Official hearing page

12 May 2023 – Roderick Ismay

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(10.00 am)

Roderick Ismay


Questioned by Mr Beer (continued)

Mr Beer: Good morning sir, can you see and hear me?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, I can, thank you.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much.

Good morning, Mr Ismay. Can we pick up where we left off last night with the email chain that we were looking at before the technology failed us. It was POL00055100. Thank you.

Just to refresh your memory, because it was last night, on the second page of this document you’ll remember that the defence solicitor, Issy Hogg, had set out three requests. That had worked its way through to Jarnail Singh, we can see from the top of the page, and then we go to page 1 at the bottom. We can see that, on behalf of Jarnail Singh, that email was forwarded to Mr Longman and counsel, Mr Tatford, and we look at the top of the page, we can see, the second email down, Mr Winn, who receives the chain, replies to Mr Longman:

“Rod Ismay, the head of P&BA, is not happy at the prospect of an open-ended invite. He has asked the question of what are the legal parameters we’re working with. Simplistically, if we refuse or impose conditions do we lose the case? I think we need more guidance on how something like this might reasonably operate.”

I had asked you about what Andrew Winn himself had said concerning this email chain, and he told the Chairman that he understood your reply was a reply that was seeking to close down the closure request as much as possible and I asked you whether that was your intention. You said last night:

“No, there were two things here: you would expect the Criminal Law team to be overseeing the compilation of whatever needed to be submitted, and not for there to be a side conversation between me, as part of the organisation, with the defence lawyer. So I felt that the request should be coming to me from the Criminal Law team.”

Just dealing with that answer first, the request was coming from the Criminal Law team.

Roderick Ismay: It was coming indirectly from the Criminal Law team. I was surprised that Jarnail – I would have – given the importance of the matter, I would have expected Jarnail to have been directly in contact and, because the request was specified by the defence, which may well have been a very valid request to make, but I would have expected the Post Office Criminal Law team to have been the ones explicitly saying to me this – “Can you do this, Rod?” which, of course, I would have responded to.

You have shared an email that was on the screen, a couple of screens ago, I think it’s got a phrase in it that says, “Jarnail, please send me your instructions”. I find that kind of a puzzling phrase, it’s not like “Jarnail, we’ve agreed and you have agreed that Mr Ismay should provide certain things”. It says, “Please advise me of your instructions”, and that to me sounds like “Well, there’s some discussion going on here”.

So I think when Andy Winn was at the hearing he did say what you’ve said and, before that, I think he said, “I know Rod, I think he would have been seeking clarification”, he perhaps didn’t understand the question. And then when you asked him the question again he proceeded, as you said, exactly as you said earlier.

But I was seeking clarification because I was surprised not to be being approached by Post Office Criminal Law team and I certainly didn’t think that – didn’t feel appropriate to me to be engaging in direct correspondence with the defence team. I would have absolutely expected the Post Office criminal lawyer to specify what was needed to gather that from me, or to facilitate any visits that were necessary, and for that to be managed through a single point of contact who was acting on that case. That was absolutely the fundamental reason for it.

Andy – Andy’s notes also said “Rod wasn’t happy”, so I think that’s the first reason and yesterday I said there were going to be two reasons I wanted to expand on. Firstly, was what – was that, the approach of, I believe, the Criminal Law team involvement. The second, I think was just that, of course I wasn’t happy about another review, yes, because at the time we were gearing up for Royal Mail privatisation, I’ve got lean process improvement reviews being done in my team, I’ve got business transformation projects going on, which entailed sensible process reviews in different teams. But I was feeling a bit like my team was constantly subject to review and, therefore, this, which, if Jarnail agreed it was necessary, was an absolutely important review that I should facilitate but Jarnail hadn’t told me that and I was already on the receiving end of a number of active reviews for business process improvement purposes, which were proving very demanding in my team.

So I wasn’t happy about the idea of another review but, if Jarnail came and said, “Rod, this is what the Post Office Criminal Law team feel needs doing”, then absolutely I would have followed that. But I hope that gives the context as to why Andy perceived that I wasn’t happy at the request there.

Mr Beer: That reason, that you weren’t happy with the process being followed, that the criminal law team should give instructions to their client, you, as to as though what examination should or should not be permitted didn’t find its way into this email chain, did it?

Roderick Ismay: No, the –

Mr Beer: The process issue?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t think a clear instruction from our Criminal Law team to me came to me to say what to do. I was copied in on an email that you’ve shared there that says, from the defence solicitors, “We await your instructions”. Well, I don’t know what that means.

Mr Beer: Well, hold on, if we look at the foot of the page, please, the email at the bottom. Jarnail is asking Mr Longman – who worked for you?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah – no, he didn’t at that time.

Mr Beer: Who did Mr Longman work for at this time?

Roderick Ismay: Jon, I think, would have been part of the Security team.

Mr Beer: They weren’t within your area of responsible by this time?

Roderick Ismay: No, and, in terms of the Security team, the investigations part of the Security team had been part of my remit in 2005 for about a year. There’s another whole part of Security but – Jon was not part of my team, no.

Mr Beer: Why did this come through to you, then, to your team?

Roderick Ismay: So Jon – well, I think that Issy Hogg’s request on the further down below, page 2 or 3 of this document, I think her request was for access to systems in the Midlands. Yeah. So that would have meant Chesterfield, I think. That would have meant the Product and Branch Accounting Team and, therefore, if Jarnail has passed this to Jon, Jon had come to the right area to ask a question, but the nature of the whole question didn’t feel like the Post Office Criminal Law team coming and saying, “We are leading the collation of the response in this case and Rod, within the construction of Post Office Limited’s defence pack – Post Office Limited’s prosecution pack – please can you facilitate this?”

I was receiving something third hand suggesting that I should agree to something with a defence solicitor which I – my perception is that that wouldn’t be how a case would be handled. There would be a – the law team in the Post Office would manage the relationship between the two law teams.

Mr Beer: Just scrolling up to Mr Singh’s email at the foot of the first page, thank you. He says in the second line:

“Could you please be kind enough to let me have your urgent instructions as to the access and information she is requesting.”

That’s a perfectly normal request, isn’t it, from a lawyer to their client?

Roderick Ismay: Well, it might be in legal language but, to me, to say, “Let me have your urgent instructions” could be “Are you instructing me to do something or not?” That is not language that means something to me as a non-lawyer, “your urgent instructions”.

Mr Beer: Mr Winn told the Chair that the reasons that you gave for wishing to shut down as much as possible this disclosure request were that, firstly, you believed the examination wouldn’t produce anything, ie the defence examination sought wouldn’t produce anything; and, secondly, it would create more questions than it would answer. Is he correct that those were the reasons that you gave for not wishing to allow the defence the access to the systems that they sought?

Roderick Ismay: The reasons – so that and the other two reasons that I’ve given already, yes. So, given that the allegations were being made about the Horizon System, the idea of doing a review in the Product and Branch team, who were not using Horizon, would seem to me to not have been looking at the particular system that allegations were made about and, therefore, would have continued to have questions after that review because we wouldn’t have been able, in my team in Chesterfield, to have shown or answered questions about the Horizon System.

Mr Beer: The request, if we go to the second page, concerned access to the system in the Midlands.

Roderick Ismay: Right, okay.

Mr Beer: Secondly, it concerned access to the operations centre in Chesterfield.

Roderick Ismay: Right, yeah.

Mr Beer: Thirdly, it sought access to system change request, Known Error Log, new release documentation, to understand what problems have had to be fixed. It was a broader request than simply access to systems in Chesterfield, wasn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: That was a broader question than Chesterfield systems because, to the best of my knowledge, the Known Error Log, I think, was a phrase about Horizon Issues. I think if the SAP system that my team used, if it had an issue, I don’t think that would have been called a Known Error Log item. So I think that third bullet point reads to me as being a Horizon-related topic.

Mr Beer: Putting it bluntly, Mr Ismay, was the real reason that you didn’t wish to give access that you were concerned that this might be another form of independent review, exactly the type of independent review or examination that you and your colleagues within the Post Office did not want to happen?

Roderick Ismay: No. No. It wasn’t. And I think there’s something that’s referred to in one of the other documents in the packs but, somewhere in the chain of events around this time, we had – the Post Office had a conversation, I’m not sure with who, when I say “we”, somebody in the Post Office had conversations with subpostmaster representatives which had led to a small working group of subpostmasters, active subpostmasters, coming and looking at some of the things in Chesterfield, so I recall a number of meetings where, I think, four subpostmasters came in. And I think it was related to the Second Sight process and, therefore, I’d already had a kind of a scenario of very helpfully having a dialogue with subpostmaster colleagues in Chesterfield.

Mr Beer: When was the Second Sight process?

Roderick Ismay: In respect of this timeline –

Mr Beer: Later.

Roderick Ismay: Right, okay, yes, I’m sorry.

Mr Beer: By years?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I’m sorry, that would have been later, I’m sorry, yes.

Mr Beer: Inviting four postmasters into Chesterfield a couple of years later, not really the same as allowing an expert access to a system and access to documentation to understand any errors or bugs within it, agreed?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I agree that and I’m sorry about – with all the things that I was involved in, I’m sorry that I’ve mixed up the timeline there.

Mr Beer: Was your concern here that an independent investigation may show that there were issues of unreliability with Horizon?

Roderick Ismay: No, no, my concerns were about the centrality of the Criminal Law team to lead on the dialogue here. My concern was, I suppose, a workload thing of how many reviews my team were already involved in, with different people coming to review processes in my team, and that fundamentally was why I – my chin would have dropped at the prospect of another review in the team.

Mr Beer: If we go back to the first page, please, we can see that Mr Winn’s email in the middle of the page reporting his conversation with you is dated 27 July 2010.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Mr Beer: So the conversation to which it refers presumably would have occurred whilst you were writing your report, remembering your report’s final version has a date of 2 August on it. So it’s within the same week.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, it probably is, yeah.

Mr Beer: Did the fact that you were being asked by the managing director of the company to write a report that gave Horizon a clean bill of health influence your decision not to allow, at the same time, an independent defence expert access to the system?

Roderick Ismay: No, and I think I’d just like to expand on the no there. So I think my reason was the two things that I’ve referred to a number of times, about Criminal Law team and the number of reviews in my team. I think, actually, you’ve helpfully pointed out to me that this was in the week before my other report summation was dated, which I’d forgotten. So I think, given that I was – described yesterday that I was burning the midnight oil to collate the report for David Smith, I think that would probably be another reason why a request coming in for a review in Chesterfield at the same time as I was burning the midnight oil on that other report would be another reason for me coming across not happy at the prospect of an open-ended invite.

Mr Beer: Does the fate of a defendant and their request for access to a computer system turn on how tired you were?

Roderick Ismay: No, it certainly doesn’t but I think it turns on what the Criminal Law team sued be collating for the Post Office and asking me to gather, not for me to have a relationship directly with the defence team. I think – I’m sure the situation for the defendant in this case is awful and I’m really sorry for all the chain of events that’s happened here. This is horrible. But in a legal process, my understanding is that the Criminal Law team and the Post Office lawyers should be the representatives facing the defence solicitors and that they, the Post Office solicitors, should be gathering the information not for ad hoc individuals around the organisation to be initiating separate conversations, separate to a law team, who were trying to contain – trying to compile a consistent and comprehensive pack.

Mr Beer: Nobody is asking you to have contact with the defence solicitors. Nobody is asking you to –

Roderick Ismay: They are. They’re asking me to accept an open-ended invite of somebody coming to Chesterfield.

Mr Beer: They’re asking for your instructions, something lawyers do to their clients every day of the week.

Roderick Ismay: Well, I think I’ve explained that that phrase of asking instructions doesn’t mean anything to me. That is not a phrase that I am familiar with. Asking your instructions leads me to think “Well, my instruction is: go and ask the Criminal Law team to come back and tell me what the Post Office team think I need to provide”.

Mr Beer: Can we turn on, please, to POL00055225. Thank you.

Just remembering the chronology: that last exchange ended on 27 July; your report, 2 August.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: We’re now on 13 September.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Mr Beer: Still dealing with, in the subject line there, the Seema Misra case.

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: We can see this is an email from Zoe Topham, the Former Agents Debt section within the Post Office, to Mr Longman. You’re neither a sender or a recipient of it but you’ll see, in a moment, were referred to.

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: You’ll see it says:

“Hi Jon

“The last update I had above was in July, the Defence Solicitors had requested that they had access to the operations in Chesterfield. This was discussed by Andy Winn/Rod Ismay. I have today spoken with Andy Winn and he has informed me that Rod had made a decision not to allow this … could you … update me with the latest progress on the case.”

You saw from the last email that it was said that you weren’t happy and you were asked a couple of questions. In the interim, had you made a decision, as this email records, that you would not allow the access sought?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t think so. I think if the Post Office defence team – no, if the Post Office prosecution team had come and said that something needed doing, I would have absolutely have followed it. I have got no idea what other conversations, if any, happened after the one that’s referred to in the July chain and up to this one. I can’t remember the things and it’s quite possible that this email was just reiterating that feelings that came out from the conversation before. I don’t – genuinely don’t know whether I had another conversation in there, but I was not in a position to be able to say what should or should not happen in respect of information gathering for a prosecution case. It was absolutely for the Post Office solicitors to say what needed to happen. I could not make a decision like that. And I would have thought that, if I had attempted to do something like that, the Post Office solicitors would have overruled me. So –

Mr Beer: Would have?

Roderick Ismay: Overruled me. So I would not have been in a position to make a decision about – if a matter was agreed between the prosecution team and the defence team to say that something should happen, then that would not be something for me to make a decision on. That would be something for me to deploy.

Mr Beer: Can we move forward, please, to POL00055418. An email principally between lawyers, Mandy Talbot to Jarnail Singh, but copied to you, dated 8 October 2010. So this is a few months after you’ve written your report, a few months after those email exchanges –

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: – that we’ve looked at.

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: This is the Friday before Seema Misra was due to go on trial on the Monday morning.

Roderick Ismay: Okay. Right.

Mr Beer: You’ll see that Mandy Talbot emails Jarnail Singh and says:

“Mike and Rod are also very interested in any developments at the trial next week which impact on Horizon. You promised to let me know if anything unfortunate occurred in respect of Horizon. Please can you copy Rod and Mike into any messages. Incidentally I assume you have briefed external relations. Can you let us know who you have briefed because Mike and Rod may wish to have input into any story relating to Horizon. They may give you a call … for an update. Incidentally Postmasters for Justice met with the Minister this week and were accompanied by Issy Hogg and the lady from Shoosmiths.”

You were evidently interested in public relations here because you are recorded as having a possible interest in inputting into a story about Horizon; is that right? You wanted to be part of the story making for Horizon?

Roderick Ismay: No, I didn’t want to be part of the story relating to Horizon. Let me add some more things to that. So Mandy’s written an email here, this isn’t an email from me that says I’m interested in writing a story. However, given that I’d been asked by Dave Smith only a month or so earlier, or two months earlier, to collate that report to Dave Smith, where he was asking for positive reasons to be assured about Horizon, obviously this would be very much in my mind.

There’s been several bits of correspondence you’ve shared about this case so this very case was very much in my mind. I’d just been asked by the MD to produce that report and, therefore, it was probably in my mind at the time, “Well, maybe Dave might ask me to collate something else”, and therefore I would want to be aware of any progress on something that was going on, given that the MD had very recently asked me to do a report on that.

So I would think that what I’ve just said would be the reasons why I would have had an interest in it, given that obversely, there was a lot of press analysis of it, then, from Mandy’s point of view, she would be aware there was lots of press in and may have conflated me thinking about press with me thinking about having written a report to the managing director.

So I would – that is what I think my interest would have been that would have caused me to have been on the radar for being keen to have updates on the outcomes of the case, having so recently done that summation compilation for Dave Smith.

Mr Beer: Or was it that, so long as nothing unfortunate happened at the trial, you saw it as an opportunity to minimise any bad press and go on the front foot and put a story out?

Roderick Ismay: No. So, as you’ve just said, “or was it an opportunity”, and it wasn’t, I think, that it was for the reasons that I’ve stated before that. That was my rationale, not for that other opportunity.

Mr Beer: Was it that, by now, you had become one of the key figures within the Post Office who was a leader on defending the integrity of the Horizon System. Having written your report, you were going to be the flag bearer, or one of them, for the integrity of the Horizon?

Roderick Ismay: I think I was clearly seen as somebody who was able to talk to other – lots of parts of the organisation to pull together a summary related to this situation. I think it – I asked myself, looking back at it, I was managing the Product and Branch Accounting Team which was inherently very close to subpostmaster and other Post Office transactions, but I was not in charge of the Horizon System.

So I do ask myself several times “How on earth was it that I ended up being the one who was invited to collate this report?” And I think that was because I had got a decent understanding of lots of stuff across the organisation but, frankly, why wasn’t it an IT person who collated that report about a system? I don’t know. It was me. Dave came to me to ask me to do it.

So, yes, I’m clearly somebody who had got a level of understanding about the Horizon System, a level of understanding about transactions in branches. I’d got relationships with a number of, if you like – I think we talked about the NFSP meetings, and things, and some other materials. So there’s lots of activity where I was meeting people to try to look through the eyes of subpostmasters.

And I realise a phrase, such as I’ve just used then, you might rightly, and some other people may say “Well, that’s in awful phrase to use, given the awful events that we’ve got here”, but I was very much trying to do that in my role and that probably made me, as a back office finance person, sound unusually keen on understanding things at the front end because I was passionate about Post Office, as I was passionate about – that’s why I joined the Post Office in the first place.

This was an organisation right at the heart of the community, part of the national interest. The previous Finance Director had described it as – something about Post Office is fundamental to social cohesion.

Me, I was humbled to have the opportunity to work at the Post Office and I’m horrified that all these events have happened and that I’m in here talking in this situation of this awful chain of events that’s happened here. But, yes, in the Post Office, I think I was recognised as somebody who’d got a significant amount of understanding of things to comment on.

But it mystifies me sometimes, looking back at it, just to think that why was it that me, managing a back office finance team, was the person asked to collate some of these things, and to be answering questions about a system that I did not own, and which, when we’ve had – at the end of my witness statement, asked for other reflections on things for the past, I made a comment about I think moving forward it would be really important for the organisation to be clear about the individuals who are the owners of systems in the organisation, because I think structurally it would be quite clear, I was managing a back office finance team. That would not be the owner of the Horizon System. Why, therefore, were so many things coming to me?

And I know, across the whole of social media there’s a number of people referring to the “Ismay report”. Well, I collated something for lots of people across the organisation. I’m increasingly mystified, looking back, where were IT in there? Why was it me that it was me that was the collator of this? But I tried in the best faith to do the best compilation of things, and the best response to matters that were going on, but was always of an understanding that there was a lead from the Criminal Law team in these.

Mr Beer: Rather than the reasons that you’ve given, did you want to have an input into the story to set the narrative relating to Horizon because you were now seen as a pliant individual, a good company man, who would deliver the goods by producing a one-sided, unbalanced piece, and you wanted to get that one-sided, unbalanced piece out into the media?

Roderick Ismay: No. As you say, is there another scenario and was that the scenario? And no, and for the reasons that I’ve articulated earlier, no.

Mr Beer: Who was Mike Granville? What role did he perform?

Roderick Ismay: Mike, his role was – I know the kind of nature of – so he would have had a lot of contact with BIS. I think his role title was probably something like Stakeholder Relations. So he – I know he had a lot of discussions with stakeholders, such as the NFSP, and I think some of the departments for business and innovations and skills, or its predecessors, I think he would have had conversations with people in that organisation, the shareholder organisation.

Mr Beer: Were you reporting back to any directors at this time about Seema Misra case and your role in it?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t remember reporting to directors about that. I don’t know. But I also feel, whilst there’s a number of bits of correspondence we’ve got here, I didn’t have a – there’s clearly some major correspondence here that refers to me in the Seema Misra case but you’ve said me being – having a major role in the case, well, I didn’t. I wasn’t doing a lot to do with this case. I’d received a question, which is a really important question which we’ve already talked about, when I wasn’t actually doing anything.

I was continuing to be managing a back office finance team, settling with clients and gearing up for Royal Mail privatisation and separation of Post Office functions, and this case was going on, and I had these questions that came to me, but I wasn’t somebody who was doing lots to do with the – this case. And I say that because that would be true of any case. I wouldn’t have been myself doing things to do with the case.

Mr Beer: Can we turn on, please, to POL00044997. Can we look at the email at the foot of the page, please. Thank you. It’s an email from Jarnail Singh. You can see that it’s rather strangely formatted in the top right-hand corner –

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yeah.

Mr Beer: – dated 21 October at 2.58 –

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – to a long list of people and, amongst them, is you.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: The subject is “[The Crown] v Seema Misra – Guildford Crown Court – Trial – Attack on Horizon”, and Jarnail Singh wrote:

“After a lengthy trial at Guildford Crown Court the above named was found Guilty of theft. This case turned from a relatively straightforward general deficiency case to an unprecedented attack on the Horizon System. We were beset with unparallelled degree of disclosure requests by the Defence. Through hard work of everyone, Counsel Warwick Tatford, Investigation Officer Jon Longman and through the considerable expertise of Gareth Jenkins of Fujitsu, we were able to destroy to the criminal standard of proof (beyond all reasonable doubt) every single suggestion made by the Defence.

“It is to be hoped the case will set a marker to dissuade other Defendants from jumping on the Horizon bashing bandwagon.”

You’ll see the title to the email “Attack on Horizon”. You’ll see in the second line, it refers to an attack on Horizon and the claim made that the Post Office was able to destroy the defence allegations. Is that language reflective of the culture prevalent at the time concerning Horizon, namely, in response to a defendant who maintained a defence to the criminal charges of theft against her was thereby seen as attacking Horizon, an attack which needed to be destroyed?

Roderick Ismay: I think that’s unpleasant language to be using and –

Mr Beer: Presumably you replied along those lines?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know. I’m looking at that now and thinking that’s unpleasant language. I don’t know what reply, if any, I made to that.

Mr Beer: So a defendant who deigns to suggest that the computer system which is being used to convict her is said to be mounting an unprecedented attack on the system. Did you regard this as an inappropriately gleeful email?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I certainly do, looking at it as we have here. I don’t know what I thought at the time but I’m looking at that thinking the subject title shouldn’t even have words like “attacking Horizon” in the subject of it. It should have simply been “[Case title] update”, and I think that’s not nice – that’s unpleasant language to have used.

Mr Beer: The last sentence:

“It is to be hoped the case will set a marker to dissuade other defendants from jumping on the Horizon bashing bandwagon.”

No doubt that was a sentiment with which you very much approved at the time?

Roderick Ismay: I’d been involved in collating that thing about the reasons to be assured about Horizon. I would hope that I wasn’t using language like “Horizon bashing”. I was focused on reasons for integrity of the system and, clearly, there’s a number of things that have come out that are contrary to the concept of integrity of it, for language like “Horizon bashing” isn’t – well, it is unpleasant language to use again.

Mr Beer: But this senior lawyer within the Criminal Law Division has sent his email to quite a number of the top slice of managers within the Post Office, hasn’t he?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, some of the people in there are, yeah, senior executive team, even.

Mr Beer: Wasn’t that the culture of the time: If we get a within like this, we should weaponise it to dissuade anyone else from daring to suggest that there’s anything wrong with Horizon?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t sort of remember it as being a culture of weaponisation but there was certainly something you shared yesterday that was kind of a similar tone to it and that was unpleasant. So I can see that, as you lift a number of these bits of correspondence, it does not sound like an acceptable tone of voice.

Mr Beer: Do you know why Mr Singh would be concerned about the need to deter others?

Roderick Ismay: No. Mr Singh, I think, would be – should be concerned to have the right evidential objective process going through cases.

Mr Beer: Yes. I’m asking you whether you would know of any reason why a senior lawyer within Post Office’s Criminal Law Division would express a wish, a hope, that the outcome of one case would deter others from making suggestions about the integrity of Horizon?

Roderick Ismay: No.

Mr Beer: Did you know that prosecutors in criminal cases are supposed to act as ministers of justice –

Roderick Ismay: Um –

Mr Beer: – meaning that they don’t secure a conviction at all costs, amongst other things?

Roderick Ismay: That’s not a phrase that I know, but it totally makes sense to me. So what you are saying, I would say, yes, I would agree with that.

Mr Beer: And that having a business-driven motive for securing a win in a criminal case would be inappropriate?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: Is that what was going on here: that there were business drivers here not wishing to let the outside world know that there were problems with the integrity of Horizon’s data and that any opportunity to dissuade anyone from questioning the integrity of the system should be grabbed with both hands?

Roderick Ismay: No, and I’ll just add to that sort of thing, no, it shouldn’t and I would like to think that it wasn’t being done in that way. But the organisation, yes, the Post Office commercially would want people to have got confidence in its point of sale system because all of its commerce clients, and its customers, and its subpostmasters, and so many people had got different roles of a large part of the UK economic cash going through that organisation.

So there’d be lots of reasons why people would want to be confident in the system but when one gets down to the level of a specific case in a branch, as you’ve said, that should be done objectively. So there would be commercial reasons to want to be assured about the system but I would hope, and I would hope, that it was actually being objectively done case-by-case. So my answer to that is, yes, there’s commercial reasons but I would hope that they didn’t manifest themselves in the conduct of the case.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00113909. If we just look at the foot of page 1, please – thank you – you’ll see an email from Mandy Talbot to, amongst other people, you.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Mr Beer: We’re going back four years here to 2006 in the Lee Castleton case?

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Mr Beer: I just want to see whether this helps us in any way with the answers that you’ve just given?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: So this is in the run-up to the trial. The Lee Castleton case commenced its hearing in the High Court on 6 December 2006 and this is 9 November 2006, so it’s about a month before.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Mr Beer: You’ll see that you’re copied in.

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: In fact, the direct addressee. What had the Lee Castleton case got to do with you?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I don’t know at that time. So I must have left the – I had the investigations team and Branch Audit Team but I think I’d –

Mr Beer: You’d moved on by now?

Roderick Ismay: I’d moved on by then so I was in the Product and Branch Accounting Team, so what that the Castleton case got to do with me? So I don’t know whether we’d got a – well, there was – well, there was probably a debt – an alleged debt arising at the start of this case that would have been something, ultimately, that either my Current Agents Debt team or Former Agents Debt team would have had a role in.

Mandy may have included me on it because she may have been used to including me on things in my previous role. So many people change jobs so many times that sometimes people in – who have moved on are still included on the previous address list. But my team would have had – I would expect my team, Product and Branch Accounting, would probably have been asked at the branch audit to confirm if there were any transaction corrections pending at the time. So I imagine my team would have had a question asked to them in the conduct of – back at the branch audit stage, and that may have led to me being included on this.

Mr Beer: If we go over the page, please. There’s a blank page, sorry. Scroll down. Thank you.

I’m just going to give you some context here by reading this:

“Our original claim against Castleton was in the region of £25,000 and he entered a defence and counterclaim for £250,000 but of more concern brought the whole validity of the Horizon System into question. As a result we have expended a lot of legal costs to ensure that the defence to those allegations is as perfect as possible.

“On Friday Castleton’s solicitors amended their defence/counterclaim to reduce their counterclaim to £11,000.

“Last night our barrister received a compromise offer from Castleton’s solicitors probably brought on by the fact that they are obliged to serve their statements on Friday together with their accountants report. We suspect that their accountants report has not supported their claim.

“The bare offer is as follows:

“they offer the sum of £22,350 in settlement of our claim

“our costs on the standard basis

“they want us to agree to pay rent or get the temp to pay rent for the continued occupancy of Marine Drive

“they want us to pay the wages of the assistant employed there

“they want a letter from us stating that proceedings were issued purely to recover a debt and that there was no allegation of dishonesty.”

She says:

“Firstly I think we can all agree that their demand 3 and 4 cannot be accepted …”

Skipping over:

“Secondly, as we have never pleaded that Castleton was dishonest there is no problem with us agreeing to this demand. We believe that he is seeking to go back to work in the city and as such a statement from us could be very valuable to him.

“Thirdly the offer is defective in that it does not mention interest …

“… no offer has been made to give a declaration to the effect that he withdraws all his allegations about the Horizon System.”

Then scrolling down:

“… we made a Part 36 offer to him in January … stating if you pay our full claim we would not seek our costs which he rejected, he is now applied to pay our costs on the indemnity not the standard basis since that date. If costs are awarded on the standard basis then traditionally the successful party would recover between 60-65% of the costs expended. Any dispute is resolved in the favour of the paying party. Costs on the indemnity basis means one recovers almost all of ones costs and any dispute is resolved in favour of the receiving party. So there is quite a difference between the two.

“Sixthly the reason given for not paying the full amount of the claim is spurious as we have demonstrated to them on a number of occasion that there is no basis for their allegation that the accounts were £3,509.18 short on week 49.

“Seventhly the position in respect of costs is not as clear cut as it appears at first because the courts have an ability to cap the amount of costs awarded so as to make them proportionate to the size of the claim. However they have to take a number of factors into consideration not merely the size of the claim the conduct of the parties, ours has been impeccable, the importance of the issues to the parties, proportionality of the costs incurred to the size of the claim has however been emphasised in a recent Court of Appeal decision. Therefore there is a risk that by rejecting an offer of our standard costs …”

Then skip the blank page.

“… the court could decide to cap the costs at say £60,000 and then award only 60% of that. Costs to date including the progress and the work which the accountants have done together with counsel’s fees come to approximately £140,000.

“However the trial is still a little while off and I think we should aim for Castleton agreeing for judgment to be entered against him in the full amount plus an agreement that he will consent to the payment of a fixed sum in respect of costs. As a trade off we can offer the letter confirming there was no dishonesty and agree that we will not seek interest at an indemnity level. The benefit of having a judgment against him in the full amount is that we will be able to use this to demonstrate to the network that despite his allegations about Horizon we were able to recover the full amount from him. It will be of tremendous use in convincing other postmasters to think twice about their allegations.”

That last line, the last two lines of that paragraph, “the benefit of having a judgment is the Post Office will be able to use this to demonstrate things to the Network and it will be of tremendous use in convincing other postmasters to think twice about their allegations”, does that reflect your understanding of the Post Office’s approach to Mr Castleton’s case in general?

Roderick Ismay: It doesn’t reflect my recollection of it. However, the language that’s used in that, I would agree, is similar to the language that’s used in the thing that you’ve shown me that’s four or five years later and is not pleasant.

Mr Beer: It’s again suggesting that the result from a sill case can be weaponised, isn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: “Postmasters take note, look what happens to you if you deign to take us on”. That was the feeling, wasn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t recall that being the feeling but, clearly, that is the – that’s a fair interpretation/description of sort of the tone of those two lines that you’ve referred to, yeah.

Mr Beer: Can we go to POL00113488. If we look at the middle of page 1 – thank you – we can see another email from Mandy Talbot to John Cole, Mr Baines, to you –

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and to others.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: “Stephen Dilley has been approached by an insolvency practitioner instructed by Castleton.”

So this is post-judgment now, the judgment has gone against Mr Castleton. We’re in February 2007:

“You can read his comments about yourself.

“Castleton has also agreed our total bill for costs in writing which means we do not have to go to court to have them taxed which incurs additional legal costs in its own right. This response also indicates that Castleton has no intention of appealing against the decision of the court and that the judgment is the final comment on the matter.

“As such we will need to get on with making as much use of the judgment as possible. Stephen Dilley has asked for permission to publish an article in a legal journal about the case which I have no objection to as long as we maintain editorial control as the more publicity the case is given the greater should be its effect upon postmasters who take legal advice about defending claims for repayment.”

That’s a further reflection of the Post Office’s strategy here, isn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: It does look like similar tone.

Mr Beer: “We’ve won, we need to hawk about the result that we got as much as possible to discourage other postmasters from even thinking about taking us on”?

Roderick Ismay: It’s a similar tone to the other stuff, yeah.

Mr Beer: “… the more publicity the case is given, the greater the effect on postmasters …”

It’s all of a piece, isn’t it; and we see exactly the same repeated after the Seema Misra case, don’t we?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, the language that you picked out of those is similar, yes.

Mr Beer: Can we move on, please. That can come down. We can see from a series of documents that you attended a series of regular calls with lawyers from Bond Dickinson, if we can look at a couple of examples, please. POL00043369.

So having gone backwards, I’m now going back to where we were in the chronology, after the Seema Misra case and we’re now in 2013.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Mr Beer: This seems to be a record made by the Post Office’s solicitors, Bond Dickinson. It’s headed “Regular call re Horizon Issues”, dated 2 October 2013.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Mr Beer: You can see the attendees, Rodric Williams, Jarnail Singh, both Post Office Legal, and then Martin Smith of Cartwright King. Yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes. Yes.

Mr Beer: You now, in the Financial Services Centre, and then, from Security, Dave Posnett and Rob King. Then scroll down, please. Nobody from Communication; some people from Network; and some people from Information, Technology & Change; and the Network Business Support Centre.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Then over the page, please, “Previous issues identified and further action to be taken”, and then there’s a series of either Post Office branches or issues identified in the left-hand column and then narrative against each of them. I’m not going to explore the content of any of them. If you just scroll on, please.

And so it goes on –

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – including civil cases and criminal cases and issues outside of litigation.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Just to take another example, please. Can we look at POL00043371. In October 2013, again an attendance note by Bond Dickinson. You can see the attendees and it’s not dissimilar to before.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Then scrolling down – thank you – you attended these series of meetings with individuals from a variety of teams within the Post Office, including Post Office Legal, to discuss ongoing issues with Horizon; is that right?

Roderick Ismay: Yes. Yeah.

Mr Beer: When were these meetings established?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know when the start date of them was.

Mr Beer: What was the genesis of them?

Roderick Ismay: It was probably everything that we’ve been talking about. So I think around about that time, within Product and Branch Accounting, I think there would have been a back office efficiency programme, which has been referred to, and a project Ping was something in my earlier call bundle. There were a number of things that we were doing which we were trying to do to make accounting of transactions in branches simpler and more one-touch stuff.

Some of the things that were happening in branches in respect of deployment of new products and customer fraud, for example, a tax of ATMs and ATM retracts, where people would get £100 coming out and managed to do something with the notes, not the top or bottom note but the middle of them, there were a number of things that were going on that were affecting the kind of assurance about “Where is the cash”, helping to clarify with the subpostmasters things like ATM retract trays within the ATMs, where somebody might think the money was missing but it was actually in a tray underneath the machine because it had been retracted back into it.

So I think there was quite an overlap between things that my team were doing around back office efficiency programme which was actually really front office product, linked to back end, and that would make it easier to it get the transaction going through in the first place. Those things sort of inherently overlapped with people perhaps complaining about how easy it was to transact a product, and things, challenges about how easy it was to transact a product might lead to calls to the NBSC. And sometimes those may rightly or inadvertently become sounding like they were questions about Horizon, when they may or may not have been.

And some of the other things in the bundles have referred to subpostmasters may, for example, speak directly to Wincor Nixdorf, who oversaw the ATMs, and you’d get a bit of a message from one to another that doesn’t quite – that sort of evolves over time and then turns into something that says, “Here’s a Horizon issue”, when actually it was branch issue to do with another piece of kit.

So I think – I don’t know when this meeting started but I think there was certainly an overlap between understanding how to make it easier to do some of the products, understanding how the commercial product pillars were deploying new things through our network and issues that were being logged that would have directly, perhaps, fallen under the description of “Horizon issues” in here.

So you’re right, the topic list we’ve seen in that table covered some things that weren’t perhaps a matter of the essence of the kind of challenges that this Inquiry is directly looking at but there was sort of quite an overlap of these different things coming together, and so this group – it feels right there was a group that was convened, but I don’t know when it started, but that’s – well, I hope in some way that helps as my description of – that’s how my genesis of being involved in it comes about, I think.

Mr Beer: Were there Terms of Reference for this group?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know. I would expect there were. I don’t know.

Mr Beer: Was it a decision-making body?

Roderick Ismay: Was it – I don’t think it was a decision-making body. I think it was one that was going to make sure that, with the different teams that were involved, that we were able to have a coordinated clarification of an issue. So, for example, I’ve said about Wincor Nixdorf and ATMs and retract trays within ATMs, there were a lot of situations where a call and a description of an issue may go directly to NBSC. Equally, sometimes branches had got direct telephone numbers into my team, so rather than ticketing it through the NBSC they may have called somebody who they spoke to about a transaction correction the year before, and called them on the off-chance they could guide them to somebody.

Sometimes people wrote letters in to different people in the organisation. Sometimes things were raised through Network Relationship Managers and so, where we were trying to ensure, for example, that we dealt with the ATM retract issue, we needed to make sure that we’d got some forum where all the different people who might have some knowledge of complaints being made and process improvements being identified, that they were coming together.

So this group wasn’t making a decision about something but I think it was a forum where we could make sure that we’ve got a consistent understanding of some of these topics. Possibly it should have been several different groups doing different things rather than having it all coming together but I think at the time, because it was clear there were sometimes a blurring of – for understandable reasons of somebody speaks to somebody, who then speaks to somebody else, who passes something on to somebody else, sometimes there was some confusion about is a colleague in the network making an allegation about the Horizon System or is a colleague in the network raising a point about something else that needs some sort of improvement around it, but may be nothing to do with the nature of the concerns that have led to this Inquiry?

Mr Beer: To whom did this group report?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know. I’m not sure if it did report to somebody. I think often you might have a group of people who meet to ensure that something is done. There are lots of groups who may gather who don’t report to somebody, because it’s – you’ve got together to fix something, and you’ve worked out what needs doing, and you get on with fixing it. This obviously is a group that’s touching on the Horizon matters, so I would have expected that there’d be visibility of this going into the legal director but I don’t know.

Mr Beer: Just going back to page 1, please. You’ll see there’s lots of lawyers involved.

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yes.

Mr Beer: Why was that?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I think because a lot of – the point that I’d made about the number of issues being experienced with products in branches, a lot of those things were being raised in cases. So I think – it’s a long list and I don’t know why it needed five lawyers to be coming to the meeting.

Mr Beer: Who established this group of people?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know. I don’t know. They’re – from a back office efficiency programme point of view, which was a programme I was responsible for, I sometimes asked for groups to be convened together such that we could have a common understanding across Network, Commercial, Marketing teams who’d got the relationship with a corporate client, for example. So I would sometimes convene groups.

I don’t know whether I convened this one. I imagine that if I would have asked something from a back office efficiency point of view, if Bond Dickinson are – their letterhead’s on this, so I think this would have been initiated by somebody in Legal.

Mr Beer: Thank you.

Sir, I’m about to move to a new set of topics, I wonder whether we could take the morning break. We’re going to comfortably finish today and I would have thought before lunch.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right, that’s fine. So what time shall we start again?

Mr Beer: 11.20, please.

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine.

Mr Beer: Thank you.

(11.06 am)

(A short break)

(11.20 am)

Mr Beer: Sir, can you see and hear me?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, I can, thank you very much.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much.

I’m just going to move to the last topic that I’m going to ask you questions about on this occasion, Mr Ismay.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Mr Beer: It’s about what you subsequently wrote about the payments and receipts mismatch bug.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Mr Beer: We’re turning to a phase in February/March 2011, so about six months after writing the Horizon report. The documents suggest that you were involved in communications between Fujitsu and the Post Office relating to the receipts and payments mismatch bug.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Mr Beer: You remember that, do you?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Beer: Okay. Can we look, please, to start with at FUJ00081544.

Sorry, 1545. My mistake. Thank you. Can we look at the second page, please. It’s the email in the middle of the page, between Will Russell, who is described as a Commercial Advisor in Service Delivery – was he somebody who worked for you at this stage?

Roderick Ismay: No, I think Service Delivery was a part of the IT and operations functions of the organisation. So, no, he didn’t report to me. No. I think he reported to Andy McLean, actually, who –

Mr Beer: Right. In any event, he says, “James”, that’s James Davidson, to whom he is writing. Is that somebody who reported to you or was within your team?

Roderick Ismay: No, James Davidson, I think, was a Fujitsu person.

Mr Beer: He says:

“Dave Hulbert is off as you’re no doubt aware. I need to make you [aware] of an issue that is bubbling away, and is likely to escalate quite quickly.

“Salawu and Tony Jamasb on our side have been dealing with the Receipts and Payments issue that happened in September 2010.”

I’m not going to investigate with you whether or not that’s correct, that the issue only happened in 2010 or whether it was evident in May or February 2010. We can leave that to one side:

“The Receipts and Payments issue that happened in September 2010. There was a small team dealing with this and had got to the point of resolution. However, given the current noise in the press over the Horizon, Rod Ismay has picked up this issue and is concerned that there are still some unanswered questions around what happened in branches. Can I ask you to get involved please as I need to brief Mike on the implications of this issue so we can check it against statements we have previously made. One of Rod’s concerns was that this issue could be detrimental in how we approach future comms and cases pending.”

Firstly, was it right that by February 2011, you had concerns about how the receipts and payments mismatch bug could affect pending cases?

Roderick Ismay: I think probably, yes.

Mr Beer: In what way were you concerned that the bug could affect cases pending?

Roderick Ismay: I can’t remember exactly at the time but I think I would have been thinking I’ve – I’d just collated a report that specified five topics, I think, in it, back in August 2010 and this looks like a sixth topic.

Mr Beer: This wasn’t one of them?

Roderick Ismay: This went one of them, yeah. So I think I would have been concerned that there’s another topic arisen, and I think I would have been concerned, consistent with that report back in September, that if something now has arisen that’s got an impact on cases, well, what does that mean?

And I think that would be a matter for the legal team to have decided what does that mean in respect of ongoing cases, but this thing has some of the other – the document that came up inadvertently, but you might move on to, it looks – and as I’ve looked at the evidence it’s helping remember what would have been going on at the time, but I – looks like I tried to go through a scenario of, with these things happening, this is what I would have expected the accounts in a branch to show. However, what the accounts in the branch actually showed was this.

And I think I got into correspondence with Gareth to say “Well, what has happened here? How is one to the other?” So I think I would have been concerned because I’ve got a role in accounting and there is something here that didn’t make sense.

And I think, clearly in this – the report I collated refers to things like double entry bookkeeping. Some aspects of the matters that have come out of this have raised a question about that kind of core concept and I think there was an element of this in here, “Well, how is that bookkeeping working through this process?” And, therefore, I think there was hardly anybody else in the organisation who could talk double entry bookkeeping in that way, so I was trying to marshall that conversation with Gareth.

Mr Beer: I think the email that you’re referring to is FUJ00081544.

Roderick Ismay: It was –

Mr Beer: It came up earlier.

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yes.

Mr Beer: At the foot of the page, we see a series of questions that you address to Gareth Jenkins and others –

Roderick Ismay: Right. Yeah.

Mr Beer: – but principally addressed to Gareth Jenkins, and the questions continue on this page. It doesn’t show up well in the non-colour version, but he provides his answers underneath each question.

Roderick Ismay: Right, right.

Mr Beer: Overall, what did you take from his replies?

Roderick Ismay: I can’t remember what I took from it.

Mr Beer: Did it cause you to revisit anything that you had written in your report?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t think it did. I mean, I don’t think I reissued the report that I’d done. I didn’t. The report stood. So I have tried to get my head back into the space where I was to understand this. I’ve got that 3,500 pages of documents I’ve been working through to try to – and I have tried to put my head back into the thought process I’ve got here and, evidently, I’d got into some really detailed set-up of here’s number of things, a starting point, here’s a transaction that gets us to there, this is what it should have been, this what it actually was, how’s the bookkeeping working through there?

I hadn’t managed, amongst all those 3,500 pages to get my head back into the space exactly on this one, so I don’t know what I made of Gareth’s reply that came back, honestly can’t remember whether I was assured or not, out of it. But I think the general sense of my – when I did have conversation with Gareth about stuff and with other colleagues at Fujitsu, I – perhaps wrongly, but I felt I was having a conversation where I felt the individuals, and Gareth included, knew what they were talking about and presented a cogent analysis that made sense to me, which was part of a reason for me feeling assured about what he was saying.

So I don’t know what my summary interpretation was of this specific thing but maybe we’ll come to something that does indicate what my thoughts were. I’m not sure what other documents follow on from this.

Mr Beer: Thank you. That can come down.

As a general question to end my questions, is there any reflection that you have got that would like to give on your role, particularly in 2010, concerning this episode.

Roderick Ismay: Well, I think in respect of – in 2010, in respect of the report that I’ve collated, and I’ve put in my witness statement reflections that I’ve got on that, I think it could have been done differently, different tone of voice, could have had a terms of reference agreed about it. And I’ve indicated this morning that there’s this question of this was a report being collated about reasons about – the reasons to be assured about an IT system, so why was it me that was being asked to collate the thing?

So I think there was a number of things that I’d perhaps stepped back and say, well, in hindsight, I would have perhaps challenged who was the owner of this system within the organisation, and where are they coming to the table to articulate and collate this thing?

Mr Beer: Thank you very much, they’re the only questions I ask for now.

The Witness: Thank you.

Mr Beer: I think Mr Stein is first, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yeah.

Questioned by Mr Stein

Mr Stein: Mr Ismay, my name is Sam Stein I represent a large number of subpostmasters and mistresses and I’m instructed by a firm of solicitors called Howe+Co.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Mr Stein: Mr Ismay, I’m just going to remind you of the dates or the date in particular of your system integrity report. That was obviously in 2010, in the very early part of August 2010; do you remember that?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yes.

Mr Stein: You’ll also recall, no doubt, the questions that have been asked by Mr Beer, King’s Counsel, yesterday, regarding your system integrity report.

Roderick Ismay: I know he asked a lot of questions.

Mr Stein: He did. The overall result of your report was, it seems, to give the Horizon System a clean bill of health. You thought it worked okay; is that fair?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I thought there was a long list of reasons to be assured, including avenues where colleagues in branches could escalate issues if they’d got them, rather than it coming to light in a response to a case.

Mr Stein: So, in other words, Mr Ismay you’re saying in that report that what you’re putting forward there is that the system seems to be okay?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Yes. Now, you’ve just been asked some questions about the receipts and payments mismatch issue, okay? I’m going to take you to a document, POL00028838. Thank you.

Now, this document, as you can see at the top, if we just look at the top of the screen, you can see left-hand side “Post Office”?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Right-hand side, “Fujitsu”?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right smack in the middle there is “Receipts/Payments Mismatch issue notes”, okay?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: All right, let’s have a look at the attendees because it’s clearly referring to a meeting, all right?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Let’s go through the attendees, Antonio Jamasb, AJ in brackets. Somebody you know –

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: – within POL?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I think in Service Delivery, that was part of Post Office IT, I think. Yeah.

Mr Stein: Emma Langfield?

Roderick Ismay: I remember the name. Yeah.

Mr Stein: Again within POL IT?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I think so, yeah.

Mr Stein: We can see there referred to as Service Delivery.

Alan Simpson, Security?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I think Information Security.

Mr Stein: Information Security?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I think so.

Mr Stein: Right, quite senior?

Roderick Ismay: I think he was a manager in the team, I don’t know what level his role was.

Mr Stein: Julia Marwood?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I remember Julia in the Network.

Mr Stein: Again POL?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, POL, yes.

Mr Stein: Then Ian Trundell, rather helpfully described there as IT. “IT” presumably his initials and also IT expertise; is that fair?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Andrew Winn, of course, you know, POL Finance.

Roderick Ismay: My team, yes, yeah.

Mr Stein: Mike Stewart, Fujitsu SDM.

John Simpkins, Fujitsu Security.

Gareth Jenkins, Fujitsu Technical.

Mark Wright, Fujitsu Technical, okay?

So we can see this particular document has got a real joined together sense. We’ve got both Post Office, Fujitsu looking at the receipts/payments mismatch issue; do you agree?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Okay. Now, you’ve explained to Mr Beer, King’s Counsel that you were aware of this particular issue, at least as we were looking at the documents, by the time you reached the early part of the following year 2011?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Right. Now help us, please, with when do you remember first being made aware of this issue? Was it in 2010 or was it later?

Roderick Ismay: I’m not sure when I became aware of it. There’s a lot of stuff in here that’s prompted my memory to recall things –

Mr Stein: Of course.

Roderick Ismay: – and it looks like I was on holiday in February and came back to get involved in something. I think the bit of correspondence we saw that was dated 18 February, maybe was before the half term. So maybe I saw something earlier in February. But, to the best of my knowledge, it would have been February. I can’t remember.

Mr Stein: Okay. Let’s have a little bit of thinking about the system integrity report.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: That report, was that circulated amongst POL senior team membership, amongst managers? How far did that circulation reach?

Roderick Ismay: So I shared it with the senior managers within my team, in the collation of that report, and that is a thing that probably in hindsight they should have been added to the circulation list for clarity. So that report, I shared it with the group who were named on that report. I shared it with the five or six people who directly reported to me because, in the compilation of talking to people, then some of my own team were some people who I spoke to to gather some of the information that went into that.

To the best of my knowledge, that’s the audience that I shared that report with.

Mr Stein: So it had reasonably good distribution amongst POL?

Roderick Ismay: Well, it had the – well, 15 people on that one and then five or six people who reported to me.

Mr Stein: Yeah, okay. Now, let’s stay with dates for the moment and, in relation to the document we have on the screen, the pages that we have, 1 to 5, are not dated. But if we go to the sixth page within the bundle, we can see that’s titled, top right-hand corner “Appendix 2 to CS’s responsive note”, so it would be the sixth page on relatively, “Correcting accounts for lost discrepancies”, and then right at the bottom of the page and, if it’s possible to expand that and highlight at the bottom, we’ll see then some help on dates.

Very grateful.

Now, is it possible to get rid of that little inset box that’s currently on the screen that says, “Desktop UMV”, et cetera? It’s only on my screen. Right. Right, apparently it’s only on my screen, so that’s helpful. Let’s read through what, in fact, what you have on the screen. We’ve got right at the bottom “c:documents and settingsJarnail.a.singh”, then a variety of other things. Underneath that you’ve got then “Printed at 16:38:24 on 8/10/2010”, okay?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: So with that, and if we go back to some action point summaries, we can see some dates that help us a bit more in relation to when things are happening, so if we go back a page, so that’s page 5 of 5 – there we are. We can see, Mr Ismay, that we’ve got a little bit more help here on dates, despite the fact that the document itself isn’t dated, we can see we’re talking about dates that relate to 6 to 8 October and then the other date we looked at for the back document –

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: – is the 10th.

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Okay. All right. So we can see we’re talking about, I suppose, the first week or so of October.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: All right – 2010.

Now, back to page 1, so that’s page 1 of POL00028838, please. That document sets out there, under the heading “What is the issue” and if we just go through that, it explains slightly better over the page, so we’ll just look at that in a moment:

“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 currently impacting circa 40 branches since migration on to Horizon Online, with an overall cash value of circa £20K loss.

“This issue will only occur if a branch cancels completion of the training period but within the same session continues to roll into a new balance period.”


Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: All right. Now, this then is explained a little bit better if we go over the page, all right? Let’s go to page 2 of 5, using the internal document pagination. We should have at the top of your page there, it says – does it start with “Note at this point nothing into feeds POLSAP”. You have that?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right. Let’s read through that:

“Note at this point nothing into feeds POLSAP and Credence, so in effect the POLSAP and Credence shows discrepancy whereas the Horizon in the branch doesn’t. So the branch will then believe they have balanced.”

Okay? Middle of that page, under the second note it says:

“Note the branch will not get a prompt from the system to say there is a Receipts and Payments mismatch, therefore the branch will believe they have balanced correctly.”

All right?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Mr Stein: Lastly, just on what happens, what’s the consequence of the issue, “Impact”, further down that page, first bullet point:

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


Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right. This appears to represent a problem to double entry bookkeeping; do you agree?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right. The point being, your background training as an accountant is that, essentially, what you should be able to find within the branch should match the rest of the system?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Do you agree?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right. Now, this doesn’t appear to say that the system’s working properly or indeed is fine and dandy, does it, Mr Ismay?

Roderick Ismay: No, it doesn’t.

Mr Stein: No. Now, you were asked a number of questions by Mr Beer, King’s Counsel about this particular issue. Did you have the understanding of this particular issue, that you and I have just looked at over the last few minutes, at the early part of 2011?

Roderick Ismay: I must have because I’ve dated something 18 February. So I certainly did then.

Mr Stein: Why, Mr Ismay, did you not amend your report from August 2010 when you knew, at least from this particular mismatch bug issue, that, in fact, this was not a system that operated properly at all times?

Roderick Ismay: So I don’t know why I didn’t redo that report. The report had just been asked for as a one-off at the time and I provided that. You’ll have seen some of the audience in those emails there were – one of them was a direct addressee of the original report. And so, clearly, some of that audience were also aware of this thing because they’d been corresponding about it while I was on holiday.

But I’d got lots of things that I was involved in and the concept with all the things that I was involved in, gearing up to Royal Mail privatisation, the thought in this – and I appreciate this is unsatisfactory in the nature and gravitas of the whole of events that have gone on, but thinking of rewriting and reissuing the report that I’d done the previous year I don’t think crossed my mind at the time because I was incredibly busy with many other things.

Now, clearly, that is – in the context of what’s happened, it does beg a question of “Well, should I have redone that report?” And in hindsight, I probably should have but I didn’t.

Mr Stein: Mr Ismay, your background, as you describe in the statement you give, is that you joined the Post Office in September 2003 as Head of Risk and Control in the Finance Directorate?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Mr Stein: You previously worked for a company that’s well known, called Ernst & Young. You consider yourself to be a finance professional with a background in audit accounting and positive experience of board reporting, staff engagement, and process improvement. How would you rate your own performance in relation to not amending that report, Mr Ismay?

Roderick Ismay: I think on this one, that’s a failure.

Mr Stein: Thank you.

Roderick Ismay: I think there are many other things that I did that were not and I got a lot of feedback that there were a lot of positive reports and a positive process leadership that I did but, on this specific one, it’s clear that that was unsatisfactory.

Mr Stein: So the upshot was that you left a report that gave the system a clean bill of health, essentially un-updated within the POL system, as being a general report that said that everything’s fine and dandy with the Horizon System. You just left it unaltered. That’s what you did, isn’t it, Mr Ismay?

Roderick Ismay: I, as I’ve explained earlier, was asked to collate a report which begs a question to me of why wasn’t somebody in IT who owns this system asked to collate that report in the first place?

Members of IT were talking about that thing while I was on holiday in February. Members of IT should have been responding to the issue of what was – how did this add to it. Yes, as a professional, I had issued a report, and that begs a question of should I have reissued that? Well, I’m not sure it should have been me writing the report in the first place and, as I’ve put in the end of my witness statement, I’ve suggested that there should be clearer ownership of systems in order that the relevant individuals can escalate people – things to the right place and ensure there is resolution by the owner of the appropriate system, which was not me.

Mr Stein: Did you check whether, as you’ve just said, the members of IT were adequately responding to this particular issue, so that you could then take that into account in relation to your report? Did you check whether anything was being done?

Roderick Ismay: I would have asked for – get on and sort this.

Mr Stein: Can I ask you to go back to the document, which is POL00028838 page 2 of 5. It’s on screen, I’m very grateful. Under “Impact”. Look at the bottom part. We’ve looked at the first bullet point. It says this that, in relation to this issue, second bullet point, this is:

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

Third bullet point:

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

Fourth bullet point:

“Potential impact upon ongoing legal cases where branches are disputing the integrity of Horizon data.”

The fifth and last of those five bullet points:

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

Do you agree that those are the same types of sentiments as you’ve examined with Mr Beer, King’s Counsel.

Roderick Ismay: I agree that those sound like the same types of sentiments, yes.

Mr Stein: Just give me one moment, Mr Ismay.

Nothing further, Mr Ismay. Thank you.

The Witness: Thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Mr Ismay, while it’s on my mind, on a number of occasions now, you have used a phrase like “it begs the question” in respect of why it was you that was chosen to write the report in August 2010. I just want to be clear what the implication of that is. Are you suggesting that Mr Smith had an ulterior motive in inviting you to make that report?

Roderick Ismay: No, I’m not suggesting he had an ulterior motive but I’m wondering why as – somebody in IT who owned the system wasn’t asked to, because they would have been more readily able to immediately come up with some more sections of that report.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, that might be a fair point, which is why I asked you the question whether you could, if you can, offer any kind of explanation as to why it was you that was chosen.

Roderick Ismay: Well, I think that I was chosen because Dave was relatively new in the organisation. I think he was only in Post Office for a year. I don’t know when he joined, but he would have probably – with the diversity of the organisation – would still have been learning about a number of things.

I know that he came to Chesterfield and I and my team would have explained to him the nature of the functions that we did in Chesterfield, which had a large contact with subpostmasters and Post Office branches. So I think that Dave would have interpreted out of that that I had got an understanding that possibly felt more, from the conversations he was having, than with other teams that he’d had an induction with.

So I – and – and that’s why I think he asked me.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. Thank you.

Yes, who is next, please?

Questioned by Ms Page

Ms Page: Flora Page, sir.

On behalf of a number of the other subpostmasters, Mr Ismay.

Did you speak to any other potential witnesses before giving your evidence to the Inquiry about your evidence?

Roderick Ismay: No. So I’ve not spoken to any other witnesses in the course of any things that I have had to do with the Inquiry, no.

Ms Page: Mr Beer, King’s Counsel took you to an email yesterday that Lynn Hobbs apparently sent to you, in which she told you that Fujitsu could insert transactions into branch accounts; do you remember that email?

Roderick Ismay: I do remember that document, yes. I remember it from the pack yesterday, yeah.

Ms Page: Well, that was what I was going to say. You received that, of course, prior to coming yesterday, didn’t you?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, so that would have been in one of the bundles that I received, yes.

Ms Page: So you will have seen when you read it that it was also sent to Angela van den Bogerd, although not at the same time as it was sent to you; it was sent to her subsequently. Did you notice that?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I can’t remember whose names were on the thing but if that’s – I’m not disagreeing with you if that’s – yeah.

Ms Page: All right. Well, bear with me. It was sent to her at the same time as your report was sent to her, your report to the Managing Director David Smith, in which you said that there were no backdoors into the Horizon System and that branch accounts could not be changed in any way by anyone other than those in the branch?

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Ms Page: Yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: So she received the two contradictory documents at the same time: on the one hand, an email from Lynn Hobbs saying that Fujitsu could insert transactions; and, on the other hand, your report saying that they could not.

Roderick Ismay: Right. Okay.

Ms Page: So when you read that in advance of these hearings, did you think of speaking to Ms van den Bogerd about the Hobbs email –

Roderick Ismay: No.

Ms Page: – to see what she remembered of it?

Roderick Ismay: No. I’ve consciously not spoken to anybody back at the Post Office and I don’t know anybody at Fujitsu either. So I’ve not spoken to other people and I’ve been as keen as possible, in the nicest way, to avoid reading things in the press and on social media, as much as possible, in order to come here with as uncontaminated a recollection as I can to have this conversation.

And I certainly have not, and I would say going back a few years, I have been contacted by Post Office Limited with a question of could I help to collate an understanding of what happened many years ago. So with one firm of solicitors acting for the Post Office I was approached a few years ago, after leaving the Post Office, to provide something. Angela, I think, texted me to say would I mind speaking to the solicitors, but that’s the only contact I’ve had.

Ms Page: All right. So we’re to understand that you simply haven’t asked her about what she may remember or whether she spoke to you at the time about it?

Roderick Ismay: No. And I think my perception for this Inquiry is that it’s more appropriate that I come into the room uncontaminated by what other people’s thoughts are. The Inquiry has presented me with things, they tried to jog my memory of what happened all those years ago, and I have not, and I feel it would have probably been inappropriate to be having a discussion with other potential witnesses. So no. So I haven’t, no.

Ms Page: The same, then, must be true also of Mike Granville who received that email at the same time as you?

Roderick Ismay: That’s correct. So I probably haven’t – I haven’t spoken to Mike Granville since I left the Post Office. No.

Ms Page: It’s interesting to note that we don’t have that email from Lynn Hobbs to you and Mike Granville in the form that it was originally sent. You saw that, didn’t you? It was in the format of apparently that email having been cut and paste into another email from Ms Hobbs to John Breeden. Did you notice that?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I did notice that, yeah.

Ms Page: So what we don’t have is the email as it would have appeared in yours and Mike Granville’s inbox?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, or did it even go into my inbox. So I don’t know what emails I received by then. Probably like you, I do find it slightly odd, but I would also expect the – I don’t know the process by which the Inquiry has been able to obtain all the different documents that are fed into these bundles. It sort of feels like you must have had access to email accounts or something to collate this.

So I am somewhat puzzled for what appears to be an important document, why it is a cut and paste. That seems – that’s slightly odd.

Ms Page: Yes, because we all know, don’t we, that emails would also not only be in your inbox but presumably your outbox, her sent items, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yeah.

Ms Page: And presumably also in Mike Granville’s inbox, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Ms Page: So we don’t have it from any of those sources, although it must have been available to Ms Hobbs when she cut and pasted it in the month that she cut and pasted it, yes? So she must have had it in her sent items at that point, mustn’t she?

Roderick Ismay: Well, yeah, presumably it was either an email that was in sent items, which is most likely the case, or one could type it and paste what you want.

Ms Page: So do you know anything about why the original email is apparently no longer in existence?

Roderick Ismay: No.

Ms Page: Were you ever aware of your colleague’s in Security destroying documents?

Roderick Ismay: No. I have read in the press subsequently, like in the last couple of years, comments about individuals and shredding but I wasn’t aware at the time that I was at the Post Office of –

Ms Page: Not when you were in charge of those in investigations either?

Roderick Ismay: No.

Ms Page: So there was a period, wasn’t there, when Mr Utting was reporting to you and you were, in effect, the possible of investigations, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, so probably in 2005, yeah.

Ms Page: You’ve told us that you haven’t listened to the Human Impact evidence. You’ll forgive me if I put some to you because it relates to the conduct of the investigators?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, could I just clarify the reason that I haven’t listened to the Human Impact – and it’s awful, I know that the content of that will be really awful for the individuals concerned and difficult to share that. That goes back to the concept, again, of me wanting to be able to attend this Inquiry with as uncontaminated a history in my own head of what do I remember, because the nature of the Inquiry is I am sat here having seen some things in the press, I’ve had people on Twitter saying things about me, which you hear so many things, and eventually you think “Well, can I remember that?” Or “I’ve heard this so many times, did I hear that or not?”

And therefore I’ve tried to take the approach, and I don’t want that to sound insensitive, but I’ve tried to take the approach as much as possible of not listening to the commentary, including those – Phase 1 of this Inquiry, and that’s really because I received a letter that said I was going to be invited to the Inquiry. I thought “Right, I want to be able to come here and give my own memory of it”, and that’s not in any disrespect to the individuals who will have found it hard to share that. I didn’t want to come here with a possibility of what they said contaminating my recollection of what I’m sharing with you.

Ms Page: Why did Andrew Winn’s testimony fall into a different category to the Human Impact testimony, in that case?

Roderick Ismay: Because Andy Winn worked for me and there were – specifically that felt appropriate to look at.

Ms Page: All the more reason why his recollections may have contaminated yours, no?

Roderick Ismay: Well, okay. Yeah. Yeah.

Ms Page: Could I have, please, INQ00001035, please.

Roderick Ismay: Could I just also add to that that, as an attendee coming in as a witness, I did think it was important to me to have an understanding of how a witness session is conducted. And so I have watched Andy Winn’s and that’s helped me partly to understand the context of the environment to which I would be coming in.

Ms Page: Could we go down, please, to page 4. I’m trying to find the internal numbering, page 14. Could we zoom in on page 14. Thank you very much. If we pick up at line 22. This is Tracy Felstead, giving an account of being interviewed by Post Office investigators.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Ms Page: The questions are obviously coming at this stage from Counsel to the Inquiry. All right? So then Q and then A. So I’ll read through sum of the Q&A, please:

“Question: What did they ask you and what did you say?

“Answer: They asked me where the money had gone, what I’d done with the money. Never at any stage was it ‘What do you think has happened, was there any reason for this to happen?’ It was very much I was being asked constantly what have I done with the money, ‘Where has the money gone?’ I was being accused from day dot.”

Then if we go, please, to page 17, internal numbering, line 22 again. Just above line 22, sorry, I’ve got the wrong line number there:

“Question: So you were being asked to prove how you had not committed a crime?

“Answer: Yes.

“Question: Is that how the interview went?

“Answer: Yes, yes, very much so. They had access to my bank accounts. They had access to my home. They never, ever came to my home or searched my home but they looked through all the bank accounts. There was no money to find because there was no money there.”

So this was in 2001. So it was before your time.

Thank you, that can come down.

But we can see there, can’t we, that the way that the investigation went, the way that the investigators conducted it, was on the assumption that there was fault. There was not an impartial or open questioning. It was almost a reversal of the burden of proof from the start, wasn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: That – yes.

Ms Page: Yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: That’s what we see there.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: You’ve told us about how you knew that passwords and user IDs were shared and not necessarily used as they should have been to identify who was doing what?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Ms Page: That was actually what was going on in Tracy Felstead’s case. That was the defence that she’d put forward. So, plainly, she had a defence, one that, in fact, you knew about. What did you do to make sure that investigators approached these cases knowing that there were possibly reasons why people were not responsible for thefts when Horizon said there was money missing. What did you do to make sure investigators knew that?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know what I did to ensure objectivity. That doesn’t sound objective. I’m agreeing with the point you’re raising. I don’t know what I did to do that.

Ms Page: Well, you were the one who was in charge of investigators. Did you think it was your job to make sure that investigators were objective?

Roderick Ismay: I would like to think that I did. I think –

Ms Page: But you don’t know what you did to put that into effect?

Roderick Ismay: No. I probably didn’t put anything into effect, and let me just expand on that. So the conduct of a case, the investigators reported to me, rightly or wrongly, most of my focus with the investigations team – when Security was split into two, from physical Security to Investigations, I was given the investigations team primarily because there was felt to be a linkage between audit risk modelling that the audit team did and the fraud risk modelling that the fraud risk team did and, therefore, the two teams came together.

Rightly or wrongly, my focus during that was about the data that was enabling the targets through the risk modelling. The relationship between the investigators was very much that a case was compiled and was present to the Criminal Law team and there was an oversight of that by the Criminal Law team. So I was the head of a team that had the investigations team in it, but I was not qualified of an investigations background but I felt assured that there’s a relationship between the Criminal Law team and the investigators that was overseeing the way in which case files were compiled.

Ms Page: Well, let’s just look at the document that Mr Beer, King’s Counsel took you to. It was significantly after your time, but appears to have been the only document we can find which deals with the way investigations were carried out.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Ms Page: So that’s POL00038853. If we can go down to page 25, please. If we zoom in on 5.19.10, paragraph 5.19.10. This comes after a series of paragraphs explaining the way that the decision-making process for when to charge somebody comes about, and this is the sort of culmination of it. It says that the Post Office Legal and Compliance Team then goes to Head of Security. You see that arrow, that’s being used in these paragraphs as a way to suggest that the decision moves from this team to that team.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Ms Page: So this final decision goes from Post Office Legal and Compliance to Head of Security:

“The file is then forwarded to the designated prosecution authority (DPA) for authority to proceed. The DPA will review the case file and decide whether to proceed with the advice from the POLCT [the POL Legal and Compliance Team] and Cartwright King or whether to take a different course of action. The authority to proceed (or other instruction) will be inserted into the case file.”

So, in other words, quite clearly it was Head of Security that took the final decision on whether to charge someone, not the Legal and Compliance team.

Roderick Ismay: Well, it wasn’t coming to me as a decision, so when I was Head of Risk and Control, including the investigations team, things weren’t coming to me to say, “Rod, what do you decide about this?” Things were being – a case was compiled, and there was a relationship into the Criminal Law team on that and I think the criminal law team would, if necessary, have had conversations, I think, with the Director of Public Prosecutions area, and the approach was through them. It was not to me to say “Rod, do you approve this?” No.

Ms Page: Thank you, the document can come down.

So your evidence is that, some time after your time, there was a process change which meant that the final decision lay with Head of Security rather than Legal?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: All right. Can we please look at a document which you have looked at, but I’d like to just look at some other parts of it, if I may, please. It’s in document number POL00090437. We’re going down to page 86 of this rather long document. This is – if we could also just have a quick look at page 87, which I think is the one we’ve actually looked at before.

Do you remember you saw this email in which Mr Utting was sort of making a pitch, if you like, for –

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yes.

Ms Page: – the work of doing civil investigations?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yeah.

Ms Page: At this time, you were still his boss, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Ms Page: I just wondered if you recognise the handwriting at the top of that email or on the preceding page?

Roderick Ismay: No. No.

Ms Page: If we zoom in a bit on that handwritten page and see if we can make out what some of it says:

“There is a need to work up a business case to obtain additional resource, possibly from Chesterfield.”

I’m just trying to see on the page where I got that from. Oh, yes, I think it’s paragraph 1 there. Can you just about see that:

“Issues with Civil Litigation Cases:

“need a business case to be worked up to get additional resource – could come from Chesterfield.”

Then there’s a mention apparently of Dave Hulbert. Is that ringing any bells with you?

Roderick Ismay: That – I can’t remember this document, but the kind of theme of what’s in it rings a bell with me, in that I think we were, as we saw yesterday, going through headcount reduction exercises regularly and I think, certainly, the concept of if something – if something new needed resourcing up, given that there was a headcount reduction target in another area but perhaps a need for resource somewhere else, it might have been that somebody could have been redeployed out of the Chesterfield team to work on something else.

So the idea of it doesn’t seem unreasonable, to me, that if the Security team, the investigations team was looking for some resource, then maybe some resource would have come out of a restructuring of Chesterfield. That makes sense. I don’t remember this thing but that would make sense to me.

Dave Hulbert is in IT, so whether in IT they would have had resource, I don’t know.

Ms Page: Does it suggest any kind of a link between Chesterfield and Security?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I think – I mean, there is a link, because the nature of what Security might have been looking for somebody to do with data gathering and, given that a number of pieces of data that would feed into security risk modelling were data that were coming from Chesterfield, then there absolutely was a kind of an almost resource in Chesterfield who would have an element of experience that would give them the capability to help another team.

So that – there was a natural knowledge opportunity that there would be a linkage there, yeah.

Ms Page: Was there a sense in which Security was sort of running parts of the business, Legal, Chesterfield, Security in charge?

Roderick Ismay: No, I don’t think so. I think it was a thing that those teams would have been speaking to each other during the course of things and there was sort of some common skills between those areas or common process understandings that – and common – the Chesterfield teams and the security teams would both have had an understanding of product transactions in branches and, therefore, somebody going either way between the two teams could help the other team by hitting the ground running, with some standing knowledge of processes.

Ms Page: Can I pick on another point on the next page, third paragraph of the email that we looked at yesterday. In the paragraph beginning “Because”, Mr Utting says this, as part of his pitch:

“Because we also have strong ties with the Security and audit function within Fujitsu, we are also able to take witness statements from them in support of prosecution cases and could use the same links in support of Civil matters …”

Then he says, in brackets:

“… (indeed, the standard statements that they currently provide to us in prosecution cases were originally drafted with somebody from our team).”

Do you know anything about that, with them providing standard form statements to Fujitsu?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t, but I am aware that where there are – often, an organisation will ask another organisation about templates of stuff. In my current job, I speak to peers in other organisations and we discuss templates of things because why recreate the wheel if somebody has got the sort of eight headings that are a structure for something?

So the idea that they may have compared a template between the two makes sense to me. I don’t recall the conversation but it makes sense to me that they may have discussed the template.

Ms Page: So you weren’t involved in Mr Utting helping Fujitsu to draft their templates?

Roderick Ismay: No, no. No, I wasn’t. And let me be clear about the word “template” in there. A template is a structure of something. It is not the content related to a particular case. So it would make sense to me that two organisations might speak to each other about does a document have an executive summary, an index, an author’s page? That is the sort of template that I’m talking about.

Ms Page: Do you know whether Mr Utting gave any thought or did you give any thought to the possibility that these might be used by “expert witnesses” and the sort of format that an expert witness ought to use?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I don’t think I did. But I would have – I would think that Tony may have had experience of working with expert witnesses and, if there was some knowledge of what does an expert witness do, then, quite, that may have informed something about a template. As I say, that is about a template, not about case-specific content.

Ms Page: All right. Well, let’s move on to case-specific content in the case of Mr Castleton. Could I have, please, document number POL00107426. If we just have a look at the date first. This is the November of the previous year to the one we were looking at, so it’s 2005. So presumably you’re still in investigations at this stage, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: Or you’re leading investigations?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: If we just scroll down a bit and sort of come up from the bottom, as we do with email chains, I think I’m right in saying, I think it may be one of these ones which has blank pages. Yes. If we just pause here, please, and go back and just have a look at who that was sent to, which includes you.

It comes from Mandy Talbot and goes to David X Smith – and I think we’re all clear that’s the head of IT, rather than the much later MD, Dave Smith?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, that’s right.

Ms Page: Jennifer Robson, Tony R Utting, and you, as well as some other copies in. So this is Mandy Talbot describing a little bit background on the Castleton case and what has happened so far:

“Proceedings have been issued by POL against Lee Castleton the former postmaster at Marine Drive for £27,000. It was known by the business prior to the issue that Lee Castleton blamed Horizon for the losses. External solicitors were asked to check with the Fujitsu liaison team and to assure themselves that the evidence in respect for Horizon was sound before the issue of proceedings. There had been no security investigation so the data had not been requested from Fujitsu.

“Proceedings were issued and a defence and counterclaim for losses flowing …”

She then goes on to describe how the court ordered a stay and that there was some mistakes made and a judgment in default was filed by Mr Castleton. So I’m just sort of summarising a bit here. She describes how there was a short hearing and, as a result, the judgment in default was set aside. So if we go down to the next paragraph:

“As part of the claim the solicitors for Lee Castleton have stated in the allocation questionnaire that they intend to call evidence from other existing and former postmasters about the problems with the Horizon System. They have also asked for disclosure of data about all calls or complaints logged from postmasters about the Horizon System, presumably from the inception of the system. They have called for disclosure of all documents removed from the branch office during the investigation. There is an issue over locating all these documents.”

All right? So solicitors acting for Mr Castleton had asked for very significant disclosure of problems with Horizon, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Ms Page: If we go down, she sets out how another case, that involving a Mr Bajaj, was also challenging the validity of data supplied by the Horizon System.

Then, if we carry on down and past the blank page, she talks about there being other postmasters potentially in a similar situation:

“His solicitors say that they have been contacted by other postmasters and that a class action is possible, unless the deductions from remuneration are refunded. They also make a reference to what we assume is the Castleton case.”

She talks about “Issues”:

“In each case the postmasters are challenging the validity of data provided by the Horizon System and the cases became litigious before that evidence could be properly investigated.

“In each case it was known that Horizon was going to be challenged but there was no procedure in place to:

“(a) acquire the necessary data

“(b) identify somebody with the relevant knowledge and capacity to interpret the data and report on the same.

“If the challenge is not met the ability of POL to rely on Horizon for data will be compromised and the future prosperity of the network compromised.

“Fujitsu’s reputation will be affected.”

She goes on to make “Suggestions”:

“1. A robust procedure is set up and communicated to all relevant parties for extracting necessary data from Horizon at an early stage in all cases leading towards possible termination of contract in each case where the Horizon System data is challenged.

“2. This will necessitate expenditure by POL in identifying a small team and training them in interpretation and investigation techniques.

“3. Fujitsu and POL to liaise on identifying a number of individuals or specialist computer firms who could provide a professional and independent report upon the Horizon System in general and in the two cases to hand if necessary.

“4. POL/Fujitsu investigate and identify whether or not they do hold any data upon the number of complaints made by postmasters about the Horizon System since inception and whether or not it can be broken down into statistics about valid problems/resolutions/errors by postmasters.

“5. Identify current members of POL or Fujitsu staff too can provide statements in the two current cases which (a) validate the system, (b) explain the Horizon System process from end-to-end and (c) can explain why each and every point made by the Defendants is irrelevant or can be explained.”

Forgive me for reading that out at some length but it has been sent to you and to Mr Utting and this is back in 2005. So you’re plainly aware, at this stage, of a significant number of complaints from subpostmasters about Horizon, aren’t you?

Roderick Ismay: I am, and as I said yesterday, I was aware of the Cleveleys case, that referred to – which was something which I’d asked –

Ms Page: It wasn’t just the Cleveleys case, was it? It was quite number of cases, yeah?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: Not forgetting, of course, that, in the Cleveleys case, POL lost, didn’t it? Post Office lost?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I can’t remember exactly what happened then but, yeah, I think –

Ms Page: Can you not remember that the Cleveleys case was one that the Post Office lost?

Roderick Ismay: I can recall what these documents have showed me. I can’t remember the circumstances of the Cleveleys case but I think one of these documents says that something like £186,000 was paid out because there was a lack of records to respond to it. I can’t remember that as my own experience of something that was shared at the time but that was in one of these documents in the bundle. So I do know that because you have had shown me a bundle document that refers to that thing back then, yes.

Ms Page: On receiving this email, did it not occur to you to start wondering whether there was a problem with the Horizon System?

Roderick Ismay: I think I was still being assured by IT that there wasn’t.

Ms Page: Still that verbal assurance, was it?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: What happened to Ms Talbot’s suggestion of identifying a number of individuals or specialist computer firms who could provide a professional and independent report?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know.

Ms Page: Well, it was addressed to you; do you not know?

Roderick Ismay: No.

Ms Page: What happened to her suggestion that POL and Fujitsu should investigate and identify the data about the number of complaints made by subpostmasters about the Horizon System since inception? What happened to that suggestion?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know but I would suggest that the handwriting that you showed me on the previous one suggests maybe that was a follow-on to that, but I don’t know what then happened as a follow-on to that.

Ms Page: The email that you were taken to by Mr Beer, King’s Counsel about possible settlement – sorry, that document can be taken down now. Thank you very much.

Do you recall that you were shown an email about settlement of the Castleton case, possible settlement?

Roderick Ismay: I was shown so many documents yesterday. I’m happy for you to represent the thing. I can’t remember what documents I saw yesterday but please do bring it up and …

Ms Page: I hope I won’t be trying everyone’s patience too much. I’m sure that I’m going to be able to finish by lunchtime. So, with the Chair’s indulgence, if we could just look at it again. It’s POL00090437. It’s at page 63. This is the one where she starts off saying:

“I have received some very good news about this case but now need the business to make an urgent decision upon its future conduct.”

Then she sets out that she’s heard that there may be possibility of settlement. In that fourth paragraph:

“Last night our barrister received a compromise offer from Castleton’s solicitors …”

Do you remember this one now?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I do now recall that document being shared yesterday, yeah.

Ms Page: Thank you. So if we just have a look at the fact that it was sent to a number of people, including you, Marie Cockett, John D Cole, Keith K Baines, David X Smith, Richard W Barker and Rod Ismay.

In that first paragraph – sorry, just again, also just to look at “Castleton – Marine Drive URGENT URGENT URGENT”. So it’s clearly very urgent in her mind:

“I have received some very good news about this case but now need the business to make an urgent decision about its future conduct.”

So let’s just try to understand, then, who does she expect, in the business, to be making an urgent decision about the conduct of this case? Presumably all the people it’s addressed to, yes?

Roderick Ismay: I would presume that amongst that audience would be the person that she’d be expecting to make an urgent decision.

Ms Page: Well, this is a decision about settling the case, so –

Roderick Ismay: Right. I was going to ask you what is it that’s the decision that she’s asking for. So she’s asking –

Ms Page: Yes, she’s asking for, as we’ve heard already, there’s a common terminology. She’s asking for instructions about settling the case.

Roderick Ismay: Okay, right, right.

Ms Page: All right? Because lawyers would not settle a case on their own initiative, would they? Obviously, their client has to give instructions on that, yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Ms Page: You accept that?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, and I understand your use of instructions, where you’ve said instructions to settle the case, so I understand.

Ms Page: All right. So she’s sent this email to these people and she’s expecting these people to be able to give her instructions on settling the case.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Ms Page: Yeah?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: And you’re one of them?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: So how did you, as a group, go about giving her instructions? How did you go about making a decision on whether to settle the case?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I don’t know.

Ms Page: Again, you don’t know?

Roderick Ismay: No. And I’m sorry, and I know people are recording how many times witnesses say, “I don’t know” but I – genuinely, I can’t remember what happened back in 2006 on this.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, is it reasonable to assume, Mr Ismay, that Mr Smith made the decision, as the then Managing Director?

Roderick Ismay: No, well, this was – this was IT, David Smith. Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Sorry, my mistake.

So is it reasonable to assume that the most senior person on that list, whoever that might be, made the decision or is it fairer to assume that there was a collective discussion but you now have no memory of it?

Roderick Ismay: I expect there would have been a collective decision and I think, in terms of seniority of the people, I think there’s three, so myself, David Smith and Richard Barker would have been – we were all part of what was called the leadership group, or something, so we were kind of of a similar level. They may have been a little bit more senior because of the breadth of network responsibility, but –

Sir Wyn Williams: So we have narrowed it down to the three people on the list. It may be fair to infer that, between you, you made the decision. One last possibility, was it escalated to people even more senior than you or even to the board?

Roderick Ismay: That’s possible.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, do you know whether any of those things happened?

Roderick Ismay: No. And I’m sorry, I’m genuinely sorry. I can’t remember, I don’t know.

Sir Wyn Williams: What we do know is that it wasn’t settled, so someone somewhere must have made these decisions.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, so I accept that. A decision must have been made somehow, yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. Okay.

Ms Page: Perhaps we could turn to POL00069775, and to page 2. If we look at this email, which is to Mandy Talbot, following on, it seems, or around the same time. It goes to a similar but slightly different group. It’s from Keith K Baines and it’s copied to Biddy Wyles, Clare Wardle, John D Cole, Marie Cockett, Richard W Barker, Rod Ismay, Stephen Dilley. Keith Baines is suggesting that, as part – this is part of the proposed way of perhaps settling the case.

Roderick Ismay: Okay.

Ms Page: He says:

“I have a few minor changes to suggest …”

Just to give you the context, Ms Talbot had already suggested a wording and he’s then giving a proposed rewording of a statement from Mr Castleton to make as part of the proposed settlement.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Ms Page: He says the revised text suggested is this:

“‘I Mr Lee Castleton the former postmaster at Marine Drive Post Office, Bridlington admit that a sum of money was owed by me to Post Office Limited as a result of errors which arose whilst I was the postmaster at the above office. I had thought that this debt arose due to a malfunction of the Horizon System but I now accept that I was mistaken and that the debt arose out of human error. I declare that the Horizon System did not contribute to the errors in any way and formally withdraw all statements I made to the contrary’.”

Does that ring any bells? Do you remember this desire to have Mr Castleton make such a statement?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t, but I’m clearly part of that chain but I can’t remember that, but I am part of that chain.

Ms Page: So you’ve got no recollection of who came up with the idea of that –

Roderick Ismay: No.

Ms Page: – or how it was that POL had come to the view that it could assert that the debt arose out of human error?

Roderick Ismay: No, I haven’t.

Ms Page: No recollection of trying to find out whether that statement would, in fact, have been true?

Roderick Ismay: No. I haven’t got a recollection of that. My recollections are based on the documents that I’ve got in these packs, including Helen Rose’s statement to the court in 2006.

Ms Page: Well, one more document, if I may, on the Castleton case, which includes a response from you. So perhaps may provoke more memory.

Roderick Ismay: Right.

Ms Page: POL00090437, and it’s page 33 this time. If we look at the email from Mandy Talbot first and then we’ll scroll up to your reply.

Mandy Talbot to Clare Wardle, Biddy Wyles, Rob G Wilson – so that’s the head of criminal law, isn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Ms Page: Rod Ismay, Marie Cockett, Keith K Baines, David X Smith – so that’s again the head of IT – Richard W Barker, Tony R Utting, Graham C Ward, and copied to Doug Evans:

“This is just to let you know that we have been completely successful in defending all the allegations made by Mr Castleton. You well recall that he contended that no genuine losses occurred whilst he was a postmaster and that any losses were manufactured by the Horizon System. The judgment has entirely vindicated the Horizon System.”

She goes on to explain a little more about the technicalities. If we scroll up to your reply, this is from you and back to the same group:

“Thanks Mandy – great news. And thanks to everyone in this email and in your teams as I know you have had to do a lot of work in supporting the defence case here. Like you, my team faced a stack of witness interviews and court attendances at one time so the progress and conclusion here is great news.

“What can we do on a proactive comms front here? We’ve watched the various in inflammatory letters in the SubPostmaster letters page and wanted to be able to assure branches and clients …”


Roderick Ismay: Clients as in corporate clients, such as in National Savings or banks – corporate clients of the organisation.

Ms Page: “… that they can rely on the integrity of Horizon.

“We’ve had some good articles in the SubPostmaster about NBSC, Online Service and Cash In Transit. I am planning briefs on what P&BA does.

“Any thoughts on comms following this case?”

Mr Ismay, you told use you were not particularly concerned or interested in comms; is that correct?

Roderick Ismay: Clearly this says that I was. So – and I know that, further to this, there was pictures of my team and a description of what Product and Branch Accounting did that either went into the SubPostmaster Magazine or PO Focus Magazine, so I know we had things about communicating what the nature of the team was at some point during my tenure in that job.

Ms Page: In 2007, you were very well aware of a significant number of postmaster complaints about Horizon, weren’t you?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, yes, yes.

Ms Page: You were, along with others in the chain that we looked at earlier, content to assert that this was completely wrong and it was all down to user error, weren’t you?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, and that was based on lots of the other information, examples of which you haven’t shared but which are in the bundle, for example Helen Rose’s statement on that case.

Ms Page: Was that because user error was an easy cover for failures in Chesterfield procedure?

Roderick Ismay: No. It wasn’t, and I would refer to that other document I’ve mentioned a couple of times, that the description in that one, the examples where, in a number of cases, auditors would go into branches and find safes open, doors open, money left unattended. It does not mean that it’s clear what – where – which individual may have taken some money or indeed if they did.

However, there were a lot of security situations identified and the examples are in Helen’s note on this one, that she submitted to the court in 2006, that says that when they went into that branch, they found the safe open, doors open, and the other comments that are in that note.

So I would say that, in this case, that kind of description of the circumstances of the experience of the branch audit would have been something that would have influenced the – my view and others’ view in the organisation, about that case.

Clearly, if it turns out that there were, you know, genuine allegations about the nature of the system, I realise, as Justice Fraser said, that that calls into question the ability to use that as evidence in the case, but the mindset of the organisation and my understanding was that the audit findings were such as they were and as are described in that bundle document, and that was what would have influenced my thoughts.

Now, I couldn’t remember that particular document until I’ve seen it in this bundle but, looking at what was in that statement, that four or five-page statement, that is the sort of thing that would have influenced my thoughts at the time.

Ms Page: We see here, don’t we, that it’s not just branches that are on your mind, it’s clients. Clients are on your mind.

Roderick Ismay: Yes. Yes.

Ms Page: Because if clients identified discrepancies or problems in accounts coming from Chesterfield, that would present a real problem, wouldn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: If clients were not trusting data, then that would beg a commercial question, and it’s interesting that there’s certainly a case of something where there was a National Audit Office report about a client that we worked with who was challenging the data that we’d got, and the audit – the national audit report confirmed that the issue was at the client end not at our end.

Ms Page: Thank you. That document can come down.

You have agreed, haven’t you, with Mr Andrew Winn, that the IMPACT Programme resulted in significant problems with data feeds in Product and Branch Accounting. Yes?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I did and I know in the transcript there will be about five or six points I raised yesterday that were those reasons: screens being slow, data coming in and having to be backed out again, yes. Yes.

Ms Page: You say that you raised your concerns. We haven’t seen anything in writing. Did you put your concerns in writing?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know if I put it in writing or not. I think there’s one thing that’s in one of these bundles where I did.

Ms Page: Well, if we look at your report, which is POL00026572, this is your report for Mr David Smith, MD.

Roderick Ismay: Right, right.

Ms Page: If we look at page 16. This your list of problems with Horizon that you’ve identified.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Ms Page: (e) is “Horizon/POLFS differences”:

“In 2005, P&BA moved onto a SAP system (POLFS). This was an exceedingly complex IT migration and there were some issues in management of the cut-off which meant P&BA was out of sync with some branches in terms of opening balances for cash and bureau. This did not affect the integrity of Horizon and has been catered or in error resolution with branches but it has affected service to some branches, ie where decision making on cash supply was based on wrong data centrally. Some issues have continued to come to light recently but this is now under control. It is not relevant to the allegations.”

Is that what you were talking about?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, that’s what I was talking about and those kind of things, although I’ve said that they were under control, they would have been things that were causing immense frustration in my team about having to deal with those things. And that was the kind of sentiment that Andy was experiencing when he said he could feel, you know, frustration around the team.

Ms Page: So, contrary to raising your concerns, you’re in fact minimising the problem, aren’t you, Mr Ismay?

Roderick Ismay: Well, I’ve set out in – I’ve set out here that there were issues in my team. I agree that, in there, I haven’t said – and I think the words that I used yesterday was that I was livid about some of the things with the IT team, that the number of file errors, that we were having to put a file –

Ms Page: You don’t sound very livid with them here, do you?

Roderick Ismay: I –

Ms Page: “It is not relevant to the allegations”.

Roderick Ismay: No, and I don’t think that, writing a document, lividity is necessarily a way of writing a document. But I certainly had conversations with colleagues in IT to say “This is wholly unsatisfactory, the number of files that we’re having to wait another day for you to back out and put back in again”. I definitely had those conversations. Whether I’ve put them in emails or not, I don’t know, and I should have.

Ms Page: Thank you. The document can come down now. Thank you very much.

You and POL management generally, no doubt, were worried that big clients like the banks and the utility companies would hear of the problems in your department, no?

Roderick Ismay: No, I and the Post Office would have been concerned if clients perceived there to be a problem, yes. We would have been concerned that clients would think, “Well, perhaps PayPoint or somebody else can do that work for us”. So we wouldn’t want to be in a position where the system wasn’t working.

We felt the system was working, but we felt there was comments, and the description that I used in the Cleveleys one, of where IT said to me it was – there were unfounded allegations. So we felt we were responding to unfounded allegations.

I acknowledge, in the context of everything that’s coming out in the Inquiry, there’s a question about “Well, perhaps it wasn’t unfounded”, but at the time, I believed from what was being described to me by other teams, who were saying it was unfounded but, obviously, we would have had a concern, would a corporate client look at these potentially unfounded observations and themselves think “Well, we can’t trust that organisation, so we’ll put the business somewhere else”.

So, yes, there would have been that concern, but in the context of the organisation believing that it was unfounded allegations.

Ms Page: There would have been concern likewise, would there not, about what we call the multis or the big franchises that operated multiple branches. You wouldn’t have wanted them finding out either, would you?

Roderick Ismay: We wouldn’t have wanted them to be thinking that the system didn’t work either, no.

Ms Page: No. The solo subpostmasters were a considerably easier target, weren’t they?

Roderick Ismay: No, because I don’t think we would have wanted – clearly some subpostmasters –

Ms Page: Easier to blame user error than to delve into the problems that you didn’t want anyone to find out about?

Roderick Ismay: Could I just respond a bit on that one? So I think – I know there is criticism in here of was the NFSP not a representative body for subpostmasters? I believed it was a representative body for members and we were having conversations with the NFSP to talk about their perception of issues and allegations that were being made, and they – members of their Executive Committee that we were at meetings with, who would say, “Well, I’m running a Post Office, I’m not experiencing these issues and the people that I talk to aren’t experiencing these issues”.

So we had what is an awful situation for the postmasters who are concerned in this case here, awful situation for what was – what we understood at the time was a minority of Post Office branches within the network, and I was receiving a vibe from National Federation of SubPostmasters colleagues who talked to lots and lots of subpostmasters, who themselves were saying, “Well, my branch, I don’t have these problems in my branch, and the members who I’m speaking to aren’t having those problems either”.

So that sort of feedback that, whilst yesterday, I referred to something where – which we may come to in a future phase – four postmasters, I think, came and did some work in Chesterfield to kind of look at things later on, I was having conversations with the executive of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, who they were feeling – who are users of the system – that they were assured through the daily practice of using the system.

And that’s the context, and another part of the context that led to the things that we’re talking about here.

Ms Page: Mr Ismay, you had a personal interest in suppressing anything that suggested your department was out of control, didn’t you?

Roderick Ismay: No, I –

Ms Page: That’s why you were the man to write the one-sided 2010 review, isn’t it?

Roderick Ismay: No. No. It’s not. I went into a team that had got backlogs that had arisen because of the cut over issues when the migration into the SAP system went in. I had open discussions with the NBSC and you’ve probably – with all the access you’ve probably got some of the slide shows of things where I’ve got slides presented to the NFSP talking about backlog resolution and a prioritisation of how we are dealing with this with different products to get up to date on that area.

I was totally open with the representatives of the subpostmaster community about the backlogs and the – my acceptance and the team’s acceptance of the importance of getting on to having up-to-date timely conversations with subpostmasters, not raising transaction corrections months and months in arrears.

And the branch audit team would get in touch with my team to ask about whether there were any error notices pending or transaction corrections to close that loop during the period where there’s a backlog, but I was very much keen to be up to date, working effectively with subpostmasters.

This is a horrible situation that we’re in here and I’m sorry about how all this has ended up but I was not trying to conceal something in my team. I was openly, with the Post Office Executive and with the NFSP, who are outside of the Post Office, very clear with them that my team, when I inherited it, was in arrears on things, and it took us quite a time to work through getting up to date on that.

But I was not concealing that at all, and there will be things that you will be able to find in back issues of SubPostmaster and Focus that indicate exactly that kind of thing.

Ms Page: Thank you very much for answering my questions.

The Witness: Thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Are there any other questions?

Mr Beer: Sir, there are not.

Questioned by Sir Wyn Williams

Sir Wyn Williams: I just want to ask one or two further questions, if I may, Mr Ismay.

Roderick Ismay: Yes, thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Really to do something similar in relation to Seema Misra, as you’ve been doing this morning in the Castleton case, but with particular reference to those emails which we pored over yesterday, which were inviting you to agree to further investigations. All right?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: I don’t want to put the documents up on the screen; I want to see if my understanding is correct, all right? Please feel free to contradict me. If Mr Beer thinks that I’ve not got something right, he can intervene, as well.

This all started, as I understand it, with the judge in the Seema Misra case, at a preliminary stage, suggesting that the expert witnesses for the respective parties should meet to discuss various issues; all right? And I think that emerges clearly from that email chain that you saw.

Roderick Ismay: Right. Okay, yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: So, not surprisingly, the expert witnesses did meet, and it was following their meeting that the defence solicitor, Issy Hogg, wrote the email which asked, in effect, for permission to carry out three investigations. We needn’t concerns ourselves with the details of the investigation. She was asking, “Will you facilitate these further investigations?” All right?

Roderick Ismay: Okay, yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: And that obviously got its way to the POL Legal team, and in particular Mr Singh. And as I understand it, what you’ve been telling me is that you would have expected Mr Singh to have communicated directly with you as to whether or not that should occur?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I would have expected him to have communicated directly with me, and for him to be the interface point back into the defence with whatever –

Sir Wyn Williams: Yeah, I’ve got that. That’s fine.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: Now, am I correct, therefore, in thinking that it was for you, ultimately, to make the decision as to whether the requests should be granted, albeit that you expected to have proper input directly from Mr Singh?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t think there was any way in which it was appropriate for me to be making a decision there. I think I would have –

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. Well, let’s stop at that point, then.

Mr Singh clearly is under the impression that you could make that decision. So when it finally came to you, as it did, that you were in effect being asked to make that decision, did you write an email to anyone saying, “This is not for me to determine. It must be determined by Mr X or Ms Y”?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know. I would expect, if I’d sent an email, it would have been produced in the evidence. So –

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. Well, because what appears to have happened – and again, I’m choosing my words carefully – what appears to have happened is that you did engage with it to the extent of discussing it with Andrew Winn.

Roderick Ismay: Yes, it looks like Andy received the message from Jon Longman, and Accounts came to me, and then I evidently expressed concern about an open-ended invite, and –

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, sure. You did engage with it with Mr Winn but, as far as you can remember, at least, you didn’t send an email to anyone expressing your reservations. That was done by Mr Winn?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was. It looks like it was done by him, yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. So on the one hand – and you may have a point, if I may say so – you would have expected that Mr Singh would have communicated directly with you, but is it fair for me to consider that you should also have directly communicated, either with Mr Singh or with someone else who you may wish to identify, “Look, this decision is not for me. Please ensure that it is dealt with by the right person”?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I think it’s quite reasonable for you to say that I should have formally corresponded back with Mr Singh about that.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right.

Roderick Ismay: I would have expected, then, him to have come back and said, “Well, I haven’t heard from you, Rod. This is a legal requirement. You must do it.” And it doesn’t look like there was any follow-back. So, given everything that we’ve got and that we’ve looked at, I can’t understand why there then wasn’t some follow-back from Mr Singh to say, “You still haven’t done this”.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. What we do have was an email some weeks later which appears to suggest that you did, in fact, make a decision that those investigations weren’t to be facilitated. Mr Beer has asked you about that, so I’m not going to go over that ground again.

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: But if you didn’t make the decision not to facilitate the investigations, do you know if anybody else addressed their minds to that?

Roderick Ismay: I don’t know if anybody else did but, again, I’d think that it should have been a black and white decision for Mr Singh to know should this happen or not? And if it hadn’t happened, I would have expected, under the kind of professional processes that a solicitor would go under, that they should think, “This should have happened. It hasn’t happened. I need to make sure it happens”.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. As far as you were concerned, you have never seen a document in which someone has made a decision, a clear decision, that these investigations would not be facilitated; is that right?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, yes. That’s correct.

Sir Wyn Williams: Okay, well, I think have understood it and I don’t think you’ve needed to contradict the way I’ve expressed it here in terms of your own involvement in this; is that fair?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah. Sorry, could you ask that question again? I’m sorry.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes. I mean, as we were going through it, you didn’t say to me, “Sorry, Chair, you’ve got that wrong”, or, “That’s not right”, and all the rest of it. So I’ve got the basic factual chronology correct, have I?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I think you have. Would it be possible for me to replay something to you, to make sure I’ve understood what you –

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, by all means, yeah.

Roderick Ismay: My fundamental point is that I really would have expected the solicitors to know whether or not something shouldn’t be done, and it was for them to make that decision, not for me to.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, can I put this to you, then, just as a slight nuance, so that nobody is under any misapprehension: it may very well be said by the solicitors – I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see – that they give advice but they don’t make the decision. Do you understand?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Mr Singh may well have said, for example, “My advice to you [either Mr Ismay or Mr X, whoever the decision-maker is] is that you should accede to this request or you should refuse it”, and then explain why. But he wouldn’t be the ultimate decision-maker. Do you understand the distinction that I’m drawing?

Roderick Ismay: Yeah, I – that’s helpful. I do understand that. Again, I would have then expected that to be written in some sort of correspondence with him coming back stating that. But what you’ve said makes sense.

Sir Wyn Williams: So you and I are in agreement that there should really be a paper trail explaining precisely what occurred?

Roderick Ismay: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: At the moment, at least – Mr Beer may say I’m not on top of certain documents – but at the moment, you and I haven’t seen any such paper trail?

Roderick Ismay: Yes, I agree. Yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine. All right. Thank you.

The Witness: Thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you very much for answering questions over a day and a half. I think Mr Beer did say that it was possible that you may be asked further questions in due course. If you are to be asked further questions in due course, then, as with this current session, you’ll be served with what’s called a Rule 9 Request outlining the areas about which you should answer questions. All right?

Roderick Ismay: Okay, I understand, yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine.

So that brings this session to an end, does it, Mr Beer?

Mr Beer: Yes, it does, sir. We’re back at 10.00 am on Tuesday, please.

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine. All right, then. So we’ll adjourn until 10.00 am on Tuesday morning.


Mr Beer: Thank you very much, sir.

(1.01 pm)

(the hearing adjourned until 10.00 am on Tuesday, 16 May 2023)