch? We could have told them there was a problem but nothing more. Couldn’t give them any indication of – to the extent of impact that it had had on them. But, actually, with hindsight, there would have been an opportunity to, I think, have – well, I can see that throughout the email chain that Product and Branch Accounting have been included within this because they would have been seeing as well, the outcome and the impact of this.

There was clearly an opportunity to have reached out to the 570 branches, even in the absence of detail and values, and inform them so that they were aware so that we could have done something more collaborative with them to resolve the issue.

Mr Stevens: You go on to say that:

“I have ensured that both NBSC and HSD have scripts to deal with any queries relating to stock from these branches.”

So that’s if someone rings in.

Gary Blackburn: That’s that reactive process again and that script again, to make sure that they catch it and the branch is recompensed and the correction made.

Mr Stevens: The Inquiry hasn’t seen or had sight of that script. Do you know where those scripts would usually be held or stored? Was it on the Remedy system as well?

Gary Blackburn: Given the temporary nature, I’m not sure whether they were uploaded digitally or not, actually. But if they were anywhere, it would be Network Business Support Centre environment.

Mr Stevens: If we can move on to another issue, please, and that’s a PEAK that you refer to in your witness statement. It’s POL0001313. Before the Inquiry sent you a document like this, had you seen one of these before, a PEAK?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, occasionally. I can’t remember what the PEAK acronym sort of means but I think it relates to Fujitsu’s internal tool or system for recording bugs and defects that needed to be queued in a backlog then for fix. If there was any reason for somebody like Anne Chambers – I think it is Anne in this instance, isn’t it – to make me aware of that, I suspect it was probably attached to the email explaining to me, hopefully in simple terms, why I was being informed.

Mr Stevens: This says, issue at Branch 106129, which has a non-zero trading position. The entry on 18 February at 1500 hours, just go down slightly:

“Branch 10629 appears to have been affected by a known software problem … which causes a non-zero trading position, a receipts and payments mismatch and an incorrect discrepancy.”

Further down on 25 February, we see that you were notified of this problem. Do you have any independent recollection of that?

Gary Blackburn: I’m afraid not, no.

Mr Stevens: Over the page, again on 25 February, it says:

“Thanks, Anne. Final BIMS issued to POL including ‘Information for BIMS’ text. Returning call to EDSC for closure.”

Can you assist with what that means in terms of the “final BIMS issue to POL”?

Gary Blackburn: Not an expert, I’m afraid, on the issues management process but I think that this would have been communicated to Product and Branch Accounting. It’s not something that they’d have been looking for support from incident management with and I’m afraid I have no recollection at all what the acronym “EDSC” means.

Mr Stevens: We’ll leave that there then and move on to another matter. POL00023765, please. This is a PEAK PC0152014, branch 183227. It refers to an incomplete summaries report. Can we go to the bottom of page 1, please. We see an entry on 10 December, right at the bottom.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: If we could go over the page, it says:

“This is due to a single SC line written for $1,000 (£484) with no settlement in the middle of two RISP transactions.”

It says:

“On call PC0151718 the harvester exception was corrected and now the transaction for the day don’t zero, hence this issue with the incomplete summaries [form].”

It goes on to requesting the message form. Do you understand broadly what this problem was?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t. It’s too technical for me but, fundamentally, it’s describing another software related, application related issue that’s created a discrepancy in the branch.

Mr Stevens: It refers to OCP17510, which has been raised. Do you remember what an OCP was?

Gary Blackburn: Operational Change Process or Procedure or something like that, I think. It was the audit trail that was created to match with whatever action was being taken, so that that 17510 should match whatever correction activities, so whether that’s message store or otherwise, was done to make this right.

Mr Stevens: So when you say “message store”, do you mean where Fujitsu were making changes –

Gary Blackburn: The way Fujitsu went into the system to correct the issue.

Mr Stevens: The OCP was the –

Gary Blackburn: And the OCP was the audit trail for that activity, yeah.

Mr Stevens: Do you recall, from your recollection, what were the controls, the security controls, on the use of OCP?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t. I mean, I would have seen plenty in my time for both awareness and, on occasions, approval but I don’t really remember, I’m afraid, the process, quite how we raised them, how they were triggered. I think we just had an approval or sight of within my team.

Mr Stevens: Can we look at the OCP. It’s FUJ00087194. So we see “Write corrective bureau message” for the branch. It says:

“A single SC message … was written in error on 26th November … selling 1,000 US dollars, with no corresponding settlement line. To remove the effects of this message at both the branch and on POL-FS, we will insert a new message to negate the effects of the original message.”

So is your understanding of this that what Fujitsu would do is insert, essentially, a transaction into the branch accounts?

Gary Blackburn: To balance the books, yes, and an accepted process as well. I know this is just one example but that would be what I’d expect to happen in these circumstances.

Mr Stevens: When were you first aware of Fujitsu’s ability to –

Gary Blackburn: Oh.

Mr Stevens: – insert transactions like this?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t know but I’m – I’m going to say probably HNG-X rather than Legacy Horizon, so much later on.

Mr Stevens: Well, we’re here in 2007.

Gary Blackburn: Oh, right, okay.

Mr Stevens: Horizon Online is 2010 onwards.

Gary Blackburn: Yes, so – but I still – I’m afraid I don’t know. It’s not something that you were particularly conscious of at the time or that it maybe particularly concerned you or felt wrong in any kind of way, if I can – I can’t find a way to articulate it. It felt part of a BAU process from an internal operational perspective.

Mr Stevens: Were you aware of any ability of Fujitsu to insert, edit or delete transactions from the branch accounts outside of the OCP procedure?

Gary Blackburn: Oh, no. I’d have always expected there to have been communication with Post Office and, if it was making a correction, OCP was – I was going to say the only – there may have been another but that was a process for audit trailing amendments that were being made.

Mr Stevens: If we can go down to the bottom of this OCP, sorry, not that far. Sorry, just a little further up. Thank you. We refer to extra detail and it gives the original message and the new message attributes. Do those – I mean, from your position, you say you’re non-technical, do those words mean anything to you, insofar as could you challenge them or check they’re accurate?

Gary Blackburn: No. You know, it’s – I would always work, my team would always work, based upon the business outcome element of the – any given situation. So for me, really simply, this is about rectifying correctly for a branch a situation which is not of their making.

Mr Stevens: So it says at the bottom there:

“Gary Blackburn (POL) is already aware of this issue.”

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: If we go down, there’s an email, which you aren’t in copy for, but it says:

“Hi Gaby,

POL approve this change.

“As soon as I saw the branch name, I realised that this is the one that Gary spoke to Anne Chambers about earlier.”

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: So, at this time, you were relying on Fujitsu to implement the change and no one at Post Office was checking it from a technical perspective?

Gary Blackburn: Not from my perspective and, as I’ve said, I and my team, of which Julie Edgley was one at the time, would not have had that ability, so it’s going on the advice, the guidance given.

Mr Stevens: Would you have told or arranged for the subpostmaster to be told of this change?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t remember doing so. I really would like to sit here today and be able to say to you that we did, it is possible that we did. We spoke to – and I, through all my years, spoke to many subpostmasters but I really cannot say that I did on this occasion.

Mr Stevens: In general terms, when you had these types of transactions, would you –

Gary Blackburn: In general terms, yes. Naturally, we would want to ensure that the postmaster was aware because there was an issue of awareness and timing of, because it would become apparent to them because an entry was being made. I think there might be a different example within the pack where we have actually recorded an email that we’ve spoke to a particular postmaster but I can’t remember this particular example.

Mr Stevens: If we could go back to the PEAK we looked at before, it’s POL00023765, and to page 3. 14 December, the entry at 15.37 says:

“Email to Gary Blackburn.”

The Inquiry doesn’t have or hasn’t had sight of that email but the following entry says this:

“The counter problem which caused the first issue has been corrected by inserting a message into the message store, for equal but opposite values/quantities, as agreed with POL (OCP 17510).”

Which was the document we just went to.

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: “As a result of this corrective action, the net effect on POL-FS is zero, and the POL-FS figures are in line with the branch. POL-MIS received both the original message and the corrective message.

“Once the problem was corrected, there should have been no impact on the branch. However it has been noted that the stock unit BDC had a loss of $1,000, which was generated after the correction was made. We have already notified Gary Blackburn at POL (email attached). This appears to be a genuine loss at the branch, not a consequence of the problem or correction.”

Do you recall being made aware of this?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t. But clearly I was.

Mr Stevens: Is it a fair summary to say what Anne Chambers is effectively saying here is there was initially a problem which caused a $1,000 discrepancy?

Gary Blackburn: Yeah.

Mr Stevens: They inserted a transaction to try to correct that, so a $1,000 transaction the other way, and now there was a $1,000 loss to the branch, which they were saying was unrelated to the use of the remote access. Does that strike you as odd?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: There’s no record in this PEAK of this being challenged at the time. Do you think you would have challenged it?

Gary Blackburn: I’d like to think so but, again, you know, passage of time, I honestly – it isn’t something that I remember, but, you know, clearly $1,000 is a trigger there to say too much of a coincidence.

Mr Stevens: It’s correct, isn’t it, that under the way Post Office interpreted its contract with subpostmasters at the time, that a discrepancy for which there wasn’t a system explanation, the subpostmaster would have been expected to make good that discrepancy?

Gary Blackburn: That would be my understanding, yes.

Mr Stevens: So as a matter of basic fairness, do you accept they should have been told about, the fact that a transaction – I won’t use that term, sorry – the fact that remote access had been used to insert a transaction?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: But, again, there’s no record, in this PEAK, of the subpostmaster being told?

Gary Blackburn: And I can’t remember, I’m afraid, whether it was or it wasn’t.

Mr Stevens: Before moving on, can we turn to page 12, please, of your witness statement, paragraph 23. You deal here with remote access and you refer to the OCP procedure. You say:

“I also knew that they [‘they’ being Fujitsu] could see what had happened in branch down to the detailed sequence of individual keystrokes.”

So is it your evidence that Fujitsu held audit data that showed what keystrokes had been held in branch?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, that was my understanding yes.

Mr Stevens: How often did you request such data or see such data?

Gary Blackburn: Possibly once or twice with post offices that were in this kind of scenario. I’m not saying the same particular trigger that were disputing discrepancies. I do remember it was actually through the BIM process, through Nick Crow, that it had been requested to try to prove or disprove a sequence of events that might have explained whether it was system driven or user driven.

Mr Stevens: So you say you use it two to three –

Gary Blackburn: I think a couple of occasions, only a couple of occasions where there was really quite difficult protracted enquiries and investigations. I’m sorry, I can’t remember the names of the post offices. I remember one was in Exeter is all can say.

Mr Stevens: Was it difficult to obtain that information?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Why?

Gary Blackburn: It wasn’t – it’s something I had to – you know, you’d have to ask for, and it may have been on occasions that, you know, it wasn’t available for whatever reason, it’s a question for Fujitsu to understand how they audited and retained and held that information. But, no, it wasn’t something that I could just freely obtain.

Mr Stevens: Did you have to get internal approval to seek such information?

Gary Blackburn: I don’t remember doing so, I remember it just feeling that if it was the right one – one of the right questions to ask in a circumstance that we would ask.

Mr Stevens: Were you aware of any costs implications of obtaining such data?

Gary Blackburn: I wasn’t no.

Mr Stevens: Are you aware of any whistleblowing policies in Post Office at the time, relating to issues such as remote access or bugs, errors and defects?

Gary Blackburn: No, I’m sorry.

Mr Stevens: Sir, I’m just looking at the time. I’ve still got a few topics to cover and there are questions from Core Participants as well. I understand Mr Blackburn is available tomorrow to give evidence.

Gary Blackburn: I have come prepared, yes.

Mr Stevens: I’m happy to carry on but –

Sir Wyn Williams: Are you saying collectively that we would go substantially beyond 4.30 if we tried to finish him today?

Mr Stevens: I’ll just check. How long do people think they’ll be with questions?

Mr Jacobs: Sir, as matters stand, I don’t have anything at the moment.

Ms Page: I’ve only got short questions.

Mr Stevens: In which case, I’d understood there would be many more questions and so I think I can fit it in, in that time.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, I am reasonably happy to go until about 4.45. Thereafter, I have to say my concentration levels will start to waiver but I’m sure that Mr Blackburn would prefer to finish if he could tonight.

Gary Blackburn: I would. Thank you.

Mr Stevens: I have been asked if we can take a five-minute break for the purposes of the transcriber.

Sir Wyn Williams: I tell you what, let’s take five minutes and then everybody can sharpen themselves to try to finish by 4.45.

Mr Stevens: Thank you, sir.

(4.11 pm)

(A short break)

(4.15 pm)

Mr Stevens: Sir, can you see and hear me?

Sir Wyn Williams: I can.

Mr Stevens: Good thank you. I’ll carry on.

Mr Blackburn, before moving on to the next topical I failed to put something to you earlier, which I should do now, so apologies for treading over ground we’ve covered. Can we go back to FUJ00121071. This was about the remming out bug we discussed earlier. At page 3, we discussed about the ruling out of proactive recovery plan and also a – so relying on a reactive one. I feel I should put it to you squarely, from this, is it fair to say that a reactive recovery plan was, in fact, followed in this case?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: Thank you. If we could move, then, to cover a dispute arising from the Hogsthorpe Post Office, and that is, if we could turn to POL00021163, please, and page 4. Thank you. So at the bottom, please, we see that this refers to the Hogsthorpe Post Office, who at the time was operated by David Hedges who liked to be known as Tom Hedges. Mr Hedges is a Core Participant in this Inquiry who has provided a witness statement, and this is an email from Karen Arnold; do you recall who she was?

Gary Blackburn: I’m going to say that generic term again, Retail Network Management arena. Yeah.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“Further to our conversation last week regarding the losses at Hogsthorpe, the SPMR David Hedges (who liked to be known as Tom) has contacted the NBSC to establish what the BAU …”

Is that business as usual?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: “… BAU/correct process is for suspending a session of Smartpost.”

Can you assist us with what Smartpost is?

Gary Blackburn: Only it was a transaction at the time. I can’t remember what, specifically, but it was a posting transaction.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“Tom tells me that the NBSC said it was okay to use either of the methods he describes. As a reminder, I have copied information below in respect of what described to me last week.”

That is over the page. We don’t need to look at that in any detail.

If we could have on the screen at the same time, please, paragraph 21 of your witness statement on page 11, and on the actual document, POL00021163. If we could go to page 5, please. If you go below that for the time being. Thank you.

Your response on 7 July was to say that:

“Fujitsu would not check a replace processor automatically, but I don’t believe that would add any value in this instance. As we discussed last week the most likely explanation was/is user error, but given the always into NBSC and HSD, we should assume that this is not the root cause at this time.”

In your witness statement at paragraph 21, you say:

“When Karen Arnold first contacted me, my initial response comes from my preempting the most likely root cause of the problem being within branch, which was purely based upon the fact that at the time I had no understanding, or even belief, that the Horizon application could or did generate erroneous discrepancies linked to this transaction type.”

Now when you say that, are you saying transaction type is Smartpost?

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: So you were aware of the ability of Horizon to create discrepancies –

Gary Blackburn: The general was, we’ve discussed, yes. I was particularly – hence I chose my words quite carefully there. It was Smartpost, specifically.

Mr Stevens: Thank you. We can take down the witness statements, then, for the time being. Why did you think user error was the most likely explanation, even though you had seen evidence of bugs, errors and defects in Horizon in other areas?

Gary Blackburn: It’s I think an example, looking back, of just how we all thought, behaved, believed, worked within the processes. And that’s despite – and I know that sounds incredibly silly to say that at the end of this review, but that is how we believed, if there had to be evidence to support Horizon creating discrepancies. So in the absence of the general stance, rightly or wrongly, was that it was more likely to be user error interacting with the service in completing the transaction incorrectly.

Mr Stevens: Please can we bring that document back up. So it’s POL00021163, and I think it was page 4. Yes. The bottom paragraph of your email. You say:

“If Tom has specific information such as transaction time and values, please send this across and I will get Fujitsu to investigate immediately. If has no evidence then I’m afraid there is nothing for Fujitsu to investigate.”

What evidence could Mr Hedges have provided which Fujitsu or the Post Office didn’t have access to?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, I think ultimately it would have been the accounting, the transaction logs, the trial and/or final balances. But it’s right that that would have all been available to Fujitsu, correct.

Mr Stevens: What was the reason for asking Mr Hedges for this?

Gary Blackburn: I can’t recollect, but I think it comes from my previous statement about in the absence of – you know, it wasn’t automatically taken forward.

Mr Stevens: Please could we look at page 3 now. So Karen Arnold replies, saying:

“I’m not sure why Fujitsu would be changing the processor if they didn’t think there was a problem.

“Having spoken to Tom today, once the new processor is install he is going to do a BP rollover and then keep a tally manually of every Smartpost item to check against Horizon. This however won’t help anything that has gone [on] previously.”

Pausing there, if Mr Hedges receives a new processor unit, approaches his transactions in the same way, and he stops getting the discrepancies, that suggests that the processor is at fault.

Gary Blackburn: It certainly could have been an explanation, yes.

Mr Stevens: If he still had discrepancies, that would suggest that the processor itself wasn’t at fault, it may have been something else –

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Mr Stevens: – it may have been the Horizon System, but not the processor.

So changing the processor would give you some evidence relevant to determining the cause of the problem; do you accept that?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, it could have done, yes.

Mr Stevens: Can we turn to page 2, please. You reply on 2 July. You say:


“Fujitsu have always had a preventative maintenance policy and therefore sometimes will swap out kit without actually finding a fault. Also it generally helps with customer perception of the service they have received. I accept in this instance that this policy could work against us, but are you suggesting that if after swapping the processor and all discrepancies cease, that Tom will claim this is clear proof of Horizon creating discrepancies? I strongly suggest that Tom obtains the necessary evidence now, if it is available.”

Pausing there, can we at the same time, please, show your witness statement page 11, paragraph 21. At the bottom, it’s three quarters of the way down, you say:

“I went on to offer advice which was to obtain evidence prior to requesting that Fujitsu attend site. Fujitsu had, at the time, a basic maintenance policy which was to replace hardware (if they couldn’t find an obvious onsite fix or explanation). This policy was also likely driven by the need to fix and close calls as quickly as possible, driven by service level targets. In this instance that would have led to a loss of information contained in that processor that potentially supported the postmaster at Hogsworth [sic]. Hence my reference to ‘this policy could work against us’ that this cause of action could lead to an end of investigative options and establishing root cause.”

Insofar as Fujitsu were planning to change the original processor, there was no indication they were going to simply destroy it, was there?

Gary Blackburn: No, it went into – so processes were recycled. The Post Office only had so many, you know, sufficient to support the branch network with the spares to keep the whole cycle going. So without any intervention, that processor would have just simply been swapped, gone back into the recycling process and wiped, in effect, in terms of any information contained on it.

Mr Stevens: But the processor could have been replaced without losing the information and continued the investigation?

Gary Blackburn: It could have been, I believe, yes.

Mr Stevens: When you’re saying “this policy could work against us” here, are you referring to the loss of investigative options or are you referring to the fact that it may have shown a problem with the Horizon System?

Gary Blackburn: No, it’s the first thing. I was – again, rightly or wrongly at the time, I was really wanting the postmaster to try and gather the evidence so that we could take forward an investigation. The option of simply having the processor replaced, for me, was one that I would rather have avoided at the time. I don’t know what followed this particular stage of the investigation, because I don’t believe it was the end of it, but this was only a step in my belief, my mindset at the time. Let’s have one more go at trying to obtain the evidence. Is there anything there that allows me to take that forward in the way we discussed earlier with Fujitsu, rather than have it removed and potentially lost?

Despite what you just said a few minutes ago, Sam, if we’d have replaced the processor and the new processor didn’t display the same symptoms and errors, I believe that there’s a strong possibility that would equally have led to an end to the investigation and there would have been an assumption made that the discrepancies were created in branch, rather than the technology.

Mr Stevens: Was this not a type of case where keystroke data may have been of assistance?

Gary Blackburn: Yes, I think it probably would have done, on reflection, but I don’t remember, and clearly haven’t mentioned it at this point in time, and I don’t remember it being raising subsequently either.

Mr Stevens: Thank you. If we could take down the witness statement, please, but keep up the document. If we go up to the next page where it’s John Breeden’s email. If we could go to the next page up, please. Thank you.

This is an email from John Breeden on 3 July. Do you recall who John Breeden was?

Gary Blackburn: Again, Retail Network. Possibly Karen Arnold’s line management chain. More senior.

Mr Stevens: It says:

“I have read the recent emails on the above and considered the information. I am concerned if we swap the processor now and the errors stop this could lead to (i) a claim that Horizon has problems in its accuracy and fuel some of the recent press articles and (ii) the SPMR will claim that all previous errors are down to Horizon and we have no way to disprove this if everything is resolved when the new processor is installed.”

Over the page, it goes on to say:

“I think we need to think this one through carefully and the SPMR should be providing evidence to support his claims which can be investigated before we change pieces of equipment.”

So at this stage, was there a general concern in Post Office affecting investigations about the risk of litigation relating to Horizon?

Gary Blackburn: Well, the retail network managers would be better placed to answer that, but as maybe I mentioned earlier, I believe, you know, there was an upward trend in the volume of this type of enquiry. So that would make perfect sense if there was.

Mr Stevens: If we look at that email, I think if we go up, in August 2009 – sorry, July 2009. Were you aware of a Computer Weekly article in May 2009 regarding the robustness of Horizon?

Gary Blackburn: Actually, now you mention it, I think that was one of the things that we were all informed about, yes. So I think it was brought to our attention as staff members.

Mr Stevens: What was said to you, in respect of that article?

Gary Blackburn: I think it was – and again, I’m sorry, because this is just, as you can tell, how I believed it was at the time and how we were, and how we operated, but I believed, again, we were reassured that Horizon was fit for purpose.

Mr Stevens: Shaun Turner today gave evidence that communications on that issue came down from what he thought were board level, regarding the robustness of Horizon in response. Would you agree with that?

Gary Blackburn: Yes. I mean, the part of the business I worked in is where the message would have come from, ultimately, I would assume. It’s come from higher, but the IT directorate and function would have been the ones communicating to the likes of myself.

Mr Stevens: Do you think the points mentioned by Mr Breeden in points (i) and (ii) here are in any way appropriate considerations to take into account when deciding how to investigate potential discrepancies?

Gary Blackburn: Well, you know, again, it’s passage of time, isn’t it? But it’s interesting that John seems to be coming to the same conclusion as me in terms of the process we’re following, but for a slightly different reason. My entire job was about trying to resolve issues and fix issues on behalf of the Post Office and the postmasters, not to be covering up anything or being negative. So for me personally, no, it was not a criteria that was necessary in determining what actions we were going to take.

Mr Stevens: Can we quickly bring up, please, POL00012547 at page 3. Under the Wednesday entry – sorry, this is a note from Karen Arnold. It’s on this issue. On the Wednesday entry, it says:

“Checked with Paul Kellett and no losses settled centrally on 05.08.09. Contacted Tom who confirmed he had been short by approximately £40 on his last BTS, and had made this good. Advised that Fujitsu confirmed that they have not found any system errors which would have caused the discrepancies and concluded that there was nothing wrong with the processor. Advised Tom that he needs to provide evidence to support any claims that the problems with losses were as a result of Horizon and that he is responsible for making the losses good.”

So these discrepancies, you accept, are something for which Mr Hedges could have – well, would have been asked to make them good and settled them himself?

Gary Blackburn: It certainly looks that way. That’s the way I interpreted that, yes.

Mr Stevens: If he didn’t, he could face suspension?

Gary Blackburn: Err, I’d like to think not, but that was outside of my remit. It was retail network management process.

Mr Stevens: In this case Mr Hedges, in due course, was convicted of a criminal offence arising from issues relating to discrepancies for which his conviction has been overturned. Were you involved in that element of his case?

Gary Blackburn: That’s news to me. I didn’t know that.

Mr Stevens: In this case, the fact that Fujitsu said they’d found no problems with the system, we discussed in your evidence earlier that there was no – or you didn’t have sufficient support internally with IT to check what they were saying, and you relied on their expertise?

Gary Blackburn: (The witness nodded)

Mr Stevens: Was this a case where you would have gone to someone within IT to check on it?

Gary Blackburn: I would have liked to have had the opportunity. I really think that that wasn’t the case. I don’t think that this investigation went – I mean, naturally emails don’t record everything, there were lots of conversation, but I think that this pretty much summarises the investigation.

Mr Stevens: I’m going to simply ask you now to turn to page 15 of your statement, please. In it, you say that:

“[You] have chosen to remain with the IT service industry, and if I’ve learnt one thing during that time, it is that IT can and does fail and that people are fallible and make mistakes. It is how you respond to those circumstances that matter. Openness and honesty is, and always will be, the best policy. Clearly there were occasions when the benefit of doubt could and should have been given. I’m sickened by what I’ve read post-my time at Post Office and have experienced a wave of emotions from sadness, shame and anger.”

Do you think the Post Office should have been more open and honest?

Gary Blackburn: With the benefit of hindsight, in some respects, but yes, clearly.

Mr Stevens: If so, how? In what ways?

Gary Blackburn: I think I can only try and convey what I thought my role was, and it wasn’t to cover up any issues with technology. It was to ensure that we were providing a quality service to the British public through the branch network and that includes the independent network. Everything I ever tried to do, and my team tried to do, was for that end and that benefit.

To watch the programme, as I did two years ago on TV, and see people rather than FAD codes was … was difficult. Apologies.

Mr Stevens: There is no need to apologise. If you wish to take a moment, please do so.

Gary Blackburn: It’s hard for me to reconcile, years down the line, in my mind, given all the evidence that we’ve gone through today with me, let alone what I’m sure you’ve gone through throughout the Inquiry, how the HR and the human element was so misaligned. It almost feels to me that there was some disconnect between the reality of what we were all trying to manage in the right way, for the right reasons, and the impact and the outcome.

I just cannot understand, probably because I wasn’t part of that part of the business, I didn’t see what retail network managers had to go through, the policies that they had. I’m not even familiar with a subpostmaster’s contract, for example. But still find it very hard for you to tell me that the gentleman at Hogsworth (sic), you know, suffered in that way, off the back of something where there was clearly an element of doubt.

And I think that’s the thing for me. There was doubt. Despite the messages, despite Horizon has no integrity issues, messages constantly coming down. Clearly there’s evidence to say that there were some problems, that there were risks involved. And they may have been small in the greater context, as in the volume of – I appreciate the impact has been huge on individuals, but I find that – I simply can’t reconcile it, in my own mind now, today, I’m afraid. Hence the emotional words I’ve used there, and that’s where the anger comes from as well. I worked very hard.

Mr Stevens: Mr Blackburn, I don’t have any further questions but is there anything further you would like to say before I ask if the Core Participants …

Gary Blackburn: No, I just hope that it’s of use.

Sir Wyn Williams: Are there any other questions?

Ms Page: Sir, I just would like to follow on with the rest of what is actually in the same paragraph that Mr Stevens has just referred to, if I may.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right.

Ms Page: It’s very brief.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes.

Questioned by Ms Page

Ms Page: At the end of that same paragraph, you said that:

“If [you’d] had more visibility of the action that was taken against subpostmasters, you hope that you would have found the courage to challenge, sound a note of caution, and promote the communication of outcomes more vigorously and robustly than I perhaps did.”

Gary Blackburn: Yes.

Ms Page: My question is simply: what do you think the reaction of those above you would have been if you had?

Gary Blackburn: Well, I think the fact that I didn’t probably gives you your answer. I don’t think – a highly politicised organisation, very hierarchical, I’d have been seen as stepping out of line with the message. I can’t imagine that that would have been good for my career, so I’m sure at that point in time – and this is obviously a hindsight reflection – I obviously, on occasions, chose to unconsciously protect myself.

Ms Page: Thank you. That’s all I wanted to ask.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Ms Page.

Thank you, Mr Blackburn, for firstly giving a witness statement and, secondly, answering a good deal of questions this afternoon and I’m grateful to you for the frankness with which you have expressed some of your emotions.

So I’m glad we were able to complete today. I’m sure that’s of great relief to you. I’ll see everybody else at 10.00 tomorrow morning.

Mr Stevens: Thank you, sir, and we’re hearing from Anne Allaker and Gayle Peacock.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, thank you.

Mr Stevens: Thank you, sir.

(4.45 pm)

(The hearing adjourned until 10.00 am the following day)