Official hearing page

16 November 2023 – Paul Whitaker and Catherine Oglesby

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(9.58 am)

Ms Price: Good morning, sir, can you see and hear us?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, I can, thank you. Before you begin the evidence session, was price, I wish to make an announcement, all right.

Ms Price: Yes, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: It is with considerable regret and frustration that I have to announce that the session scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week will have to be postponed. That is Mr Jarnail Singh will not be called to give evidence next Monday and Tuesday. I have reached the decision that his giving evidence next week is not possible because there is every likelihood that the Post Office will, in the course of the next either hours or days, disclose many documents which are relevant to him.

My current understanding is that these documents may number in the hundreds and it would clearly be impossible for Mr Singh to receive those documents in time for him to give evidence on Monday and Tuesday since, as yet, the Inquiry does not have them.

We had been promised by the Post Office that there would begin the disclosure of those documents, or disclosure of those documents would begin, rather, yesterday, but that has not occurred and I am unclear, as I speak, as to when disclosure will begin.

Fairness demands that Mr Singh sees those documents before he gives evidence. Fairness also demands that Core Participants see those documents before Mr Singh gives evidence and, as I have said, the Inquiry is not yet in a position to process those documents and disclose them to Mr Singh and Core Participants.

Hence, to repeat, the sessions on Monday and Tuesday will not take place.

It is also with considerable regret and frustration that I inform everyone that Mr Gareth Jenkins will not begin his evidence on 30 November. In the case of Mr Jenkins, the Post Office has disclosed 3,045 new documents, I believe, yesterday to the Inquiry. The Inquiry will need to process those documents and then disclose them to Mr Jenkins and all other Core Participants.

Mr Jenkins, as the Inquiry was informed by his leading counsel, Ms Dobbin, has made a draft witness statement in respect of his evidence due to be given on 30 November, but that witness statement has not yet been signed and it would be unreasonable of me to expect that Mr Jenkins sign that witness statement until he has had the opportunity to digest all these new documents.

I have taken the decision that it is practically impossible for the Inquiry to be ready to receive Mr Jenkins’ evidence on 30 November, given this late disclosure.

It may be – and I stress “may” – that the four days during which Mr Jenkins was due to give evidence, beginning on 30 November, can be used for other witnesses. I will update everyone about that possibility as soon as I know whether that is a realistic possibility.

So I would ask all participants in the Inquiry to keep open the possibility that we will sit on the days designated between 30 November and 6 December, albeit that we won’t be hearing from Mr Jenkins.

I should also say that, given the obvious importance of Mr Jenkins to my Inquiry, that I have decided that there should be a substantial period of time which should now elapse before I try to reschedule Mr Jenkins. I cannot contemplate what has occurred so far recurring, namely that shortly before Mr Jenkins gives his evidence there is a flurry of activity which includes the late disclosure of documents.

Accordingly, I have decided that some months are likely to go by before I call Mr Jenkins to give evidence, because I want to be absolutely certain, or at least as certain as I can reasonably be, that every single relevant document relating to him has been disclosed to all relevant parties before his evidence begins.

As I have said, therefore, it may be some months before Mr Jenkins appears to give evidence at this Inquiry. That is a source of frustration to me. I’m sure it will be a source of frustration to many Core Participants and perhaps a source of frustration to Mr Jenkins himself. But I think everyone who has followed this Inquiry will appreciate that it is crucial that Mr Jenkins’ evidence is heard with the benefit of all documents which is relevant to that evidence.

To repeat, I am sorry to have to have made this announcement this morning but I felt it necessary to do it orally, as opposed to simply sending out a notice so that (a) everyone is clear about what I am saying and (b) those who are watching can see for themselves how frustrated I have become by all that is going on in relation to disclosure.

Thank you, Ms Price. You can now call your witness.

Ms Price: Thank you, sir. Can we please call Mr Whitaker.

Paul Whitaker


Questioned by Ms Price

Ms Price: Could you confirm your full name, please, Mr Whitaker.

Paul Whitaker: Paul Graham Whitaker.

Ms Price: You should have in front of you a hard copy of a witness statement in your name, dated 8 October this year. If you can turn, please, to page 42 of that statement, do you have a copy with a visible signature?

Paul Whitaker: I do.

Ms Price: Is that signature yours?

Paul Whitaker: It is.

Ms Price: Are there any corrections that you wish to make to the statement?

Paul Whitaker: I’d just like to add that, on recent disclosure, documents have become known to me. In this statement, I initially say that I wasn’t aware of any challenge to Horizon right up until the time I left Post Office Limited in January 2012. However, as I say, these recent disclosures have shown that I was aware of some action in regard to questioning the integrity of Horizon, particularly in sub post offices in North Wales, actually before I left, and it wasn’t until I saw those documents that that refreshed my memory.

Ms Price: With that correction made, are the contents of that statement true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: For the purposes of the transcript, the reference is WITN05050100.

Thank you for coming to the Inquiry to assist it in its work and for providing the witness statement that you have. As you know, I will be asking questions on behalf of the Inquiry. Today, I’m going to asking you about issues which arise in Phase 4 of the Inquiry, focusing on your involvement as an Investigator within the Security and Investigation Team in the relevant criminal prosecutions, including the prosecution of David Blakey.

You joined the Post Office in 1985 as a postal cadet; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Correct, yes.

Ms Price: From 1986 to 1994 you worked as a postman delivering and processing the mail?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Between 1994 and 1998, you worked within Royal Mail Letters, dealing with postal franking machines in the main?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Then in September 1998 you joined the Post Office Security and Investigation Service, as it then was?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Your role was initially that of an Assistant Investigation Officer; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Correct, yes.

Ms Price: Can you explain, please, the three separate entities which existed at that time under the Royal Mail Group corporate umbrella?

Paul Whitaker: There was Post Office Limited, Royal Mail Letters and Parcelforce.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 8 that Royal Mail Letters and Post Office Limited each had their own investigation function but Parcelforce did not. So in 1998, the Post Office Security and Investigation Service had Parcel Group sections, which dealt with investigations into crime within the Parcelforce network; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: That’s correct.

Ms Price: You deal with your role within the Post Office Security and Investigation Service at paragraphs 9 to 11 of your statement to the Inquiry. Could we have those on screen, please, page 3 of Mr Whitaker’s statement WITN05050100.

Starting at paragraph 9, you say this:

“On joining POSIS I recall that I had an initial period of induction training which covered relevant aspects of investigation, eg law, principles of investigation, evidence gathering, PACE etc, before being assigned to an established officer for ‘on the job’ training. Further training modules were complete over the following year in subjects such as witness interviewing and suspect interviewing, etc. As I recall, I received no specific training to do with POL work at this time, as, within Parcel Group I was not expected to undertake or assist with any POL investigations.”

You go on at paragraph 10:

“In 1999 Parcelforce introduced its own investigation function, and in September of that year POSIS Parcel Group (North) was disbanded. Its operational staff in Leeds were then compulsorily transferred to different Royal Mail investigation functions. Some staff went into Parcelforce, and others to Royal Mail Cashco (the Royal Mail Group’s cash carrying function). Despite having a background in mails work and no previous POL experience, I was sent to work for POL, initially based at their regional headquarters in Leeds in September 1999.”

Going to paragraph 11, please:

“I had no say whatsoever in where I was placed at this time.”

How did you feel about being sent to the Post Office Security and Investigation Team in 1999?

Paul Whitaker: I recall a certain amount of apprehension for the reasons stated in the statement. I’d not worked behind a Post Office Counter at that time. However, obviously, I was happy to go wherever they sent me.

Ms Price: You worked as a Post Office Investigation Manager, later named a Security Manager, from 1999 until January 2012, save for a brief period when you were a temporary team leader for the South Investigation Team, in around 2009; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Then in 2012, you took up the role of Investigation Manager with Royal Mail Letters?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 13 that when you were a Post Office Investigation Manager, Post Office Security was split into three areas: East, West and North; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: That’s as I recall it, yes.

Ms Price: Which was your area when you first started as an Investigation Manager?

Paul Whitaker: The North.

Ms Price: Where were you based at first?

Paul Whitaker: Initially I was based in Leeds.

Ms Price: What part of the country were investigations run from the – apologies.

What part of the country were investigations covering out of the Leeds office?

Paul Whitaker: It was the investigations in the counties in the sort of north-eastern quadrant of England. So up to the Scottish Borders around Berwick and down as far as just south of Sheffield, that sort of area, and across to the east coast.

Ms Price: Who did you report to when you were based at the Leeds office?

Paul Whitaker: Initially my first team leader was a gentleman named Les Thorpe.

Ms Price: He was based in Durham; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: I think it was Peterlee, yeah, County Durham, yeah.

Ms Price: Mr Thorpe, in turn, reported to a Senior Investigation Manager based in Glasgow, Rashid Sarwar; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: As I recall, yes.

Ms Price: Who, in turn, reported to the North Area Head of Security, also based in Glasgow, and you say that was a man called Duncan McFadyen?

Paul Whitaker: I believe so, yes.

Ms Price: You say in your statement that the Security Department was split into physical Security and Investigation departments, and it was the latter of these which you worked within, that being the teams responsible for the investigation of suspected criminal losses to the Post Office?

Paul Whitaker: Correct.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 16 that perhaps a year after you joined the Post Office, the security function within the Post Office began a period of rapid change. Can you explain, please, the key changes which were brought in at that stage? Please do feel free to refer to your statement if you need to.

Paul Whitaker: If I may, yeah. Yeah, as I recall, there was a number of geographical boundary changes and staff changes as well, movement of staff. I mean, I do recall, actually, at that time I spent some time doing some investigations in the northwest and, in terms of hierarchy, as I say, at the time, Tony Marsh headed it, and Phil Gerrish became his Head of Investigations.

So I believe at that time Mr Thorpe went and I recall the sort of line for Investigations became more sort of centred around Mr Gerrish being the Head of Investigation function. I can’t recall Mr McFadyen or Mr Sarwar having such input around that time.

As I say, I can’t recall specifics but I do recall that there seemed to be plenty sort of happening, as it were.

Ms Price: As a result of those changes, you moved from being based in Leeds to being based in Sheffield; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes. But that was – I was on my own in Sheffield. It wasn’t that there was an office in Sheffield that moved from Leeds; it’s just that I happened to work from an office in Sheffield.

Ms Price: Is it right that your manager was never based in the same location as you in Sheffield?

Paul Whitaker: No, that’s correct.

Ms Price: But you say you saw them regularly and were in contact by email and telephone?

Paul Whitaker: That’s correct, yes.

Ms Price: You recall Tony Marsh leaving the Post Office to become head of Royal Mail Group Security in around 2007 –

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: – and Phil Gerrish leaving shortly thereafter to join Royal Mail Letters as Head of Investigation?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: How did the Post Office Security Team change under the leadership of John Scott, who replaced Tony Marsh?

Paul Whitaker: John Scott brought in more of an ethos of analysis in regard to losses. It was more proactive and on the front foot, looking at ways to stop losses, and less focus on reactive investigation once losses had occurred. Within that, he again, he reorganised, he was – he brought in sections that, as I say, looked at forecasting, if you like, and using techniques to be able to anticipate where losses might occur, as opposed to just straight investigating losses reactively once the loss had occurred.

Ms Price: You say in your statement that you also noticed a change in the type of experience which your Investigation colleagues had. Can you explain the nature of this change, please?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, I think Mr Scott wanted to bring in Security Managers that were potentially dual trained, so they were not just Investigators. As I say, they had more background in looking at – proactively looking into losses and also into physical security, so we were looking at dual training the managers. And I think during that time, because of the people that he bought in, who may have been more attuned to that new type of role, I think we lost a lot of experience in regards to actual Investigators and people who were able to work to reactively investigate a loss.

Ms Price: What happened to the geographical remit of the Security team in general and in relation to your team in particular under John Scott?

Paul Whitaker: It just widened. It went from just being in the north. I was coming down to London. I was taking on investigations in Wales. So it just widened. I think there were – at different times, different geographical barriers were brought in but they did change quite a lot.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 22 of your statement that the remit expanded into Scotland and Northern Ireland as well?

Paul Whitaker: Certainly, yeah. I did investigations or assisted with the investigations in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.

Ms Price: You deal at paragraphs 23 and 24 in a bit more detail with some of the changes in approach to investigation brought in by John Scott. Could we have those paragraphs on screen, please, it’s page 7 of WITN05050100. You say here:

“I feel that Mr Scott focused more on bringing to POL Security a data driven model to proactively analyse and seek out risk and loss within post offices as opposed to using the POL Investigation Team to investigate losses reactively. Mr Scott brought in much more data analysis in his loss management strategy and set up a dedicated team to do this, I recall Helen Rose being part of that team but unfortunately cannot recall other names.”

What and who do you understand was driving the new approach of proactively analysing and seeking out risk and loss within post offices, rather than investigating reactively?

Paul Whitaker: Certainly Mr Scott was driving that: John Scott. His reasons why he was doing that, I’m only speculating in that potentially an Investigation Team were expensive, essentially what – he could have looked at what value they did actually bring to the organisation. POL was changing very, very quickly around that time, I recall. The network was shrinking, they’d lost number of contracts. They were examining how they worked and where they sat within the country, and how they were to operate going forward.

So I think it was – I think – and, again, it’s only my speculation of how I looked at it – I think it was to do with that and looking at repositioning the organisation and, as I say, an Investigation Department, purely Investigation Department, was an expensive tool, perhaps.

Ms Price: At paragraph 24 of your statement you say this:

“Mr Scott also brought in a team to try to recoup losses through the Proceeds of Crime Act and some Investigators were trained as financial investigators. From memory, I recall these included Ged Harbinson, Graham Ward, Helen Dickinson and Paul Southin.”

Do you recall where the agenda for recouping losses through criminal enforcement proceedings came from?

Paul Whitaker: Again, it could be speculation because I don’t recall ever being told, but I believe that obviously, in order to enact the Proceeds of Crime Act and to use the Proceeds of Crime Act, there has to initially be a crime committed. So I think it was – in fact, that was probably one of the reasons why elements of the Investigation Team remained.

But, ultimately, I think Mr Scott was all about, you know, affecting the bottom line of the organisation and trying to stop losses. So that was a strategy brought in, in regard to that.

Whilst I understand that, in terms of the proceeds of crime, you know, an element of that, any recouped would go to the Government. Also, some would not.

Ms Price: You refer to the bottom line of the business. Did you ever feel that the interests of the business, particularly financial interests, influenced the way Investigators did their job?

Paul Whitaker: It certainly didn’t influence me at all. I never gave it a thought.

Ms Price: Going over the page, please, to paragraph 28 of the statement, you say this:

“I felt that within the tenure of Mr Marsh as Head of Security, I found the line management within POL investigation to be supportive and experienced, with many of the managers having come through ‘the ranks’, as it were. They knew the Investigators’ role and the challenges it brought. However, I feel that when Mr Marsh, and others left POL, my line management under the leadership of Mr Scott, though reasonable in so much as they were someone to manage staff, many lacked the experience and understanding within the investigation and criminal justice fields. Managers I remember and consider in respect of that statement were Andrew Daley and Alison Drake.”

Did this lack of experience and understanding within the investigation and criminal justice fields have an impact on the fairness and adequacy of investigations, in your view?

Paul Whitaker: Not personally, I don’t think, because I think when that came in, I was – not of a standing, but I had enough experience of the job to be able to, you know, work through that. But anybody who came in, into an Investigator’s role or a role that had an investigation element, they may have felt – they may have struggled somewhat with line management and leadership, who didn’t fully understand the role.

Ms Price: How did the various investigation teams operating across the country communicate with each other about any matters of concern arising on their patch?

Paul Whitaker: All sort of communication tended to come from the centre, as it were. We did get together occasionally for conferences and suchlike, at which, you know, things would be chatted through, and I did feel that I could speak to Investigators throughout the country if I wanted to and ring them up.

But, essentially, a lot of the information of which you speak there would come from the centre, so it would feed in from someone on the South Coast or something and it would get up, if relevant – if deemed relevant by whoever was disseminating it, it would get disseminated out to everyone else.

Ms Price: Why did you leave the Post Office to go to Royal Mail Letters?

Paul Whitaker: I think I was getting a bit disillusioned with Post Office Limited. I was not particularly a fan of the leadership. As I say, the organisation was going through a lot of change. I thought there was slightly more job security in Post Office Limited and a job came up in there, so I applied for it and got it.

Ms Price: Turning to the training you received in the conduct of investigations, please. Before you joined the Post Office Security and Investigation Service in 1998, did you have any experience in criminal investigations or criminal law?

Paul Whitaker: Not directly. Elements of the job within franking machines, there was elements of inspection and that linked into elements within POSIS but not directly as an Investigator or within that sort of field.

Ms Price: We have seen from paragraph 9 of your statement, which we had on screen earlier, that you had some initial induction training when you first joined the Post Office Security and Investigation Service in 1998. How much time did the initial induction training take up?

Paul Whitaker: I recall it was two weeks’ residential training in Croydon.

Ms Price: You say in paragraph 34 of your statement that this was classroom-based learning. Who was it who provided this training?

Paul Whitaker: It was – I think there was an in-house training group within POSIS and it was their trainers that did that.

Ms Price: You’ve said already that the training did not cover Post Office investigation work, as within the Parcel Group you were not expected to undertake or assist with any POL investigations, but you say there were further modules covered over the course of that first year in investigations when you were allocated to Parcel Group work. You give examples of the topics covered in your first year as suspect interviewing, witness interviewing, searching and report writing in your statement.

Did any of the training you did in your first year cover disclosure?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall that it did.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 9 of your statement that you were assigned to an established officer for ‘on the job’ training. How long did this on the job training last for?

Paul Whitaker: It lasted for a year, I believe.

Ms Price: Can you recall now what kind of work the person you were shadowing was doing in that first year when you were still with Parcel Group work?

Paul Whitaker: He was leading investigations into, in the main, Parcelforce losses.

Ms Price: How did Parcelforce losses differ from those you dealt with later with the Post Office?

Paul Whitaker: They were very much losses from the course of post, so examining the theft of parcels, from course of post. In fact, that was the main body of the work, the old charge of delaying the mail. That was one that was looked at. There were a couple, I think, because part of the remit of Parcel Group was also to do group enquiries. So anything that came under the Royal Mail Group that didn’t fall within Letters, or anything like that, tended to get sort of handed to Parcel Group to pursue. But there was certainly nothing that was in any way accountancy based or anything like that.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 35 that, when you were moved to Post Office Investigations in 1999, you were given some counter clerk’s training on the counter clerk role and Post Office working practices, and that was before the introduction of the Horizon system, wasn’t it?

Paul Whitaker: I recall that it was, yes.

Ms Price: When you were moved to Post Office Investigations in 1999, were you given any training, in particular on your duties as an Investigator working on Post Office, as opposed to Parcel Group investigations?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall any specific training where I was taken to one side and said, “This is the training that you’re about to receive”. I was placed under the sort of tutorship, if you like, of a longstanding Investigator and another Investigator who were very experienced, and I was sort of mentored, if you like – though it was never officially called mentoring – in regard to those sort of taking me along and introducing me to the work.

Ms Price: Who were those more experienced investigators?

Paul Whitaker: John Hart was the most experienced one and then John Hart, who – sorry, and John Downie, he was an Assistant Investigation Officer at the time with, as I say, John Hart being the lead Investigator, if you like.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 36 of your statement that, when the Horizon system was introduced, you recall going on a course over a week or so on the Horizon system; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: That training was not specifically for Investigators, there being other Post Office staff on the course, including subpostmasters?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, I recall it was – I was sat amongst subpostmasters, other Post Office staff. It wasn’t exclusively investigation based.

Ms Price: Did you have any training on the Horizon system after this?

Paul Whitaker: Not that I can recall.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 32 that in around 2006 you completed a Level 4 National Vocational Qualification in investigation management. Can you recall what topics you covered during that qualification, of relevance?

Paul Whitaker: Again, it was a vocational qualification so it was demonstrating competency in interviewing, witness interviewing, managing investigations, those sort of modules. Again, there was nothing specific about Horizon or anything in there.

Ms Price: You also say that, before you left the Post Office, in 2010 you started a post-graduate diploma in security and risk management at Leicester University, which you completed after you had moved to Royal Mail.

Again, can you remember any topics you covered when doing that training?

Paul Whitaker: In regards to investigation, there was a topic around the law but it wasn’t specifically an investigation-based course, it was security and risk management, so it was more in keeping with, I suppose, Mr Scott’s view about looking at risk management within the organisation.

Ms Price: Turning, then, to policies and guidance applicable to the work of Post Office Investigators, were any investigation or prosecution policies provided to you during the training you had in your first year as an Investigator, in 1998?

Paul Whitaker: I recall policies were – would have been available. I don’t recall an online – I don’t recall a sort of repository. So I would imagine they would be available for us to look at and expected that we, you know, had a knowledge of them.

Ms Price: You say you think they would have been available. Where do you think they were available?

Paul Whitaker: I’m just trying to think because, 1999, it may not have been online. In 1999 when I was working in Parcel Group, we were actually in an office, and there was a number of us in there. So they may have been available in there but possibly in binders or something like that. But I can’t recall, to be perfectly honest.

Ms Price: Were any investigation or prosecution policies provided to you when you moved to Post Office Investigations in 1999?

Paul Whitaker: Not specifically. Again, because I was working in Leeds, which was a sort of regional office, they may have been available within the office somewhere but I don’t specifically recall that, yes, they were in the third cabinet from the left, or anything like that.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, paragraph 38 of Mr Whitaker’s statement. That’s page 11 of WITN05050100. You say here at paragraph 38:

“… I don’t recall there being a ‘central repository’ or such where Investigators could specifically view policies. The dissemination of information contained within policy, as I recall and understand, was mainly through training, team meetings and special directives called ‘Investigation Circulars’ which would be sent via email to Investigation staff.”

Can you recall when email Investigation Circulars were first introduced?

Paul Whitaker: It was very, very early on. It may have been around 1999. It may have been earlier but I do recall them occasionally coming out and saying, you know, “Investigation Circular D15”, or whatever, and whatever it referred to.

Ms Price: These circulars, were they summarising what was in a new policy, for example, or were they attaching the policy itself?

Paul Whitaker: I seem to recall that they were summarising. It would be new policy or changes within the law, or I suppose anything that – because I think they were issued centrally through Group Security. So it would have been anything that Group Security felt the need to disseminate officially in one of these documents.

Ms Price: Can we have on screen, please, document reference POL00104762. This is a document entitled “Disclosure of Unused Material – Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 Codes of Practice”, and it is dated May 2001. This is one of the policy documents which was sent to you by the Inquiry for the purposes of preparing your witness statement. Have you had an opportunity to read this document?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, I’ve looked at the document, yeah.

Ms Price: Had you seen this document before the Inquiry sent it to you?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall. However, if I had, it would have been almost 20 years ago.

Ms Price: Under “Purpose”, this document explains that:

“The aim of this policy is to ensure that Security Managers know and understand the Investigation Procedures in relation to the Disclosure of Unused Material as described in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 Codes of Practice, which must be adhered to by all Consignia staff undertaking investigations.”

Just pausing there, you listed the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act as governing your role as an Investigator at paragraph 39 of your statement. Were you aware, in 2001, that there was a CPIA Code of Practice which Post Office Investigators were required to adhere to, in addition to the Act itself?

Paul Whitaker: I’m not sure if you’d have asked me at the time that I’d be able to say, “Yes, I am adhering to the CPIA Code of Practice”. However, my understanding was that – generally, that we would. I don’t know if that makes sense, you know. If someone were to have asked me then, “Are you adhering to this?”, I would say, “Well, I believe I am”, but if they’d asked me to stand there and recite the Act, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.

Ms Price: The introduction at 3.1 in the first two bullet points identifies the Act, so the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, and then also covers the Attorney General’s Guidelines on the disclosure of unused material. It may be that you can’t say but in 2001 were you aware of the existence of the Attorney General’s Guidelines on disclosure of unused material?

Paul Whitaker: Well, I can’t say. However, in 2001, I would have probably been sort of 15 months into the role and quite new. So there’s a strong chance that I wouldn’t have been.

Ms Price: Going further down the page, please, to the general principles section, there is a section on “Investigators and Disclosure Officers”, and at bullet point 1 an Investigator is defined:

“An Investigator is a person involved in the conduct of a criminal investigation involving Consignia. All Investigators have a responsibility for carrying out the duties imposed on them under this Code, including in particular recording information, and retaining records of information and other material.”

Then at the second bullet point, we have this:

“Investigators and Disclosure Officers must be fair and objective and must work together with prosecutors to ensure that disclosure obligations are met. A failure to take action leading to proper disclosure may result in a wrongful conviction. It may alternatively lead to a successful abuse of process argument or an acquittal against the weight of the evidence.”

Then at bullet point 3, we have this:

“In discharging their obligations under the statute, code common law and any operational instructions, Investigators should always err on the side of recording and retaining material where they have any doubt as to whether it may be relevant.”

Moving, then, to the second bullet point on this page:

“The Disclosure Officer is the person responsible for examining material retained during an investigation, revealing material to Legal Services during the investigation and any criminal proceedings resulting from it, and certifying to Legal Services that he has done this. Normally the Investigator and the Disclosure Officer will be the same person.”

Just pausing there, you’ve addressed in your statement your understanding of your role in relation to disclosure at the time of your involvement in Mr Blakey’s case, that is in 2004. Could we have on screen, please, paragraph 139 of Mr Whitaker’s statement, that’s page 33 of WITN05050100. That’s 139. You say this:

“Regarding disclosure, without really knowing it I was the Disclosure Officer in the case. Within POL Investigations, if you were the officer in the case, you were also Disclosure Officer, exhibits officer, report writer, witness liaison, and all the other roles combined to support an investigation. As such, when it came time to review evidence and produce disclosure schedules for a criminal prosecution, it was down to each Investigator to do this.”

You say you were the Disclosure Officer without really knowing it. Do you mean by that that it fell to you to complete the disclosure schedule as one of number of tasks Investigators did but you gave no conscious thought to the fact that you had an additional but distinct role as a Disclosure Officer.

Paul Whitaker: No, what I meant by that was that, basically, you were expected to do everything. It was never said to me that “You are the Disclosure Officer”, but I knew I had, you know – disclosure fell under the remit of what I was expected to do. So it was simply that I – you know, as a Post Office Investigator, you were expected to do everything.

I know in other roles, in other organisations, the roles that I’ve mentioned there, exhibits officer, report writer, would often be someone different and an Investigator would stand to one side of them, leading the investigation. But within every one of my Post Office Investigations, no matter how big or small or how complicated or how simple, I – those roles were expected to be completed by the Investigation Manager.

Ms Price: So you knew that you had a disclosure task but were you consciously aware that you had a distinct role with applicable additional duties as a Disclosure Officer?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t think it was ever pointed out to me that “You are Disclosure Officer”. It’s not a role or a term that I probably would have been familiar with. However, as you say, I knew I had a role in regards to providing disclosure and considering disclosure all the way through an investigation.

Ms Price: Going back, please, to the May 2001 Disclosure of Unused Material Policy, that’s POL00104762, page 2 of that document, please. The third bullet point on this page, about halfway down, deals with a Section 9 statement and underneath that, underneath the paragraph in bold, it is explained:

“In meeting the obligations in paragraph 6.9 and 8.1 of the Code, it is crucial that descriptions by Disclosure Officers in non-sensitive schedules our detailed, clear and accurate.”

Then this at the next bullet point:

“Disclosure Officers must specifically draw material to the attention of the Prosecutor for consideration where they have any doubt as to whether it might undermine the prosecution case or might reasonably be expected to assist the Defence disclosed by the accused.”

At the time you were an Investigator, did you understand that, because you were also the Disclosure Officer, you had a duty specifically to draw material to the attention of the prosecutor where you were in any doubt as to whether it might undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence?

Paul Whitaker: I recall that – I would have been aware of that because in filling in the disclosure schedules, you know, it specifically mentions that. So I think it’s safe to say that I would have had an understanding that that was something I should have been doing.

Ms Price: The bullet point below says this:

“Disclosure Officers must seek the advice and assistance of prosecutors when in doubt as to their responsibility, and must deal expeditiously with requests by the prosecutor for further information on material which may lead to disclosure.”

Who was the prosecutor in cases you investigated on behalf of the Post Office?

Paul Whitaker: It would have been Legal Services, Royal Mail Group Legal Services.

Ms Price: Is it Legal Services, the Criminal Law Team, that you would have gone to, if you were in doubt about your responsibilities relating to disclosure?

Paul Whitaker: Probably in the first instance, if I had any doubts about it I may have chatted it through with team leader or something like that, or a colleague. My view with regard to it was essentially that my role was to, in disclosure – or certainly a role in disclosure was to list everything. It was going to get reviewed and, if there was anything that shouldn’t have been there or was on the wrong schedule, or any issues like that, the reviewing lawyer would get back to me, and it would be – you know, it would be discussed and put right.

That’s how I viewed the process, or I seem to recall how I viewed the process.

Ms Price: It is not referenced in this document, but were you aware, when you were an Investigator, that there was an obligation on a criminal investigator to pursue lines of inquiry which pointed away from the guilt of the suspect?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: In terms of the legislation you list at paragraph 39 of your statement, which you say governed your investigations – and do feel free to refer to that if you want to – where would you have found these documents if you wanted to refer to them?

Paul Whitaker: The Police and Criminal Evidence Act Codes of Practice, they were in a book that we carried around with us. The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, potentially as it went along, they could have been along – sorry, they could have been held electronically. The Human Rights Act, I recall when that came in, we went on a course. But, again, I would imagine they would have been held somewhere, the specific Acts, or you could get them from, you know, from open sourcing on the Government website. So a number of places they would be available to be viewed.

Ms Price: Apart from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which you say you carried around with you, did you ever go directly to the other legislation for guidance?

Paul Whitaker: Potentially, maybe the Proceeds of Crime Act. But I would probably be more inclined, if I had a query that fell within those, I would have rang Legal Services, I would have rung a lawyer. My view was that they were the experts, if I’d got a query in regards to specifics of the law, I would ring them.

Ms Price: You have recently been provided with some documents by the Inquiry relating to training provided very shortly before you left the Post Office to join Royal Mail, in November 2011, and that was training on legal advices and disclosure which was provided by Rob Wilson, who was Head of Criminal Law at that time, and counsel from a set of chambers specialising in criminal law, hosted externally by that set of chambers.

Could we have on screen, please, the email invitation to this training. The reference is POL00167351. We can see this is an invitation from Graham Brander to a session planned from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm, on 14 November 2011. So I think you left the Post Office in January 2012; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: So some two months later. As far as you can recall, did you go to this training session?

Paul Whitaker: I vaguely recall coming down to – I think it was held in chambers close to the Royal Courts of Justice In London. I’m not sure whether it – that was this course or another, but I’ve got no reason to believe that I wasn’t, that I didn’t attend, if I was invited to.

Ms Price: Can you recall being on a training course where disclosure was specifically discussed?

Paul Whitaker: Again, I think I’ll have to refer back to what I’ve just said. I do recall having some sort of training within Bells Yard (sic) but I was not entirely sure that it was disclosure. It could have been something else.

Ms Price: Can you recall attending any training specifically on disclosure at any time before this, whether provided internally by the Post Office or otherwise?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t but, again, that’s not to say that there wasn’t. There could have been something right at the very, very beginning. But I think – and I don’t know whether, you know, it’s something that’ll be mentioned later. I do think, you know, that the provision for training in respect of disclosure within Post Office Limited was not what it should have been.

Ms Price: So are we right to understand that you have a memory of there being some training provided by an external provider?

Paul Whitaker: Not specifically disclosure training. I do remember that from time to time external providers would give us training and, as I say, I do remember some training in Bells Yard chambers. However, I genuinely cannot recall if it was disclosure training, if it was training on something else. Unfortunately, the reason I do remember it, because I do recall that we were shown around the Royal Courts of Justice afterwards. So I do recall we were down there and I recall that happening, but the actual content of the training, I can’t recall if that was disclosure training or not, unfortunately.

Ms Price: Setting aside the content of the training, is there only one occasion you remember where you were given training by an external provider?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, probably, yeah.

Ms Price: We need not have them up on screen unless you wish to go to them, Mr Whitaker, but among the documents recently provided to you are two emails sent to you and others after this training, which included the PowerPoint presentation from the session, an extract from the Criminal Procedure Rules, the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the CPIA Code of Practice, as well as links to other CPS resources including the Attorney General’s Guidelines on disclosure. As far as you can recall, do you remember receiving those documents by email?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t remember receiving those documents but if they were sent to me I would have received them.

Ms Price: Can you recall ever being sent those kind of resources before this?

Paul Whitaker: What, specific to disclosure?

Ms Price: Well, the resources I’ve just referred to, and in particular, the Attorney General’s Guidelines on disclosure, the CPIA Codes of Practice, the Code for Crown Prosecutors. You were being sent these documents after this training. Do you remember those documents ever being sent to you before?

Paul Whitaker: No.

Ms Price: You say in your statement at paragraph 33 that you felt the training in respect of the investigation role you held was adequate, that you were trained to a reasonable standard in investigation skills and any specific major change to the law, policies or techniques would be communicated through training courses. But your assessment of the training relating to disclosure is somewhat different.

Could we have on screen, please, paragraph 140 of Mr Whitaker’s statement, that’s page 34 of WITN05050100. You say here:

“An issue … that I feel there was, was that there was no regular refresher training on the subject …”

That subject being disclosure; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: “… often the line managers were equally as poorly equipped to deal with disclosure, and because as POL cases were rarely committed for trial, consideration and production of schedules was something that investigators rarely did. I can recall in my time at POL investigators with substantial service who had never assembled what was known as a ‘committal file’ and therefore had never produced disclosure schedules.”

Does this remain your view: that because there was no regular refresher training on disclosure and because Post Office cases were rarely committed for trial, Investigators and their line managers were poorly equipped to deal with disclosure?

Paul Whitaker: I would agree with that. I mean, reading out the policy, essentially, Post Office Limited said, “This is the policy that, you know, you’re adhering to and, obviously, the law with regard to what you’re adhering to with disclosure”. However, there was never any – or I don’t recall any checking of understanding of that.

It was never something that was really pushed, as it were, and I don’t know whether that is because we were, as I said in the statement, we were rarely called to put together schedules and, actually, seriously consider disclosure ahead of proceedings.

I think the general feeling was that – with disclosure is that we were – you know, we had a duty to retain, we had a duty to review but, actually, putting the schedules together was something that was rarely done and I don’t recall getting any feedback. You know, when they were sent in to review, I don’t recall getting any feedback to say, “Oh yeah, they’re fine”, or, you know, “They’re not what we should – what they should be”.

So, essentially, that’s the knowledge that I’ve sort of drawn to make the statement that I’ve made in the – in my statement.

Ms Price: Sir, I am about to move to a larger topic. I wonder if we might take the morning break slightly earlier.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes. By all means, Ms Price. So what time shall we start again?

Ms Price: 11.30.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, fine. Thanks.

Ms Price: Thank you, sir.

(11.07 am)

(A short break)

(11.30 am)

Ms Price: Hello, sir, can you see and hear us?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, thank you.

Ms Price: Mr Whitaker, I’d like to turn to investigation casework compliance. Should we take it from your statement that there was, throughout your time as a Post Office Investigator, a requirement that certain information was set out in the case files in a uniform way?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: One document which the Inquiry sent you for the purposes of preparing your statement was a document entitled “Casework Management”, and there are two versions of that, one is dated March 2000 and one is dated October 2002. It’s right, isn’t it, that you don’t recall being provided with either version of this document before they were provided to you by the Inquiry?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t think they were provided to me. I don’t know whether I would have been able to access them but they were not actually provided.

Ms Price: Is their content familiar to you?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, yeah.

Ms Price: This document sets out the need for two separate reports: one, the conduct report, to go to the discipline manager; and another, the legal report to go to the Criminal Law Team. Sensitive information should only be included in the legal report and not the conduct report, and there are also paragraphs in this document dealing with both operational and procedural failures identified during an investigation.

Is that a fair summary of the nature of the document?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: You’ve provided in your statement your understanding of the guidance given in that document and that is at paragraph 72 to 73 of your statement. Is it right that your understanding of the guidance now, contained within that document, is this: within disclosure, the organisation should take care, as evidence and unused material may contain commercially sensitive information that should not be in the public domain?

Do you want to have a look to your statement? This is paragraph 72. We can have this on screen, if that’s easier. WITN05050100, page 19. This is a document that the Inquiry is familiar with. If you’d like to refresh your memory, I can bring that up on screen for you, as well, or are you content to go from your statement?

Paul Whitaker: No, I’m content to go from my statement, yeah. My understanding of the guidance, and how it was applied at the time, was, as I’ve said in my statement there, that the commercial sensitivities were to do with customers of the Post Office and how their transactions moved through sub post offices. And my understanding was that, you know, anything commercially sensitive from that point of view was what this guidance was aimed at. I didn’t take it that this guidance was aimed at the relationship between Fujitsu and Post Office Limited.

I thought purely it was to do with – I think I’ve mentioned it in the statement – such things as the Benefits Agency and how their products were processed through post offices.

Ms Price: In terms of your understanding at the time you were an Investigator, did you think that, because something was commercially sensitive, that alone and of itself, meant that it did not need to be disclosed?

Paul Whitaker: No.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 76 of your statement that, towards the end of your time with the Post Office, you recall there being a push on casework compliance –

Paul Whitaker: Yeah.

Ms Price: – and you recall a compliance checklist being sent out and files being scored against that checklist by a Compliance Manager?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: You recall that compliance manager to have been Ged Harbinson?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, document reference POL00118096. The email about halfway down the page on this document, please – a little further down. This is an email from Dave Posnett to a number of Security team recipients, including you, and it’s dated 23 May 2011. The subject of the email is “Casework Compliance”, and the email reads as follows:


“Most of you are aware that case files submitted for legal advice will become subject to compliance checks. This process is due to commence in June and is designed to raise standards of files submitted (including their contents – reports, taped summaries, appendix enclosures, recoveries, stakeholders, etc) and ensure there is a consistent approach across the team. It is also probably an opportune time given that we have recently recruited new people to the team.

“I’ve associated relevant documents that feed into the compliance process. Please familiarise yourself with these documents.”

A number of compliance documents were attached to Mr Posnett’s email in a zip file. Presumably, given the instruction in Mr Posnett’s email to “familiarise yourself with the documents attached”, you read them when you received his email, did you?

Paul Whitaker: Though I can’t recall reading them, I can’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t have.

Ms Price: One of those documents was the “Guide to the Preparation and Layout of Investigation Red Label Case Files”. Could we have that on screen, please. The reference is POL00118101. Just scrolling down a little.

Did you read this document at the time it was sent to you by Mr Posnett, or can’t you say?

Paul Whitaker: Is it possible to scroll down a little further because I can just see a blank page?

Ms Price: We can look over to the second page and that may give you a bit more content.

Paul Whitaker: Right. As I say, I can’t think of a reason I wouldn’t have, although if you asked me to tell you what date, what time I read it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Ms Price: This document deals with the content of the offender report and the discipline report. So we discussed just now that the separate reports that were required by the “Casework Management” document, one being the one for the Criminal Law Team and the other being the conduct report, so the terminology is a little different, but it is the offender report which goes to Legal and the discipline report which goes to the Discipline Manager, in the sense of this document.

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: This was provided to you by the Inquiry. Have you had a chance to read it?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: You addressed this document at paragraph 78 and 79 of your statement. So please do have those in front of you if you need to refer to them. Can we turn, please, to page 10 of this document. Scrolling down a bit, please, so that 2.15 is visible.

To put this in context, this is the second section of the report dealing with the content of the discipline report, as opposed to the confidential offender report. Paragraph 2.15 reads as follows:

“Details of failures in security, supervision, procedures and product integrity. This must be a comprehensive list of all failures in security, supervision, procedures and product integrity it must be highlighted bold in the report. Where the investigator concludes that there are no failures a statement to this effect should be made and highlighted in bold.”

So this seems to relate to the instruction to include a comprehensive list of failures in this report.

Then, over the page, please, there is this exception:

“Significant failures that may affect the successful likelihood of any criminal action and/or cause significant damage to the business must be confined, solely, to the confidential offender report. Care must be exercised when including failures within the Discipline Report as obviously this is disclosed to the suspect offender and may have ramifications on both the criminal elements of the enquiry, as well as being potentially damaging to the reputation or security of the business. If you are in any doubt as to the appropriateness of inclusion or exclusion you must discuss with your Team Leader.”

Could we have on screen, please, paragraph 78 of Mr Whitaker’s statement. That’s page 20 of WITN05050100, towards the bottom of the page, please. Just to clarify, the understanding of the paragraph we’ve just looked at, 2.15, that you’re addressing here at paragraph 78, is that your understanding now, reading this document with the benefit of your current understanding of disclosure obligations, or is that how you understood the document at the time?

Paul Whitaker: No, I think it was how I understood the document at the time. As I said, I was always aware in regard to disclosure that the duty was to have an eye on it and – you know, from the very, very beginning, and make sure that anything that passed the disclosure test was highlighted.

Ms Price: So what you say is this:

“In regard to my understanding of paragraph 2.15 … I would say that any failing of the types identified in the document should be drawn to the attention of the prosecution decision maker in the report by the Investigation Manager, highlighting them in bold type.”

Over the page, please:

“Similarly, should a matter be progressed through the criminal courts it would be reasonable to expect that matters highlighted in this way would be included on the relevant disclosure schedule. If there was evidence of Horizon system bugs errors or defects I feel that this evidence would clearly be relevant to the case and would pass the disclosure test in that it would be reasonably considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or assisting the defence.”

In essence, and do correct me if I paraphrase wrongly, you conclude that any serious failures would be highlighted in the offender report, even if not in the discipline report. They would be highlighted to the prosecution decision maker, who would consider it in the context of whether the prosecution test was met and decide whether the matter should be disclosed.

So, as such, you see no problem with paragraph 2.15; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: I think that sums it up.

Ms Price: Could we have back on screen, please, paragraph 2.15. That’s POL00118101. Again page 10 of that document, please. To the bottom of the page, please, and going over, actually, to page 11. Looking at this wording again, do you think there was a risk that using the wording of the sort used here, under a heading of “Failures in Product Integrity”, might be interpreted by some Investigators to mean that relevant product integrity failures should not be disclosed because they might affect the success of any criminal action?

That is, of course, the opposite of the test for disclosure.

Paul Whitaker: I can’t really comment on someone else’s understanding of that. I think, speaking personally, from the very, very beginning, fairness in regards to investigations was something that I always considered. You know, ultimately – well, specifically, in regard to disclosure, if something were to undermine a crucial or assist the defence, it needed to be – it needed to be disclosed and it was my job, as an Investigator, to gather the evidence, and put it forward. It was someone else’s decision to what they did with that, essentially. So, speaking from a personal point of view, that seems clear to me.

Again, unfortunately, I can’t speak for other people and their understanding of it.

Ms Price: Turning, please, to another document which Mr Posnett asked recipients of his email to familiarise themselves with, the “Identification Codes” document, you’ve had an opportunity to see that document, to read it?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: I don’t think we need to display it on the screen at the moment. Did you read this document as you were asked to do when Mr Posnett sent you his email?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall specifically reading it but, if he sent me the email, there’s no reason to suggest that I wouldn’t have read it.

Ms Price: Do you recall having any concern about an “Identification Codes” document when you were an Investigator?

Paul Whitaker: No, because I seem to recall – and I think I’ve mentioned as much in my statement – that it was just something that we completed. As I say, I used a different one to the one that Mr Posnett put forward. I never used that document and, you know, the terms on it are offensive, outdated and, as I say, I don’t recall it at all.

But, that said, I don’t recall putting up any – you know, sending it back in and saying, “What’s this?” which, you know, obviously, if it happened today, I would like to think I would do.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 81 of your statement that you recall as an Investigator being required to include identity codes in casework reporting, which you understood to be required in the context of recording crime data and statistics to the police.

Paul Whitaker: I believed it was something to do with that, yeah. Essentially, it was – as we go on, we’ve just been talking about compliance, it was a section that had to be filled in on the offender report, so, you know, rightly or wrongly, I filled the section in.

Ms Price: Setting aside for a second the offender report, do you recall there being a specific form used by the Post Office, as a non-police agency, to notify the police of criminal proceedings?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: It was called a form NPA01?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, there was, yeah.

Ms Price: Can we have on screen, please, document reference POL00118374. This is a blank copy of the form NPA01 and we can see the agency name on the top left, Post Office Limited. We can see at the top, the title “Non-Police Agencies (Notification of Proceedings to Police)”. Then there are boxes for various identifying details of the person being charged or summonsed.

About halfway down the page, we can see the “Prosecuting Agents” listed as “Post Office Limited Legal Services, Criminal Law Team”.

Then, over the page, please, right at the top, we see there are number of options for ethnic appearance. There are seven boxes: “White European”, “Dark European”, “Afro Caribbean”, “Asian”, “Oriental”, “Arab” and “Unknown”.

Is this the form you used to notify the police of proceedings and to identify the identification code which applied in any given case.

Paul Whitaker: This was the form that we filled in and I think it went to a Prosecution Support Office and they actually dealt with the notification to the police, but it was our responsibility to fill the form in.

Ms Price: But is this the way that you notified police of identification codes by reference to those options on this form?

Paul Whitaker: It looks to be on the form, so obviously the question is why was it on the offender report?

Ms Price: So no reference to the identification codes document circulated by Mr Posnett in May 2011 was necessary to provide identity code information to the police, was it?

Paul Whitaker: It doesn’t look to be the case, no.

Ms Price: Turning back then to Mr Posnett’s zip file of compliance documents, could we have document reference POL00118101. This is, again, the “Guide to the Preparation and Layout of Investigation Red Label Case Files”, covering offender reports and discipline reports. Starting on page 4 of that document, please, scrolling down a little, we see a preamble for the policy template of an offender report. You see there at 1.2, “Preamble as policy template”.

Going to the top of the next page, please, at the top right, we see “Identification Code” and in brackets “Numbers 1 to 7 only”. So Investigators were being instructed to enter an identification code limited to options 1 to 7; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: They were being provided with the “Identification Codes” document sent in the same compliance zip file, which you described as containing offensive and outdated terms. Was there any other way for Investigators receiving Mr Posnett’s suite of compliance documents to interpret the instruction, other than, “Use this identification codes document to complete the identification codes space on the offender report”?

Paul Whitaker: As I say, I didn’t use Mr Posnett’s information that he sent. I seem to recall I’d been an investigator for some time now and I had numbers that corresponded with the identity codes used in the police. And it had – it remained in my – what we termed a tackle kit, from an early period and I don’t recall ever changing it.

As I say, some of the descriptions in Mr Posnett’s document were – came – it came as a shock to me when I saw that because I don’t recall ever seeing it previously. As I say, if I got these – this suite of documents with this, I can only think that I did recall them. But I didn’t use it. I don’t remember using those terms on there at all.

Ms Price: Given that it was not necessary to use this document, the “Identification Codes” document, for police notification purposes, because the options were there on the face of the form, can you help us with why it was being used to populate the offender report? It may be that the answer is no.

Paul Whitaker: I don’t have any idea whatsoever. It certainly wasn’t required. But I can say that it pre-dated Mr Posnett’s – or this document, certainly, because I do recall – I mean, as I say, I started filling in reports back in 1999 and I do recall it being on there then, and I recall it being on there ever since.

Ms Price: I’m sorry, what do you recall being on there then?

Paul Whitaker: The space on the – in the report preamble for identity code.

Ms Price: It’s apparent from your statement that you can’t assist on who might have drafted that document or how long ago that might have been?

Paul Whitaker: I can’t, I’m afraid. I’m sorry.

Ms Price: Turning, please, to lines of inquiry in cases where a shortage was being attributed to the Horizon system, could we have on screen, please, page 22 of Mr Whitaker’s statement, paragraph 84.

You deal here with the situation when someone being investigated attributed a shortfall to problems with the Horizon system, and you say this:

“It is difficult to state what analysis was done by Investigators of Horizon data when someone attributed a shortage to Horizon. It depended on what had been said during the interview. If someone had stated that a loss had just appeared and offered nothing else, it was difficult to begin to find a place to start any analysis.”

You go on at 85:

“I can’t specifically recall the steps I would have taken but if the subpostmaster could provide any relevant information about the loss being as a result of a particular product, or transaction, then I feel that some analysis would have to be done in the area named.”

Then at 86:

“In regard to analysis, I always viewed that my personal role was not to provide intricate analysis of systems and usually I would ask someone better qualified, perhaps a representative of a particular product within the National Business Support Centre, a POL security analyst, or on occasions Fujitsu representative to perform analysis.”

Should we take it from the paragraphs here that, unless a subpostmaster could pinpoint a loss being down to a particular product or transaction, then, as a matter of practice, you would not request data or analysis of data from Fujitsu as part of your investigation?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t think that I would have, at the time.

Ms Price: Also, in general terms, is it right that you would only carry out fairly basic analysis of data produced by Horizon, such as comparing cash on hand figures to previous cash accounts or declarations?

Paul Whitaker: I would.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 88 of your statement that:

“… early on after Horizon was introduced [you] had to send away for Horizon information …”

What kind of information are you referring to here?

Paul Whitaker: I recall, just sending away for more detailed analysis of Horizon, I think on specific datasets and things like that. It depended what was – what I was looking into at the time. As I say, my role was to gather evidence, so I thought, you know, if someone had said in interview that there was the – the loss stemmed from Post Office card account, or whatever, I would – you know, I would sort of follow that trail and say “Right, well, we need to have a look at Post Office card account, you know, what did you – what specifically are you looking at?” and then send away for that information and see if there were any anomalies that would – you know, support a line of inquiry.

Ms Price: In the context of paragraph 88 here, you say that that changed in that you, at some point, gained remote access to Horizon information via a portal on your computers, where information could be downloaded directly to you.

Paul Whitaker: Yes. We could examine cash accounts. I can’t recall whether – how up to date they were. They might have been a week behind, or something like that, but I do recall being able to certainly have a look at cash accounts, through this portal on our laptops.

Ms Price: Just to be clear, by remote access, do you mean that you could download and view data, rather than alter that data in any way?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, I – it was just viewing what had already been put on the system.

Ms Price: In respect of ARQ requests, you deal with this at paragraphs 90 and 91 of your statement – over the page, please, to page 23. Should the Chair understand from these paragraphs – and perhaps we’ll read those out. Paragraph 90:

“I cannot recall arrangements between POL and Fujitsu in respect of the provision of ARQ requests, though I do not feel that they were provided as a matter of course for losses attributed to an unexplained Horizon shortage. I vaguely recall also that Fujitsu may have charged POL for provision of some ARQ information after a certain number of requests, however I don’t not recall what the number of requests before that cost began. Also, I don’t recall that I ever consciously considered this in any ARQ request that I might have made.”

At 91:

“I recall that ARQ data might be required if a case was committed for trial following a ‘not guilty’ plea at Magistrates Court. It may have been requested at this stage perhaps by the reviewing lawyer in their advice. If this ARQ data was part of the evidence then I feel that it would be disclosed to the subpostmaster’s legal team at the relevant point prior to the trial as part of the evidence.”

Should the Chair understand from this that, generally speaking, ARQ data would not be sought as part of an investigation, but might be if a case was committed to trial following a not guilty plea?

Paul Whitaker: In the main, yes. I don’t think exclusively so, and I can only speak from the investigations that I did. Specifically if you were looking – if an Investigator, potentially, was looking at an office for – that they suspected of doing certain things, before an interview took place, they may want to get some information so they could have sent away for those ARQs.

I would say that, in the main, though, it – that sort of information would generally wait until we had to put together a committal file and rely on the evidence and then, obviously, the – any evidence that we relied upon would be disclosed to the defence.

Ms Price: At paragraph 92, you say this:

“That said I feel that in investigating cases, if it sufficed, I often would be satisfied with a ‘catch-all’ statement to say that the Horizon system was in good working order at the time and did not throw up anomalies. If then directed to obtain something in more detail by Legal Services I would go ahead and obtain whatever they had requested.”

Who would provide this kind of catch-all statement and in what context?

Paul Whitaker: I recall it was always someone within Fujitsu. I think the person changed throughout the time and, as I say, from my point of view, I was an Investigator, I was gathering the evidence. I – against the backdrop of believing that Horizon was robust anyway, so I would make the request to – I think through a single point of contact within our organisation, I would make the request to Fujitsu and they would provide what I’ve termed a “catch-all” statement, which is a statement to say that the Horizon system at a particular office appears to be in good working order and there’s no reason that it should throw up anomalies.

That sort of – that’s the sort of – it wasn’t for me to request that statement. It was for them to give me that statement, you know.

Ms Price: In cases where you obtained a catch-all statement, did this mean that no case-specific analysis of the available data was conducted by anyone from Fujitsu?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t know what Fujitsu did to produce the statement. As I say, I would ask that in the first instance, in putting together a file potentially for a committal – putting together a committal file. As I say, if that had been reviewed by the reviewing lawyer or by counsel, and they felt that it wasn’t specifically what they wanted, in how they were going to run the case, then they would come back to me and I would make the request for a statement to – if a statement could be obtained, to say whatever was required.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 93 that you recall Andy Dunks being someone that was called upon to assist in prosecutions; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Do, I recall Andy Dunks and I think since writing this statement I do recall Penny Thomas, I think, may have been someone else.

Ms Price: I’d like to turn, please, to your involvement in the prosecution of David Blakey. You drew the distinction in your witness statement to the Inquiry between the shortfall cases where someone could provide relevant information about the loss as a result of something particular, a particular product or transaction, in which case you might have done some further analysis, and cases where someone was only able to say that a loss appeared, and they could not explain it, in which case you would not, generally speaking.

David Blakey’s case was one where he could not explain how the loss had appeared, wasn’t it?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Do you remember Mr Blakey and his case now?

Paul Whitaker: From reviewing the documentation, I’ve certainly got an understanding of it. In regards to the events, I do recall attending Riby Square post office in Grimsby. I recall certain aspects of it but certainly not a full narrative of every aspect of it.

Ms Price: You deal with your involvement in this case starting at paragraph 124 of your statement to the Inquiry. Do feel free to refer to that statement, if you need to. You first became aware of the case on 13 May 2004, on the day an audit was conducted at the Riby Square branch; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Am I pronouncing that branch correctly?

Paul Whitaker: I’ve always known it as Riby Square, yes.

Ms Price: You’ve set out the circumstances in which this case was allocated to you in the offender report you authored, dated 25 May 2004. Could we have that on screen, please. The reference is POL00044818. Turning to page 6 of that document, please, and scrolling down, we can see your name at the bottom of the report. Going back to page 2 of the document, please, we see the subpostmaster’s name, Gillian Blakey. That was Mr Blakey’s wife –

Paul Whitaker: That’s correct.

Ms Price: – and the date you wrote the report little further down, 25 May 2004. In terms of the circumstances leading up to your involvement, you said this:

“On 13 May 2004, members of the Audit Team attended Riby Square SPSO Grimsby FAD Code: 202/311. The Audit Team gained entry to the office at approximately 0820 hours. At this time Gillian Blakey, the subpostmaster and person named in the second preamble to the report, was asked to produce all cash stock and vouchers proper to the audit.

“As the Audit Team were awaiting the opening of the office safe, David Blakey, Gillian Blakey’s husband, and offender named in the first preamble to this report, attended and spoke to all three members of the Audit Team. At this time he informed them that there would be a shortage of cash in the post office of some £60,000. He said that this was due to cash going missing from the office over the last few months.

“Glen Morris then asked Mr Blakey to write and sign a brief statement outlining what he had just told them. The members of the Audit Team then contacted their management, relayed the information of the morning to that point and continued with the audit.”

Just pausing there, did it concern you to find that the auditor had, on the spot, asked Mr Blakey to write up and sign a statement.

Paul Whitaker: It didn’t concern me. I’m not an auditor and never have been an auditor but I think I recall that being their standard procedure. If a disclosure was made in relation to the one such as Mr Blakey was making, I believe that their instruction was to write that down and get the person making the disclosure to them to sign, to say as much.

Ms Price: So it was practice to seek a signed account from someone before they’d had the opportunity to consider the position or take legal advice?

Paul Whitaker: It was not something that we’d asked – specifically asked anybody to do, as far as I recall. I don’t. But it was something that auditors did.

Ms Price: The auditors aren’t trained, are they, in the conduct of criminal investigations?

Paul Whitaker: The auditors are auditors.

Ms Price: So the safeguards of an interview aren’t present in those circumstances, are they?

Paul Whitaker: No, but I wouldn’t say that it was an interview. In respect of that, whatever the auditors took would then be taken into the interview where Mr – in this case, Mr Blakey would have had the provisions of the caution and the provisions of having a solicitor present if they wished to.

So, at that stage, it was – you know, it was just a piece of paper that had been written, albeit an important piece of paper. It became obviously more important when introduced into evidence and discussed after the caution.

Ms Price: What were you told about the circumstances in which this note came to be written?

Paul Whitaker: Just what was reported in the report. I say, I don’t recall specifically but I don’t doubt what was written in the report at the time, that it appears the auditors asked for all cash and stock to be produced, which was something they would normally do, and, at that time, Mr Blakey offered his disclosure that the cash-on-hand figure had been inflated and he’d been doing that, he’d been inflating the cash-on-hand for some time.

Ms Price: It may or may not be relevant for Mr Blakey’s case but did you ever give any consideration to the possibility that an auditor may have done or said something that made a written signed note unreliable and, potentially, a subsequent interview based on that note unreliable?

Paul Whitaker: Potentially, that could be the case, certainly but, again, that, as I’ve said, you know, before, my job is to gather the evidence. Certainly, I would view that as a strong piece of evidence and if that piece of evidence was to be tested down the line in court as any piece of evidence would be. That’s fair enough, and it would be for the court to decide whether, you know, whether that evidence met the test.

So if the auditor had been called to court and asked certain questions, then it may have made that unreliable but, at that stage with the knowledge that I had at the time, as an Investigator, I felt that I – it was reasonable for me to include that piece of – that – Mr Blakey’s statement, as it were, within the interview and, as I said, put it forward in my investigation and see where it led.

Ms Price: Can you recall who it was who called you about the situation? So you say, in the next paragraph:

“The same morning I received a telephone [I assume that’s a telephone call] apprising me of the situation and, along with Helen Dickinson of this Department, I attended the office.”

Do you remember who called you?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t specifically remember who called me at this time. It would more than likely have been either my team leader at the time or it could have been the auditor themselves, because often – because we worked quite closely with certain Audit Teams, particularly at that time in 2004. Sometimes you would get a call and say, “Oh, you know, we’ve just turned up at a certain office and this has happened”, and they would just let you know the circumstances.

Ms Price: Do you recall what they told you about what had happened that morning?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t specifically recall what they said but, as I say, I don’t doubt what’s written in the report there.

Ms Price: What happened when you arrived at the branch? Do feel free to refer to your report or your statement, as you wish.

Paul Whitaker: Well, again, I can speak in general terms. What would normally happen, I’d speak – I’d go to the office, I would perhaps speak to the auditor to see if anything had altered, you know, if the money had been found or anything else had – you know, if somebody else had come forward and offered a different account.

According to the report here, I asked Glen Morris that when I turned up, Glen Morris being the auditor. He told me that nothing had changed but they were close to reaching a final figure, which indeed backed up what Mr Blakey had said to him. And, at that time, it appeared Mr Morris handed me the statement written by Mr Blakey.

Ms Price: What documents did you consider before you interviewed Mr Blakey?

Paul Whitaker: It would have been the – well, certainly the statement he gave to the auditors, it would have been cash accounts that were on hand at the office for previous weeks and anything that the auditors felt relevant, you know, overnight cash holdings, evidence of that, those sort of things.

Ms Price: So no attempt was made at that stage to check the audit trail with Fujitsu, as opposed to look at the paperwork which was available in branch?

Paul Whitaker: No, this would have been – we were very much encouraged to undertake an early interview and I would imagine that – well, it was not unusual to attend an office, have a quick briefing from the auditor and be in an interview as soon as possible, and sometimes that could be as little as an hour after you turned up at the sub post office. So there was certainly no time at that point to make any substantive enquiries beyond what was immediately to hand at the audit.

As I say, we were very much encouraged to perform early interviews.

Ms Price: Indeed, you interviewed Mr Blakey on the same day as the audit, with the interviewing commencing at 1308 hours, that’s the time on the record of taped interview, and the interview took place onsite at the branch, didn’t it?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, I believe so.

Ms Price: We have a record of the tape recorded interview, which is in two parts. The first half of the interview lasted 42 minutes, according to that record, and recommenced for a further 32 minutes. Can we have on screen, please, the record of the first part of the interview, that reference is POL00044830. We can see from this record that you are listed as the interviewing officer and also Helen Dickinson as second interviewer.

Looking towards the bottom of the first page, please, it appears here “PW”, three lines up, that you cautioned Mr Blakey at the outset of the interview.

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Going over the page, please, looking down that page, you went through Mr Blakey’s legal rights with him?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Going over to page 3, please, and looking at that page, what was Mr Blakey’s decision on whether to have a solicitor present?

Paul Whitaker: I think he actually says, “No, I’m fine honestly”.

Ms Price: Page 4, please, towards the top, what was his decision on whether to have a friend present?

Paul Whitaker: He declined the officer of a friend to attend the interview.

Ms Price: This was the first time he was being told that he was the subject of a criminal investigation –

Paul Whitaker: Mm-hm.

Ms Price: – by the Post Office. Several hours after the audit had commenced and he was required, wasn’t he, to take a decision on whether to have a solicitor present pretty much on the spot, wasn’t he?

Paul Whitaker: Well, it was explained to him that he could have a solicitor present, if he wished. So …

Ms Price: What would the alternative have been to the interview going ahead then, immediately?

Paul Whitaker: If Mr Blakey had decided that he wanted a solicitor present and he expressed that to us, we would have halted the interview at that point until such a time as he’d taken legal advice, at which point, you know, a decision would be then made whether we could continue after having that legal advice, or wait until a time when a solicitor came over, or rescheduled to another time.

Ms Price: Do you recognise that the situation Mr Blakey found himself in was a difficult one, being criminally interviewed by his employer, that he might have felt under pressure to just press on and explain the situation as best he could?

Paul Whitaker: I recognise that being interviewed for a criminal offence is potentially very distressing – I do – and difficult. However, I would suggest that, you know, the alternative would be, you know, should Mr Blakey have committed an offence anywhere else, you know, potentially, he could have been taken to the police station, booked into custody, and interviewed there.

So it’s never – you know, it’s never anything other than a distressing situation. What I would say is that Mr Blakey was interviewed at his premises, he was interviewed in a room where people that he knew were the other side of the wall and he was given, you know, every right that he should have been given, and, as I’ve said before, I do understand that it is very, very distressing, but I was there to investigate a criminal offence.

I had reasonable grounds to suspect Mr Blakey of committing that offence and, therefore, I think I’d reasonable grounds to interview him. As I say, the Post Office require – well, requested that we interview as early as possible, and Mr Blakey could have said that “I don’t want that to happen now”.

And I would have – if he had said that, I would have postponed it. However, he didn’t so the interview carried on.

Ms Price: Going back to the record of interview, the majority of this page on screen is a record of the account given by Mr Blakey about the background to the audit. He explains that, although his wife was the subpostmistress, he would attend the office every day after he finishes work and helped out by doing the cut-off and by balancing the office on a Wednesday.

About halfway down the page, Mr Blakey explained that he always entered the figures onto Horizon and produced the office cash account. Then he, at 10.38, covered the circumstances surrounding the audit that morning, including him telling auditors that they were going to find a discrepancy.

Then at 11.36 minutes you raise the written account requested from Mr Blakey by the auditors, and you got him to read that out. So starting at the bottom of the page, he says:

“Yes this is the one … About three months ago money started to go missing I covered this up hoping to replace it. My wife had been ill … I can go into more detail about that later on if you wish … I’ve got an appointment with the bank manager next week I was hopefully going to take out a loan to replace it, where or how the money’s gone I don’t know. I was hoping there was an error but it does not appear to be the case. And I wrote that briefly this morning while I was still shaking.”

So straightaway in the note Mr Blakey had written for the auditors, he was saying that the money had been going missing for about three months, that where or how the money had gone, he didn’t know; that’s right, isn’t it?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: At 12.55, further down the page, please, there is a summary here of what Mr Blakey was saying. So, given this is not a transcript of interview, it’s a record, some bits are word for word and some bits are paraphrased.

At 15.05 you ask where Mr Blakey thinks the money has gone, and he says:

“I honestly don’t know. Goodness knows … I wish I did.”

You ask if he thinks it is a member of staff stealing. He says no, he trusts them 100 per cent.

You ask if it was errors from his staff’s incompetence. He says this is a possibility.

Then, at the bottom of the page:

“I can’t really see where the hell it’s gone.”

Over the page, please, there is some discussion of Mr Blakey’s attempts to speak to the bank to get a loan to repay the money. At 17.30, we have you summarising what Mr Blakey had told you and noting his reluctance to point the finger at members of staff.

Then at 17.40 you say this:

“I don’t think you’re telling me the truth there, are you, David?”

He says:

“Well …

“PW: I don’t think you’re telling me the truth.

“DB: It’s time ago, to be honest with you …

“PW: Not particularly about that. You know where the money’s gone because you’ve been taking it, haven’t you, David?”

Mr Blakey says:

“No way. Honestly, as God is my witness, no, not a chance.”

What was the basis for you accusing Mr Blakey of taking the money at this stage?

Paul Whitaker: I think probably at that stage because Mr Blakey was the one who’d been doing the accounts, he’d admitted covering the shortage up, I think. He didn’t offer anything in regard to any of his members of staff, and what he was saying to me at that time – obviously, now is different – but, at that time, I thought the system was robust. I thought we were looking at a large amount of loss and what he said to me didn’t ring true.

And, to be perfectly honest, sometimes when you are interviewing people, a phrase such as that, “I don’t think you’re telling me the truth”, would often sort of focus the person’s mind that, you know, it was an interview where accounts would be challenged. And, sometimes, in past interviews, having said that, some people would open up. Some people wouldn’t but some people would open up, and the interview would go in a different direction.

Ms Price: Was there anything other than the Horizon data that suggested money was stolen by Mr Blakey?

Paul Whitaker: Well, it was the audit report. It wasn’t specifically the Horizon data. I trusted the Horizon data. At that point in 2004, I think Horizon had just rolled out fully across the Post Office Limited estate and, as far as we were told, as far as we knew, as far as we accepted, the Horizon system was a system that was infallible, as it were. So I took the audit report that there was that amount of money gone. So I trusted that.

Ms Price: The audit report was confirming a difference, wasn’t it, between what was actually there –

Paul Whitaker: Yeah.

Ms Price: – and what the Horizon reports were saying –

Paul Whitaker: Yeah.

Ms Price: – should be there?

In circumstances where the only basis for there being a loss was that Horizon data, did you consider looking at the detail of the data over the last three months to analyse how the losses had built up to the audit figure before accusing Mr Blakey of theft?

Paul Whitaker: I wouldn’t have done that in this occasion, no. But, as I say, this was very, very much at the start of Horizon. Well, in answer to your question, no. No, I wouldn’t.

Ms Price: You go on:

“So you’re saying that £60,000 has gone in a matter of months and you’ve not drawn it to the attention of anyone, not even your wife?

“DB: No, that’s [not] true.

You say:

“That’s not true, you don’t run a business like that David …”

So Mr Blakey maintains his denial that he’s taken any money. There’s some discussion of the cash-on-hand figure and, going over the page, please, slightly further down the page, there’s some discussion of the figures, and you ask why the figures have been steadily climbing and why he’s not drawn that to anybody’s attention. He says:

“That’s my mistake.”

Then at the bottom of the page, you say this:

“I can that you’ve probably got your wife’s welfare at heart. But the size of the in respect of this. You can’t expect me to believe that you didn’t know or you didn’t do something about it. If it’s not you … if it’s not you that’s doing it you’ve got no reason to shield anybody from it. I can understand for health reasons your wife. But you can’t shield this from your staff because if it’s not you stealing and you don’t suspect your wife. Then it’s got to be your staff’s incompetence or it’s got to be your staff’s dishonesty and I can’t believe that you haven’t got them together before this point before now and if it hasn’t been you and you’ve not said to them, “Look we’re losing money at this Post Office, one of you is at it”, or, “You are all incompetent”, or something in that respect so that just doesn’t ring true.”

He says:

“You’re right I know.”

Further down the page, you suggest, and this is PW, a little way down from 27.40:

“Is it something that your wife doesn’t know about? I mean we turn up on a Thursday morning to lots of places, sub post offices, and the stories we’ve heard you wouldn’t believe a lot of them. But I know people get into trouble with various things … with gambling …”

Mr Blakey says:

“Oh no.”

What was the basis for your suggestion that Mr Blakey was stealing to cover up gambling?

Paul Whitaker: As I’ve said there, there’s any number of reasons that someone steals, gambling being one of them. And, even at that point, I was probably five years into my Post Office Limited career, I’d heard any number of reasons why people had stolen money, and that’s not in Horizon losses, or anything like that. It’s just, you know, people’s motives for stealing are very wide and very varied.

Certainly, with gambling being one of them, with debts in private side of shops. Everything I put to Mr Blakey as a challenge, as it were, or as an attempt to potentially for him to open up to me about this loss that he said he’d got no idea about, was based in other cases that I’d done or other cases that I’d heard about, and motives that people had given me and others in the past.

Ms Price: You go on:

“… Things that their wives or their husbands don’t know about … secret lives, secret mistresses …”

Then Mr Blakey laughs at this suggestion. Mr Blakey had spent a good deal of the interview to this point talking about his concerns for his wife’s health. What basis did you have for suggesting Mr Blakey was having an affair?

Paul Whitaker: I was putting out suggestions there and what’s missing from this is nuance, in regard to the interview. It’s in black and white there. As you can see there, Mr Blakey laughs. I don’t know in what context, in what way it was delivered, other than it being in black and white on there. But, again, in the past, I’d interviewed people and – interviewed people where this had been a motive for stealing because they’d got a secret life.

So I was putting it there as an option. I was challenging his account, because his account, to that point, was simply that “I don’t know where it’s gone”, and that nobody knew about it other than him.

Ms Price: The next section is not a word-for-word attempt at transcription but is paraphrased and it’s you warning Mr Blakey that it’s not only you and Ms Dickinson that he had to convince, and that the court could draw its own inference if the matter goes that far. What was the reason for saying this to Mr Blakey?

Paul Whitaker: I suppose it was a reminder of the caution, that I’d spent – what time was it there – half an hour speaking with Mr Blakey. As I said, at that point, it’s safe to say that I didn’t believe what he’d told me. And, as I say, it’s, in effect, me reaffirming the caution to him, that, you know, it’s quite happy for him to give those answers to me but, ultimately, if it does go that far, somewhere down the line, you know, a court can draw an inference.

Ms Price: You say:

“If you’re quite happy to sit there and say that you’ve not stolen the money but you’ve covered up for it knowing full well that it’s going missing. You’ve not said anything to anybody, and you’re quite happy to stick to that story.”

Mr Blakey says:

“I am quite happy to stick to that. That is the truth.”

Mr Blakey consistently resisted the suggestion he was lying throughout the interview, didn’t he?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Over the page, please, to page 10 of this document. At 38.34, we have this:

“PW goes through who can be ruled out of the equation, and states to DB that his wife cannot be ruled out at this stage. PW states that he feels the discrepancies are down to dishonesty, and that to be thorough he may have to see all members of staff including DB’s wife. However PW states that he feels that this can be avoided as he feels that DB has something he may wish to tell PW.”

Mr Blakey says: “No”.

Was this is an attempt to put pressure on Mr Blakey to say he had taken the money to avoid you speaking to his wife?

Paul Whitaker: I think at that stage, as I say, I didn’t believe what Mr Blakey was telling me, and let me state now, obviously that was a thought at the time. You know, in knowing what I know now, you know, absolutely and rightly so, Mr Blakey’s conviction has been overturned.

However, at that time, I didn’t believe him. I could tell that he cared about his wife and, again, I just thought I’d give him an opportunity to tell me, because I thought he’d stolen the money, I did think he’d stolen the money. So I thought I’d give him an opportunity, a last opportunity, I suppose, if you like, if he wanted to consider that.

Ms Price: Towards the bottom of this page, please, Mr Blakey accepts what you put to him about the cash account. You say:

“So this account is a false account?

He says:

“It is.”

So, at this stage, you had an admission of a false account but on the basis that Mr Blakey was experiencing unexplained discrepancies, from what he was saying.

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Were you conscious, at the time of the interview, that without an admission of theft, theft, in this case, would be hard to prove?

Paul Whitaker: I think that’s safe to say, yes. Yeah, yeah.

Ms Price: Did that inform your approach to the interview in any way?

Paul Whitaker: Well, I think it’s – from an investigations point of view, rightly or wrongly, you probably always feel a little bit better if you get an admission on tape under caution, because obviously that – the evidence of that is pretty compelling evidence.

So yes, I mean an admission of theft would have – from the Post Office’s point of view, wouldn’t have hurt.

Ms Price: Could we have back on screen, please, Mr Whitaker’s report of 25 May 2004. The reference is POL00044818. It’s page 5 of that document, please. You deal on this page with the further steps that you took after interviewing Mr Blakey. In summary, is it fair to say that the further steps in the investigation consisted of interviewing Mrs Blakey, two members of Mr Blakey’s staff, Mr Blakey’s mother, who helped out with the private side of the business, and a recently retired member of staff. Do take a moment to look down that page if you need to, we can scroll down.

Paul Whitaker: As I say, I don’t recall but, if that’s what the report says, I’ve got no reason to doubt that.

Ms Price: In addition, you started making enquiries to see whether Mr Blakey was attempting to get a loan, so going over to the top of the next page, please. So this is the penultimate paragraph here. You were making enquiries with the Royal Bank of Scotland to establish the Blakeys’ financial position and if David Blakey had approached them for a loan, and you were also seeking to establish whether Mr Blakey had been made redundant.

In terms of the members of staff you interviewed, it’s right, isn’t it, that none of them could shed any light on where the money had gone?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall that they did, no.

Ms Price: In terms of Mrs Blakey, we have a summary of key points from her interview, rather than a fuller record of tape recorded interview. Could we have that summary on screen, please. It’s POL00044829. This is a one-page summary of an interview which, scrolling down to the bottom, please, appears to have taken nearly 42 minutes; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: That looks to be right, yeah.

Ms Price: One of the points recorded at 22.54 is summarised in this way:

“GB states that David has never approached her to tell her of money missing, and she was under the impression that the office was having some superb balances. One thing that did surprise her was one week when the office got around £1,000 back from a giro error but upon checking the account it showed a nice balance.”

Then at 24.50:

“GB states that she does worry when the office receives large error notices.”

Just pausing there, did you understand what she was referring to by “error notices”, at that time?

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Ms Price: Then at 29 minutes:

“GB states that she doesn’t think David has stolen the money as she feels that she would have seen £60,000 added to their lifestyle.”

Do you recall now these issues being discussed in the interview?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall, I don’t recall the interview at all but, as I say, I’ve got no reason to question what’s been written on the document there.

Ms Price: Mrs Blakey has given a witness statement to the Inquiry and in it she covers her interview with you. Could we have Mrs Blakey’s statement on screen, please. The reference is WITN02310100. Page 8 of that document, please, starting at paragraph 39. She says:

“I was interviewed the same day, straight after my husband’s interview. Mr Whitaker first asked me how I was doing, whether I was all right. I told him that I was okay, but in fact I was miserable. He then asked if I thought my husband had stolen the money. I told him, emphatically, that David had not stolen anything.”

Then at 40:

“Mr Whitaker suggested that David may have had a secret life, and that he may have been gambling, and suggested that he may have been unfaithful. I did not process the suggestion at the time, as I was simply despairing. David has since told me that Mr Whitaker had suggested to him that he had been having an affair.”

Do you recall making that suggestion to Mrs Blakey? It may follow from your earlier answers that you don’t.

Paul Whitaker: Again, I don’t recall, but there was evidence certainly that I’ve said it to Mr Blakey, and I don’t recall, in Mrs Blakey’s – the document that showed Mrs Blakey’s interview, whether it’s in there. But, you know, based on what’s been said, I’ve got no reason to doubt that some enquiries were made along that line.

Clumsily, and not very good, and if it helps, I apologise for that now. But I’m sure it doesn’t help but, as I say, based on my role there and what I was there to do, Mrs Blakey had been employed by Post Office Limited to safeguard public money. The evidence available to me at that time suggested that over £60,000 of that money was no longer there. The replies that I were getting that – you know, it may have been staff it may not have been staff. So I tried to follow those – I tried to follow that evidence.

But, essentially, it was Mr and Mrs Blakey who were the figure heads and the ones that ultimately ran that office and, essentially, they were the ones that, if it had have been a member of their staff, as Mr Blakey was doing the accounts, it perhaps would have been known to him. So the only – the only avenue that I could go down was that it was either Mr Blakey or Mrs Blakey, or them together, that’s how I felt, and, as I say, Mr Blakey very resolutely and very rightly said – denied it all the way along, as did Mrs Blakey. So, essentially, that’s where the investigation went.

But to explain a little bit, my view was that, or how I tried to approach these sort of losses or losses within the Post Office, or – is that, you know, £60,000 in this case was a lot of money, and somebody has to actually physically take that out from the Post Office drawer, presumably secrete it somewhere, get it out of the building, and then use it.

So I always tried to have that at the back of my mind, and I think I’ve talked in my statement about means, motive and opportunity. Certainly, the means and the opportunity were there for Mr and Mrs Blakey and, again, I had to explore a motive.

As I’ve said, just said, very, very clumsily and regrettably now, and I hope that I wouldn’t do that now, but at the time, I did, which I apologise for.

Ms Price: At paragraph 41, Mrs Blakey says this:

“I asked Mr Whitaker it could be any problems in Horizon, or computer error. He gave me a long, surprised, look, and simply said ‘no’. Mr Whitaker told me that ‘no, someone has stolen it’.”

Do you recall Mrs Blakey asking whether there could be any problems in Horizon or computer error?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall that at all but I’ve got no reason to suggest that she didn’t and my reply from that would be consistent, as I say, from the line that I was told within Post Office Limited, that the system was not at fault and was never at fault.

Ms Price: Did it occur to you at any point that there might not be a real loss in this case?

Paul Whitaker: I would say at that time, definitely not and that’s based on, as I say, the line that was given to us that Horizon was not – was certainly without fault. Sorry.

Ms Price: Did you, at any stage in your investigation, request more detailed audit data from Fujitsu or ask Fujitsu to investigate to get a clearer picture of how the final apparent shortfall figure had been reached?

Paul Whitaker: I can’t recall. I don’t think I would have done because, as I mentioned in my statement, as well, we were encouraged to get an early interview, and, going back to compliance, one of the things that very, very soon after an interview, we were expected to get a file in, and that was for an early – for early advice.

Quite often, you know, that could be stalled if you had investigations, probably like this – where you had to go out and speak to witnesses. But I would imagine that I would have got the file in very, very quickly and then waited for any advice to come back from the Legal Services. And if nothing came back from the Legal Services, with regard to obtaining any other information or to pursue any other lines of inquiry, I don’t think I would have.

Ms Price: Do you accept that it was a reasonable line of inquiry in this case to look more closely at the audit data?

Paul Whitaker: In hindsight, absolutely. At the time, I would say no. Again, the audit data – I trusted the Audit Team. They were professionals. I got a statement from the Audit Team, I seem to recall, like I normally would, producing the audit and saying that the audit was – you know, the results of the audit were as they were.

So as regards the auditors, again, as I say, my role was to gather evidence. I wasn’t an auditor, so I spoke to the auditor, I got a statement from the auditor to give me that evidence. And, again, that evidence would have been challenged in court had it got that far and that evidence would have been tested, and the auditor’s account would have been tested.

But I saw my role as to gather all these different strands of the investigation together and present that, the audit being one of them. And if the auditor has said the audit was fine, I wasn’t an auditor, so why would I suggest that it wasn’t?

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 60 of your statement that you were bound by timescales for completion of a case file, and you think it may have been two weeks, or thereabouts, from interview to the expected date that the file was submitted for charging advice. Did this, whether in relation to Mr Blakey’s case or any other case, ever impact upon your decision making in terms of sufficiency of investigation?

Paul Whitaker: No, because I think, to hit compliance, that was the – you know, they expected the case to be in under those tight timescales. However, if it was obvious that you had significant enquiries to perform, I think you were given time to do that. Although I’m just trying to recall, it might be that you put the file in anyway and then just listed that you still had other stuff to do.

So I just recall that, as I say, in terms of compliance and the importance that was being put on compliance, we had to – we were encouraged to get the file in within the timescales that they’d said. But there was provision if it ran over, sorry.

Ms Price: Sir, I have five more minutes on Mr Blakey’s case and I do have several other short topics to cover. I am in your hands as to whether I finish that five minutes before we take the lunch break.

I’m sorry, sir, I think you were on mute.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, finish the five minutes.

Ms Price: Thank you, sir.

After you sent your report to the Criminal Law Team, it appears that Jarnail Singh provided advice on the case by way of a memo dated 23 June 2004. Could we have this on screen, please. The reference is POL00044835.

This memo was sent to “S&A Casework”, can you explain, please, which team that was? Was it simply the casework team?

Paul Whitaker: I think it’s just the casework. It was whatever it was called at that point, unfortunately.

Ms Price: It was copied to you. Was that standard practice that the legal advice would be copied to the Investigator in the case?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, I think it was.

Ms Price: The first paragraph of this reads as follows:

“In my opinion there is sufficient evidence to afford a realistic prospect of conviction for Mr Blakey for an offence of theft with a low prospect of success and for false accounting with a high prospect of success. Clearly in the absence of any admissions from Mr Blakey for theft of the £64,435.24, then we will need to eliminate the involvement of Mrs Blakey and other members of staff, and they will need to give evidence (if they can do so) to implicate Mr Blakey in the preparation of the inputs of all the daily figures for the Office on the Horizon system and that each week he completes the Office balance and subsequently produces and signs the weekly cash account and the other members of staff do not perform any of the accounting procedures at the Office. This has been accepted by David Blakey. This fact needs to be confirmed in witness statements. The witnesses will need to confirm that they did not steal cash or falsify the accounts. Once we can get these statements, then I would confirm that there would be a good prospect of success to prosecute Mr Blakey for theft. The case will further be strengthened by further enquiries which are in hand in relation to his finances.”

So based on the evidence to that date, Mr Singh was saying there was a low prospect of a theft conviction. In the event, Mr Blakey was prosecuted for theft and six charges of false accounting. What was your role in relation to the prosecution?

Paul Whitaker: I think that answers something that I was speaking about just now, in that it looks like I got the file in to Mr Singh and he came back and asked for evidence from assistants and I believe, in this case, I went out and took statements from assistants. So I would have got those and submitted them back to Mr Singh, who would have assessed that evidence, based on those witness statements and suggested a theft charge along with the false accounting charges.

I think then it was normally up to the investigator to lay the information at court to obtain summons and serve summons, and then after that, if – once the case was reviewed by counsel, whether there were anything that the – any further enquiries or any other information that counsel required, it was probably up to the Investigator to obtain that.

And then at court, it would have been – I would have attended court just in a support facility there, to ask – sorry, to answer any questions as required. Obviously, if I was a witness, I’d have to sit outside of the court. So it was just a supporting role, really.

Ms Price: You were informed of the outcome of the case by way of a memo dated 24 March 2005. Could we have that on screen, please. The reference is POL00044357. Scrolling down a little, we can see from this document that Mr Blakey pleaded guilty to the six false accounting charges, that is Counts 2 to 7, and the theft charge was left to lie on the file.

Going, please, to page 2 of this document towards the bottom, there are some comments:

“Although the judge stated that the Defendant will have to repay the £64,000 to the Post Office at some point, no formal order for compensation was made.”

Over the page, please:

“The Defendant was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 at the rate of £50 per month the first payment to be 4 weeks from 25 February 2005.

“Civil recovery of the outstanding amount should be considered.”

This memo is signed off by Phil Taylor, a legal executive within the Criminal Law Division.

You say at paragraph 168 of your statement to the Inquiry that, during prosecution, at an early stage, the Post Office appeared keen to take a plea deal where the false accounting charges were admitted, with the theft charge not being taken forwards. You then suggest at paragraph 169 of your statement that a subpostmaster being convicted of any criminal charge would mean that the Post Office was able to dismiss the subpostmaster and recoup their perceived loss under the subpostmaster’s contract without evidence of the robustness of the Horizon system ever being truly tested.

Was the prospect of civil recovery a factor which impacted upon decision making on the charges which were pursued in this case, as far as you were aware?

Paul Whitaker: I can’t say it was, as far as I was aware. I made those observations in my statement just from the amount of times that it happened. It seemed to be a regular occurrence but I was never involved in any of the sort of background work with regard to what was accepted, what was not accepted, in regard to pleas.

But it just seemed to me that it happened lots and lots and lots, and, you know, the Post Office always had the fallback that the a subpostmaster convicted of a criminal charge, you know, they could be dismissed and, again, the extra fallback of, under the terms of the contract, they would be able to recoup losses.

Ms Price: You have included, at paragraph 158 of your statement, some reflections on Mr Blakey’s case. Is there anything you want to say now about those reflections?

Paul Whitaker: Well, essentially, what I’ve said there. I recognise that it must have been extremely distressing for Mr Blakey and his family, for him to hear my dismissal of his now known to be truthful explanation.

But, I mean, I go on in the statement to explain why I did some of the things I did in regard to him, particularly in regard to, you know, challenging him and challenging his account. But they were genuinely – as I’ve said in my evidence prior to this, they were genuinely reasons that I’d heard before. So again, reflecting on that, perhaps, you know, this bias, albeit unconsciously, may have been in play as I investigated the incident and, as I say, I apologise for the way that you were treated.

Ms Price: Sir, those are all the questions I have on Mr Blakey’s case. Shall we take lunch at that point?

Sir Wyn Williams: We shall but I’ll just ask one question, if I may, that’s occurred to me.

Mr Whitaker, in the memorandum which you were shown a few minutes ago, I think it was from Mr Jarnail Singh – it may have been Mr Taylor, but I think Mr Jarnail Singh – there was reference to investigation of Mr Blakey’s financial affairs, all right?

Paul Whitaker: Sir, yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: I’ve assumed that that was because – well, I’ve assumed there were two strands to that: (1) to check whether what he had said about applying for a loan was accurate; but, secondly, to see whether there was any possibility of tracing the money which you believed had been stolen?

Paul Whitaker: Sir, in regard to 2004 when this incident happened, I don’t think I would have had an eye on the proceeds of crime or anything like that. I think – I recall that, in his interview, Mr Blakey had said that he’d made attempts to get a bank loan to feed money back into the Post Office to cover the losses, and I believe my investigations with the bank, at that time, would have been solely to examine that line of inquiry.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, well, it wasn’t proceeds of crime, so much, I had in mind when I used the word “trace”, the best way of proving that Mr Blakey or, for that matter, anybody else had stolen the money is, if you were able to discover some or all of it. So I wondered what, if any, steps you took in order to find the money? Because, as you’ve correctly observed, £60,000 or thereabouts in 2004 was a very substantial amount of money.

Paul Whitaker: Yes, sir, quite often, again, speaking historically with regard to a lot of Post Office cases, quite often, it was through business failings, paying staff, things getting on top of people and –

Sir Wyn Williams: Sorry to interrupt you.

Paul Whitaker: Sorry, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: I’m not asking about the motive for it, I’m actually talking about investigating where the money had gone, and the possibilities are – there are a number of them and you mentioned some of them interview. But what I want to know is whether you or anybody else in the investigative team followed up on that and tried to find out where the money, which you believed had been stolen, had actually ended up.

Paul Whitaker: I think there may have been questions asked of witnesses to see about lifestyle changes, and that sort of thing, but probably beyond that, I’m afraid not, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. Thank you very much. Yeah, we’ll take lunch now. What time shall we start again, Ms Price?

Ms Price: I’m looking over at the stenographer, if we were to have 55 minutes, would that be – if we come back at 2.10, in that case, sir?

Sir Wyn Williams: All right, thank you very much.

Ms Price: If my watch is right and it’s now 2.15.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. So 2.10, everyone.

(1.12 pm)

(The Short Adjournment)

(2.10 pm)

Ms Price: Good afternoon, sir. Can you see and hear us?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, thank you.

Ms Price: Mr Whitaker, moving, please, to your knowledge of the Lee Castleton case. Is it right that you have no independent recollection of this involvement now?

Paul Whitaker: That’s correct.

Ms Price: But you’ve had an opportunity to look at the papers that have been sent to you by the Inquiry –

Paul Whitaker: I have.

Ms Price: – and you’ve addressed this at paragraph 99 of your statement, and the paragraphs on from there. So please do feel free to refer to that statement if you need to.

Can you explain, please, having reviewed the documents, how you came to provide advice to Catherine Oglesby in relation to Mr Castleton’s case in early 2004?

Paul Whitaker: As far as I can recall, looking at the documents, Cath Oglesby contacted me for advice. I would imagine she would have explained the situation to me and asked for a view in regard to the case.

Ms Price: What did she tell you about the case?

Paul Whitaker: I understood that Mr Castleton had been experiencing losses in his accounts, that he – he wasn’t aware of where they were coming from. He’d contacted her at an early stage and she’d got involved in regard to that and was working with him to understand why these losses had occurred in the accounts of his post office.

Ms Price: What advice was she seeking from you?

Paul Whitaker: I think she was a view whether it would be taken on by the Investigation Team as an investigation case.

Ms Price: You say in your statement you felt this was not a matter for criminal investigation. Can you explain why you thought that was the case?

Paul Whitaker: Well, from how it was explained to me by Cath Oglesby, Mr Castleton had discovered shortages in his account and he wasn’t sure where they’d come from. He had sort of spoken to her at a very, very early stage and was looking to work with her to understand why that had happened, and what could be done about it, and essentially, he’d – he brought the issue to her at a very, very early stage, looking for resolution.

Ms Price: Did you have any further involvement in the Lee Castleton case after that discussion with Catherine Oglesby?

Paul Whitaker: Well, I told her that I didn’t think I’d was something for the criminal Investigation Team to get involved with and, after that, I don’t recall any involvement whatsoever.

Ms Price: Turning to your involvement in the criminal prosecution of Allison Henderson, it’s right, isn’t it, that you were the second interviewer to Christopher Knight in an interview with Ms Henderson which took place on 11 March 2010?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, from the records I can say that I was.

Ms Price: Again, do you recall that interview now?

Paul Whitaker: Not specifics of it. I recall going to – travelling to Norwich and I recall an interview in the – I think it was in Royal Mail premises in Norwich but the specifics of the interview I don’t recall.

Ms Price: Is it right that your understanding at the time of the interview, as you say in your statement, was that Mrs Henderson could not explain the loss at her branch but you were not aware of any specific allegations relating to the Horizon system?

Paul Whitaker: From the documents that I’ve seen, that would be the case, yeah.

Ms Price: You were, as far as you’re aware, not involved in any decision making in respect of Mrs Henderson’s case?

Paul Whitaker: No, I wasn’t.

Ms Price: Nor did you have any further involvement?

Paul Whitaker: I didn’t, no.

Ms Price: In respect of the criminal prosecution of Alison Hall, you were the second interviewer, again, to Christopher Knight in Mrs Hall’s case; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: According to the records I was, yeah, although I don’t specifically recall it.

Ms Price: So you don’t specifically recall that interview but you’ve had a chance to look at the documents that have been sent to you about your involvement?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, similarly, I to a recall travelling to Cleckheaton and an interview at a solicitors office in Cleckheaton but, beyond that, I don’t recall.

Ms Price: That’s the interview that took place on 28 September 2010; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah.

Ms Price: You say in your statement that, to the best of your knowledge, you were not aware of any allegations made by Ms Hall about the Horizon system; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t believe so at the time and, again, I’m just going through the transcripts of the interview and the documents that I’ve been shown, but, based on that, I don’t believe I would be.

Ms Price: To the best of your knowledge, were you involved in any decision making in relation to Ms Hall’s case?

Paul Whitaker: No, I wasn’t.

Ms Price: Did you have any further involvement apart from the interview that you’re aware of?

Paul Whitaker: I think I produced a statement later but it was essentially a production statement, I think, in relation to the interview.

Ms Price: Turning, please, to your knowledge of Horizon Issues, you didn’t, at least at the time of making your statement, recall any specific dealings with Gareth Jenkins; is that right?

Paul Whitaker: That’s correct, yeah.

Ms Price: You have very recently been provided with an email dated 8 March 2010, which was sent by Steve Bradshaw to you and others, enclosing a report prepared by Gareth Jenkins?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah.

Ms Price: Have you had an opportunity to look at that email and the attached document?

Paul Whitaker: Briefly. It was only sent very, very recently.

Ms Price: Could we have that on screen, please, so the email reference is POL00167364. We can see the other recipients there, yourself among them, and an explanation in the body of the email that the attached document had been sent by Jon Longman. Do you remember Jon Longman?

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, I recall Jon Longman, yeah.

Ms Price: Who was he?

Paul Whitaker: Jon was a Post Office Limited Investigation Manager working – I think he was sort of in the Hertfordshire/London area.

Ms Price: Can you recall anything about the circumstances in which you received this email?

Paul Whitaker: No.

Ms Price: Going, then, to the attachment, could we have that on screen, please. It is POL00167365. We can see that the author of this document is Gareth Jenkins. It is marked “Final Draft” and, scrolling down to the bottom of this page, please, there is a date at the bottom right of the 2 October 2009. The “Abstract”, going further up again, please, is as follows:

“This document describes the measures that are built into Horizon to ensure data integrity.”

Do you recall reading this document at the time you were sent it?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall the document at all, I’m afraid.

Ms Price: Does it follow that you can’t help with what you understood its purpose to be?

Paul Whitaker: I’m afraid I can’t.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, document reference FUJ00225899. Going, please, to page 8 of this document first and scrolling down, please, this is an email from you to Jane Owen, dated 9 June 2011. You say this:


“I currently have a police liaison inquiry centred on St John Green sub post office, Rotherham.

“Briefly the office was audited and found to be approximately 11K short and a clerk is suspected and has been interviewed. The case has been reviewed and the police officer has asked me to get a statement demonstrating the robustness of the Horizon system at the branch.

“The case is unusual as the branch is operated by a charity … and because of this we were asked to get involved at the outset in order to possibly mitigate the adverse publicity of us demanding our money back from them.”

Going back, please, to page 7, and scrolling down a bit further down that page. We see Jane Owen forwarding your email to Penny Thomas, also on 9 June:

“Hi Penny

“Just wanted to run this by you before I make any kind of formal request. I assume that we will just request a statement as normal but would need to put it around some dates?


Then further up the page, Penny Thomas replies to Jane Owen suggesting identifying the time frame when the funds were reported missing and asking Fujitsu to provide Helpdesk call analysis.

Then page 6, please, a little further down the page. Jane Owen gets back to you forwarding Penny Thomas’s suggestion.

Page 5, please. This is your response on 9 June:


“At present, the police haven’t asked for Horizon records although I am sure that if they know we can provide them they will ask for them (and then not use them). All the officer asked was if we could provide a statement saying that the Horizon system was operating correctly in the run up to the shortage being identified.”

Then page 4, please. This is Jane Owen on 10 June to you, asking whether she should go for six months initially and noting that this would come off your allocation, even if you were not getting the transactional data.

Bottom of page 3, please. You appear in that email to agree to six months.

Then further up the page, we have an email from you to Maureen Moors, dated 6 July, which reads as follows:


“This is the stuff I want from Andy Dunks.

“There has not been an ARQ in respect of this. All the police wanted was a statement to say that the Horizon appeared to be working okay at the branch in the run up to the audit shortage. If he can’t do it then I will have to tell the police as such.”

Then going to page 2, please. Your email seems to be sent to Andy Dunks, who says at the top of the page, please, in an email directly to you:


“I am unable to say for definite that the Horizon system was working okay. What I can do is look at all calls logged by this PO during the date range and state that there were no faults reported by the PO to suggest any faults.

“If you want me to get the calls extracted to examine the calls we will need ARQ numbers to cover this request.

“Please let me know what you would like us to do.”

Then page 1, please. About halfway down the page, you say this:

“No need for anything beyond this, Andy. I have explained to the police that all you can say is that no faults were logged and they are happy with that.”

Finally, Andy Dunks’ response, further up the page, and he says:


“I think you may have misinterpreted my email … I have not said that no faults were logged. What I am saying is that if you want me to extract the calls logged so that I can examine them to see if there are any fault calls during these dates.”

This appears to be an example of you seeking a catch-all statement from Andy Dunks in relation to a case where the police had asked for assurances about the Horizon system. It also appears that Andy Dunks was not able to provide a catch-all statement in this instance and the reason he gave for that was that he was unable to say for definite that the Horizon system was working okay. Did you take this to mean that there could be faults in Horizon with the potential to affect evidence in criminal cases?

Paul Whitaker: I think it’s difficult to say. I think around this time, around just – this is when the initial sort of raising of the question of Horizon reliability was sort of gathering pace. As I say, my background was that it had always been sort of infallible and, certainly, I don’t think it had been tested in court yet and I think the sort of underlying message would be – was that, you know, until we get something coming back certain to say definitely, you know, Horizon’s at fault, to sort of carry on in the belief that it’s not.

So I think these emails – and, as I say, I don’t know because they – whilst there was a trail of them, I don’t know where they sit in amongst other things. I think that’s probably what I can say about the emails.

Ms Price: Turning, please, to the document which prompted your memory of subpostmasters raising Horizon integrity issues before you left the Post Office, the reference is POL00114310. Starting about halfway down the page, this is an email from you to Clive Burton, dated 17 June 2010. Who was Clive Burton?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall the name but, if you scroll up and I can see his job title, I might be able to illuminate a little bit.

Ms Price: Former Agents Debt.

Paul Whitaker: Yeah, it looked like someone who in the Former Agents Debt Team so when subpostmasters left the organisation for any reason, they were the – they were the part of the Post Office that dealt with debts left behind, whether anything was owed to subpostmasters or whether subpostmasters owed anything to the – to Post Office Limited.

Ms Price: The subject of the email was “Old Colwyn and Conway Road”, and you say this:


“I interviewed both Mrs McQuilliam and Mrs McQuilliam-Jenkins and both answered ‘No Comment’ to my questions.

“This case is one of a few that we currently hold that really is dependent on the outcome of cases whereby the integrity of the Horizon system has been called into question. In effect a ‘test’ case is being put through the course relating to this and as such other cases are being put on hold until its outcome. This is one of the cases.

“Basically we are waiting to see if the test case goes through with a Horizon challenge before deciding what to do with some of the others.

“Not ideal but hopefully this keeps you up to speed.”

What did you mean by a “test case” in this email?

Paul Whitaker: I think that was a term that was being used around the organisation or certainly the Investigation Team. As I say, I recall interviewing Mrs McQuilliam and Mrs McQuilliam-Jenkins, as I said in the email there, and I recall that they – you know, similar to many, in regard to events at the moment, they said that they didn’t know – well, there were losses at the office, audit shortages at the office and they didn’t know where the loss had come from, and I don’t know whether I recall that they did actually specifically say that it was Horizon. Certainly, I mean – well, it looks like they answered “No comment”, so maybe not.

But I do recall them being in North Wales, I recall that Mr Bradshaw, Steve Bradshaw, who was an Investigator, he had a case in North Wales that was being questioned. There was another couple around North Wales that was being questioned. So that sort of gave rise to my thinking that it was possibly something that was geographically based around North Wales.

And, as I say, from reading the email there, it looked to be that there was talk of cases going through and – you know, and the answers – sorry, and the Horizon system integrity being part of that case and being questioned.

And, as I say, I believe that’s where, it was just generally referred to that a test case was being put thorough, and that’s the terms that was used. I don’t know whether that was ever officially said to us, it was a test case, or it was just sort of the vernacular that was used in regards to what was happening at the time.

Ms Price: Does your email there reflect any doubt on your part as to the integrity of the Horizon system?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t think it does. I think it’s a “We’ll wait and see”. If the challenge goes through, then I think my view would have been, well, if the challenge – you know, if the evidence shows that Horizon is flawed, then that’s that. If, you know, the challenge shows that Horizon isn’t flawed, then that’s that.

Ms Price: The response from Clive Burton further up the page, please, was this:


“Thanks for the update. I will hold the matter in abeyance for the time being.”

So it appears that further action on the case was held off pending the outcome of the test case you refer to; is that your understanding?

Paul Whitaker: That’s what it seems to be.

Ms Price: Do you recall being made aware of the outcome of the test case, as you refer to it?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t. I don’t know whether it happened after I’d gone or but I certainly don’t recall the result of anything.

Ms Price: Turning, please, to another document which has, I’m afraid, has only been provided to you very recently. Could we have on screen, please, document reference POL00167367. This is an email from Jane Owen to a number of recipients, including you, dated 29 July 2010. The subject line is “Fujitsu – Duplication of Transaction Records”. We can see that Penny Thomas is Bcc’d in and the email begins as follows:


“As you are aware, due to the recent problems with Fujitsu all ARQ requests have been suspended. I can now advise that the enhancement to delete duplicated records from the returns has been developed and is due to be tested by Fujitsu at the weekend.”

You’ve had an opportunity to read this email. Do you recall receiving this email, now?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t specifically remember receiving the email.

Ms Price: Do you recall being aware of this issue, the duplication of transaction records?

Paul Whitaker: To be fair, I’m not sure that I do. As I say, I don’t recall receiving the email and it’s certainly not something that’s stuck from that time.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen please paragraph 159 of Mr Whitaker’s statement, that’s page 39 of WITN05050100. Page 39, paragraph 159. You say here:

“It was my honestly held belief during the time I was investigating within POL that Horizon was robust and would not erroneously produce spontaneous transactions that were not genuine. That was the overriding narrative that I was being told and accepted.”

Does it remain your position, notwithstanding some of the later documents you’ve seen, that it was your belief that the Horizon system would not erroneously produce spontaneous transactions that were not genuine?

Paul Whitaker: Yes, as I mentioned at the start of my evidence this morning – when I produced the statement I thought it was across the whole of my time in Post Office Limited, however I accept that, towards the very, very end, one or two documents pointed towards question marks over Horizon but, during the vast majority of my time within Post Office Limited, I thought the Horizon system was robust and would not produce erroneous transactions or bugs or the things that it’s proved to have done.

Ms Price: Going, please, to page 41 of this statement, paragraph 171. You say this:

“Reflecting on my personal performance during this time, I would say that in comparing the cases I investigated pre-Horizon and those post-Horizon rollout I did not notice a significant increase in the audit shortage type cases.”

Over to paragraph 172:

“Though I was not aware of the whole picture in regard to how many cases of a similar nature were being pursued by POL, I do not recall any significant increase in this type of investigation in the period after Horizon system implementation to that which I experienced before the system rollout. This may have affected my thinking in respect of my investigations, as if I had have noticed a sharp increase in cases after the implementation of Horizon it may have raised my suspicions that the Horizon system was not performing as it should have.”

Notwithstanding that you did not notice an increase in audit shortage type cases, did it not concern you that, from at least 2010, you were aware of multiple subpostmasters actively alleging that apparent shortfalls were being caused by the Horizon system?

Paul Whitaker: I think towards the end of my career with Post Office Limited – and I don’t know whether subconsciously that was something that fed into the picture of why I left – but I could see that there was a movement gathering pace, certainly. And somewhere along the line there would have been – Post Office Limited would have to prove one way or another whether the Horizon system was robust or if it was not. So towards the end of my time within Post Office Limited, I think it’s safe to say I sort of made that realisation.

Ms Price: A theme that you raise in a number of places in your statement is that you and other Investigators were repeatedly and continually told that the Horizon system was robust. You say at paragraph 137 that the certainty of the message from the Post Office may have coloured your judgement and that of other Investigators in matters surrounding Horizon. Who was this message that Horizon was robust coming from?

Paul Whitaker: I think it was coming from whenever we asked for statements, it always came back that the system was robust. When that evidence were tested, it was tested in court, if ever it was tested in court, more often than not it would be that the convictions went through. It was strange – just a general overall – it’s that that is the system, that is the system that is used and just, I suppose really, the understanding that the Post Office had paid all that money for that system and it was – it must have been robust. However, obviously, we were very, very wrong in that assumption.

Ms Price: You deal in the final two paragraphs of your statement, and this is the bottom of page 41, starting at 173, with your final reflections on your involvement in investigations and prosecutions where Horizon data was relied upon. How do you feel about that involvement, as you sit here today?

Paul Whitaker: Well, as said in my statement there, the thought that somebody within Post Office Limited or Fujitsu had knowledge that the Horizon system was flawed and didn’t disclose that and kept that to themselves for whatever reason, sits incredibly uncomfortably with me, particularly knowing that I was the face of Post Office Limited when going out and seeing people and essentially causing upset and destroying their lives.

It does make me quite angry, when I think about it. I think, obviously, through my investigations, I’ve – I feel that I’ve been unwittingly – albeit unwittingly, used as an instrument of Post Office Limited and Fujitsu to perpetuate the myth that Horizon was faultless and, as a result, that’s brought so much unnecessary distress and anguish to innocent people and, like I say, it doesn’t sit very well with me at all.

Ms Price: Sir, those are all the questions that have for Mr Whitaker. I’ll turn to CPs to see if there are any questions from others.

Yes, there are from Mr Moloney, sir.

Questioned by Mr Moloney

Mr Moloney: Thank you.

Mr Whitaker, you said that you thought that Mrs Alison Hall, who sits next to me, didn’t raise the question of Horizon having anything to do with the discrepancies that she experienced. Are you sure about that?

Paul Whitaker: I don’t recall that she did and I was basing my answer on what I’d seen in the documentation. Apologies if she did.

Mr Moloney: It’s something that we can – Mr Knight, in fact, took the lead in the interview, didn’t he?

Paul Whitaker: I believe so, yes.

Mr Moloney: It’s something we can deal with with him but I jut thought it best to raise with you, because, and if we could put up on the screen POL00021244, we thought we’d provided this in advance, but I’ll just read it to you, if I may, Mr Whitaker.

Paul Whitaker: Yes.

Mr Moloney: It’s at page 4 and it can be checked if necessary. But Mr Knight, some 4 minutes and 9 seconds into the interview, says to Mrs Hall:

“Right, so you’re adamant that the £14,000 is nothing that you’ve done criminally, fraudulently, however you want to put it?”

Mrs Hall said:

“I’ve not taken a penny out of that post office criminally, I wouldn’t dare.”

Mr Knight says:

“It’s something to do with some sort of discrepancy?”

Mrs Hall says:

“I think it’s to do with discrepancy with the Lottery and I’m hoping that we can come to the bottom of this.”

Mr Knight says:


Mrs Hall says:

“I’ll pay any money back whatsoever to the Post Office Limited. I’m not a thief. I’ll pay anything back. But I just want all this to be looked at in detail and because Horizon system is not 100 per cent, if I’ve got all the details here, I’d like that to be taken into account, please.”

Then she explains how it is that she’s had problems with the Lottery tickets and the discrepancies have built up and built up and built up, and she doesn’t know where the discrepancies come from.

Does that assist with your memory as to her talking about unexplained discrepancies and mentioning that the Horizon system is not 100 per cent?

Paul Whitaker: It would certainly seem consistent. As I say, I don’t specifically recall it but I’ve got no reason to dispute what’s in the transcript.

Mr Moloney: Thank you very much, Mr Whitaker.

Ms Price: Sir, it doesn’t appear there are any other questions from Core Participants.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

Well, thank you, Mr Whitaker, for making your witness statement and for answering a great many questions today. Although the focus of the questioning has not been on Mrs Hall’s case, I welcome Mrs Hall to the Inquiry and I hope she’s found it informative.

Do you want a break before the next witness, Ms Price?

Ms Price: Sir, I’m afraid we do need a short break because the next witness appears remotely and some manoeuvring needs to be done to sort out the screen, I’m afraid. So we do need a short break of ten minutes. I’m told my watch is fast, so I’ll allow you, sir, to tell me when ten minutes takes us to.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, I’ll just have a look at the most reliable machine I have in front of me, which says 14.48. So 3.00, Ms Price?

Ms Price: Thank you, sir.

(2.48 pm)

(A short break)

(3.04 pm)

Ms Price: Good afternoon, sir. Can you see and hear us?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, I can.

Ms Price: May we please call Ms Oglesby.

Sir Wyn Williams: Certainly.

Catherine Oglesby


Questioned by Ms Price

Ms Price: Sir, we’re having an issue at the moment in that we can’t actually see Ms Oglesby. I think someone is trying to resolve that.

I’m sorry, sir, I think you’re on mute.

Sir Wyn Williams: I was just saying I’ve got the advantage of you because I can see her.

Ms Price: Well, that’s good, sir.

There we are. Could you confirm your full name, please, Ms Oglesby?

Catherine Oglesby: Catherine Oglesby.

Ms Price: You should have with you a hard copy of your witness statement and it’s dated 4 June 2023. If you can turn to page 36 of that, please.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Do you have a copy with a visible signature?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I do.

Ms Price: Is that your signature?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it is.

Ms Price: Are the contents of that statement true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: For the purposes of the transcript, the document reference is WITN08530100.

Thank you for coming to the Inquiry remotely to assist it in its work and for providing the witness statement that you have. As you know, I will be asking questions on behalf of the Inquiry.

Today I’m going to be asking you about issues which arise in Phase 4 of the Inquiry, focusing on your involvement in the proceedings brought by the Post Office against Mr Castleton relating to alleged losses at the Marine Drive Post Office branch. You joined the Post Office in 1982 at the age of 16 as a counter clerk; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, that’s right.

Ms Price: Five years later, in 1987, you were promoted to manager of that branch?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, that’s right.

Ms Price: At that point, you became a Retail Line Manager?

Catherine Oglesby: No, not at that point.

Ms Price: Apologies. You say you moved roles when you returned to work, so looking at your statement, can you assist us, then, with when you became a Retail Line Manager?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I – from returning from maternity leave in approximately 1997.

Ms Price: Yes. So January 1997, you became a Retail Line Manager?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Yes. You’ve set out an explanation of the change in terminology relating to the Retail Line Manager role over the years, at paragraph 7 of your statement, and you say the title changed from Retail Line Manager to Retail Network Manager and then to Area Sales Manager and then Area Manager. Did the role remain substantially the same, despite these changes to the title?

Catherine Oglesby: Yeah, substantially the same.

Ms Price: You held this role from 1997 to 2005 in the Postmaster Network –

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, correct.

Ms Price: – 2005 to 2010 in the Directly Managed Network –

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: – and 2017 to date, again in the Postmaster Network; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it is.

Ms Price: So apart from a period between 2015 and 2017, when you were not working for the Post Office, your entire career has been with the Post Office; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: And you remain employed by the Post Office now?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I do.

Ms Price: You’ve set out at paragraph 8 of your witness statement some aspects of the roles you have held since becoming a Retail Line Manager in 1997 and you go on to say that one of those aspects is no longer part of the role, namely suspensions and termination of contracts, and you say this is now the responsibility of the Contracts team; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, that’s right.

Ms Price: But it was part of your role in 2003?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, correct.

Ms Price: Do you recall when suspensions and termination of contracts became the responsibility of the Contracts team?

Catherine Oglesby: No, sorry, I don’t.

Ms Price: You were the Retail Line Manager who took the decision to terminate Mr Castleton’s contract; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: At the outset of your statement for the Inquiry, you have expressed your sympathy to all subpostmasters who were affected by Horizon related issues and, in particular, Mr Castleton.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You say that when you made the decision to terminate Mr Castleton’s contract, this was based on an understanding that the Horizon system was working as it should. Should we understand your evidence against that backdrop?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, please.

Ms Price: You also say in your statement that, during your time at the Post Office, you were reassured that the Horizon IT System was robust and working properly; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: That’s right, yes.

Ms Price: Who was it who was providing that reassurance?

Catherine Oglesby: I contacted several different places, so I was getting messages back from Fujitsu and from the Business Support Centre and the Horizon System Helpdesk.

Ms Price: Do you mean that in the specific sense of the Horizon system working properly in relation to Mr Castleton or, when you’re talking about reassurance that the system was robust and working properly, do you mean that more broadly?

Catherine Oglesby: Both, really. So during Mr Castleton’s case, I was contacting them to make sure everything was okay when Mr Castleton was asking me questions, and in the broader sense as well, through my career. Yes.

Ms Price: Starting, please, with your understanding of Mr Castleton’s contract with the Post Office, you say at paragraph 16 of your statement to the Inquiry that, when there was a loss, it was for the subpostmaster to make that loss good and, in your statement, you don’t qualify that.

Was it your understanding that a subpostmaster’s contract imposed an obligation on a subpostmaster to make good any loss, no matter the circumstances?

Catherine Oglesby: Could you just repeat the question in a different way then, please? I’m not really –

Ms Price: Of course, if you want to look at paragraph 16 of your statement to the Inquiry.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I’ve got that.

Ms Price: You say that, when there was a loss, it was for the subpostmaster to make that loss good.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You don’t, in that aspect of your statement, qualify that in any way. So my question is: was it your understanding that the contract imposed an obligation on a subpostmaster to make good any loss, no matter of the circumstances?

Catherine Oglesby: I think under some circumstances they wouldn’t be expected to make the loss good, so for instance, perhaps, a robbery, or something of that case, or a burglary, you know, if the money had been stolen in a robbery or a burglary.

Ms Price: Was the position adopted by the Post Office that apparent shortfalls, irrespective of how they came about, were the responsibility of subpostmasters to make good?

Catherine Oglesby: In their day-to-day working, yes.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 23 of your statement that the usual role of a Retail Line Manager, when a subpostmaster reported a loss, was limited to telling the subpostmaster to ring the Business Support Centre for advice.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: What was your understanding of what the Business Support Centre could do to assist the subpostmaster in these circumstances?

Catherine Oglesby: It would be to signpost them to try to help them find where the loss might have occurred. So maybe to go through and get them to check their stock again, get them to add the cash up, maybe contact Girobank and Savings Bank to see if any paperwork that had left the office was incorrect, maybe contact the Chesterfield department to see if there was an error notice pending, if anything had left the branch, to try to help them in finding where the error might be.

Ms Price: I appreciate that it is your evidence that you went beyond simply signposting Mr Castleton to the Business Support Centre but do you think that simply telling subpostmasters to ring the Business Support Centre was sufficient support from a line manager for subpostmasters dealing with losses?

Catherine Oglesby: Probably not, no, with hindsight.

Ms Price: You say at paragraph 26 of your statement that it was normal for most branches to have small losses and gains each week and even to have a large loss or gain from time to time when an error had occurred. By “error”, do you mean error on the part of subpostmasters or their staff?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I do. So that if they’d sent something that had left the office and that was incorrect, it would cause an error.

Ms Price: You also say at paragraph 26 of your statement that, where errors did not come to light, they were the responsibility of the subpostmaster to make good; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Should we take it from your evidence in this paragraph that, as far as you were concerned, unless an error on the part of the subpostmaster could be identified, the loss was taken to be the loss, and the subpostmaster was liable to pay that sum to the Post Office?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: In preparing your statement to the Inquiry about your involvement in Mr Castleton’s case, you have refreshed your memory from a document entitled “Marine Drive Post Office Summary of Events”. Can we have that document on screen, please. The reference is LCAS0000699.

Going, please, to the second page of that document. Is this a document that you prepared?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it is.

Ms Price: When did you produce it, and why?

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t exactly recall the exact date. I’ve looked through several times to see if there’s any hint at a date when I prepared it. I think I’ll have probably prepared it around about when I requested the audit, to make a summary of what was happening, so I called recall the events.

But I don’t know exactly, because I’ve not – I can’t remember and I haven’t put a date on it anywhere.

Ms Price: Is it right that you are reliant in your memory of events on this document, and it informed your witness statement prepared for the Inquiry?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You say here on the first page at the top that the first time Mr Castleton contacted you about issues at his branch was between Christmas and New Year 2003, to report a loss of £1,100; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: This was the first time Mr Castleton had experienced any major balancing issues since he’d taken over as subpostmaster the previous July?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, that’s in my notes there, yes.

Ms Price: He came to you to declare this apparent discrepancy, didn’t he?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, he did.

Ms Price: What did Mr Castleton say to you about the apparent shortfall?

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t remember the conversation because it’s obviously a long time ago. I can just refresh my memory from what I’ve written there, that he’d told me he was £1,100 short in his cash.

Ms Price: What suggestions did you make to Mr Castleton?

Catherine Oglesby: Quite a common error was when a branch was doing a business deposit, so a deposit for a business, they would deposit cash and cheques. It was only the cash figure that should be entered on to the Horizon system. The cheque figure just went off separately but, quite often, the customer would either add the cheques in or the branch would add the cheques in by mistake, and then that would create quite a large loss.

So, at that point, I told Mr Castleton to contact Girobank, which is where the – that sort of an error would come to account, National Savings, because those could be large amounts of deposits into people’s accounts, to see if anything could come to light and bring any light on the error.

Ms Price: Is it right that you also asked Mr Castleton to make the loss good as an error notice might take up to eight weeks to arrive?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, looking at my notes there, I did, yes.

Ms Price: So you were, in effect, advising him to accept the loss, sign off the accounts, even though he did not think they were accurate?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, he would have shown the 1,100 short in his account, so he would be signing to say he had a shortage in the account.

Ms Price: But you were encouraging him to make good on the basis that it would all come out in the wash with an error notice; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: That’s what I was hoping, yes.

Ms Price: On this occasion, Mr Castleton did make good the loss, didn’t he?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, he said he could make good the loss, yes.

Ms Price: Mr Castleton balanced fine for the next three weeks, you say in your note, something you noted on your visit to the branch on 16 January 2004.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, correct.

Ms Price: When you visited the branch and found that nothing had come to light to explain the apparent shortfall, did you take any steps to investigate this or ask anyone else to look into it?

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t remember doing so, no, but as it was only three weeks or so after the loss, the error notices could take a long time to come back, so I didn’t think anything untoward or anything at that point.

Ms Price: The next time Mr Castleton tried to balance, he found an apparent shortfall of over £4,000, and your advice was again to contact Girobank and Savings, wasn’t it, according to your note of events?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it was.

Ms Price: You also asked if the cash at the branch was kept secure and who had access to it.

Catherine Oglesby: Correct, yes.

Ms Price: Since Mr Castleton was unable, on this occasion, to make the amount good, you told him to contact the helpline to get a hardship form; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Was the purpose of this so that the amount of the apparent shortfall could be held in the suspense account while the matter was investigated –

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: – rather than Mr Castleton having to put the money in to balance and roll over into the next trading period?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, with the hardship fund, it gave the postmaster the opportunity to pay back the loss over a period of time, rather than all in one go and he could have deductions from remuneration, rather than making it good there and then.

Ms Price: You say you discussed ways to double check the work, leaving the office, and suggested to Mr Castleton that he perform a snapshot each evening and check the cash. Can you explain, please, what a snapshot was and why you were suggesting this?

Catherine Oglesby: So on the Horizon system you could print what we call a snapshot, which is as it sounds. It’s a print-off of everything that’s happened in the branch at that particular time. So up to that point, when you print a snapshot off, it lists everything that’s gone through the branch, all the pension dockets, all the giro business. It also prints what the system thinks the cash should be in the till because, obviously, the system, as you sell a stamp, it increases the cash, decreases the stock, as you do a Girobank deposit, it increases the cash and puts an entry on there.

So you could double check everything up to that point that you were doing, and it would give you a cash figure. So when you counted the cash that you physically had, if it matched the cash on the snapshot, you know you were balancing correctly.

If there was a difference between the cash you had and the snapshot, then you either had a gain or a shortfall, depending which way it was.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, document reference POL00071159. This is an email chain from June 2006. Can you see that, Ms Oglesby?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: It’s an email chain in the lead-up to the trial in the Castleton case, and about two-thirds of the way down the page is an email from Stephen Dilley to Vicky Harrison, a Contracts and Services Manager, and he’s seeking information following receipt of a letter from Mr Castleton’s solicitors. At point 2, at the bottom of the page there, he says:

“Castleton states that a complete set of balance snapshots for each day’s trading until the suspension was produced and removed from the branch by Cath. Am I right in thinking that:

“(a) balance snapshots are not a mandatory report so Castleton wouldn’t have had to print one for every day;

“(b) Castleton at this time not produce one for every day;

“(c) For Cath to have collected one for every day she would have had to attend the branch each day to print one off (because the data would have changed each minute of the each day so presumably you couldn’t attend the branch say once a week and print out historical balance snapshots);

“(d) Cath certainly wouldn’t have had the time to attend the branch every day; and

“(e) that the PO sent me those snapshots that Cath removed (in the red folder)?”

Going back, please, to page 1 to the top, please, this is Vicky Harrison replying to Stephen Dilley with you as a recipient as well. Looking, please, to the second paragraph of this email. Vicky Harrison says this:

“Looking at the events logs from the Horizon archive for Marine Drive which I also sent you, a balance snapshot was printed most days and some days more than once by both Christine and Lee throughout Jan to Mar ‘04. This report was not mandatory to be printed or retained, so they may well have printed it off and discarded it, as this is used as a rough guide to what the cash variances were compared to the cash on hand. I have never seen the balance snapshots and I don’t know about Cath taking them away. Cath do you remember taking these??”

It would appear from what Vicky Harrison says in this email, wouldn’t it, that, contrary to your recollection now, Mr Castleton did balance snapshots, did create balance snapshots most days and some days more than once, for the period January to March 2004; would you accept that?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, if that’s what it said on the event log.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, document reference POL00073661. This is an email from Vicky Harrison to Stephen Dilley, dated 7 December 2005. Scrolling down a bit, please, she says:

“Stephen, everyone has now replied to me and therefore this is a joint response to your questions:

“Questions 1 and 2 – Helen Rose did not take away any documentation and the forms that she completed on the day have been forwarded to your office by Stephen Hough. Cath took the cash accounts from the Branch and some snapshots, but she is unable to recall which ones. She also forwarded me some electronic documents which I have attached to the bottom of this email which you may or may not already have.”

So it would appear, on the basis of this email, that you took away at least some snapshots from the branch; do you recall doing that?

Catherine Oglesby: I only do from refreshing my memory from some of the documents and one of the interviews, where I discussed those snapshots with Mr Castleton at an interview, and they were noted in there. So yes, from that, I do. But I don’t know which ones.

Ms Price: Did you ever look at the balance snapshots to try to understand what Mr Castleton was saying about possible causes of the loss?

Catherine Oglesby: We looked at the snapshots in one of the interviews. But I don’t know –

Ms Price: Did you yourself – sorry to stop you there, before the interview, did you yourself look at the documents and try to do any analysis of them before you interviewed Mr Castleton?

Catherine Oglesby: I’ll have looked at them. I don’t think I’ll have tried to do any analysis, because the only figures that were in – that weren’t looking right was obviously the cash figure. All the other figures on the snapshot would have been things like the pensions, the Girobanks, the Green Giros. All of those, you know, will have been double checked because if they hadn’t, they’d have caused an error notice.

Ms Price: Did you consider copying the balance snapshots you had and returning them, given that you thought that these were important in terms of figuring out what had happened?

Catherine Oglesby: I think in the interview dated 10 May, everything was copied and given back to Mr Castleton but I don’t recall it because it’s such a long time ago.

Ms Price: Going back, please, to your summary of events, could we have this back on screen, please, it’s LCAS0000699. About halfway down, following your suggestion about balance snapshots, after Mr Castleton’s second apparent shortfall of over £4,000, you contacted Mr Castleton following the next balance, and there was an apparent shortfall of £2,500; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You say here that you had a long conversation about how to check the work. By that, do you mean checking Mr Castleton’s figures?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, and checking everything that was leaving the branch to make sure nothing was leaving incorrect.

Ms Price: Can you just clarify what you mean by that?

Catherine Oglesby: So at that time, there’d be things that would leave the branch on a daily basis. Things like any cheques that the branch had taken, any giro deposits, giro withdrawals, telephone accounts, Savings Bank deposits and withdrawals. All of those things left each evening. So it was making sure that nothing was leaving the branch that hadn’t had, you know, double check, and was correct.

Ms Price: You say here that you suggested the possibility that someone might be stealing the money, and Mr Castleton refuted that suggestion.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You suggested individual stock balancing.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: But Mr Castleton did not favour this as the office did not lend itself to individual stock balancing; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, that was Mr Castleton’s opinion. You could do an individual stock unit balance in any branch.

Ms Price: The next week, Mr Castleton had an apparent shortfall of £25 and, the week after, of £1,500. Those are the figures that you’ve put in your note. So, by this point, you say there was a cumulative shortfall of £8,243.10, not counting the £1,100 he had made good.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Your only further suggestion at this stage was to get a hardship form, at least in terms of what you’ve recorded here on your summary of events; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: I did ask him to get a hardship form, yes. I can’t recall if we discussed to do anything else.

Ms Price: About two-thirds of the way down the page you say this:

“At this point I was very concerned and contacted the Investigation team. They told me that as he had kept me fully informed of the loss then they would not be able to prove dishonesty.”

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: “I completed an audit request.”

What was it that you were so concerned about that led you to contact the Investigation Team who conduct criminal investigations.

Catherine Oglesby: I was looking for some help, I think, at that point and some advice, because of the large losses.

Ms Price: What evidence did you have that Mr Castleton had done anything criminal?

Catherine Oglesby: I didn’t have any evidence that he’d done anything criminal. I don’t think that was in my mind. I just wanted some – you know, some sort of help, really.

Ms Price: Was it usual for you or other Retail Line Managers to contact the Investigation Team before an audit had taken place?

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t think I’d contacted them before but I’d never had anybody with large losses before. I can’t speak for other Retail Line Managers but I don’t think I had contacted them before.

Ms Price: You spoke to someone from the Investigation Team. Did you speak on the phone?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I believe so.

Ms Price: What did you ask that person?

Catherine Oglesby: Unless it’s documented anywhere to recall, I can’t remember the conversation.

Ms Price: Can you recall what they said to you, and do refer to your summary of events if it helps. Is there anything over and above what you have recorded here that you remember?

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t remember anything over and above what I’ve put on there, sorry.

Ms Price: What was your reaction at the time to them saying that this was not a matter for criminal investigation?

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t recall, I’m sorry.

Ms Price: The next week, Mr Castleton was, you say, £3,509.18 short.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Then you say this, in your summary:

“Lee told me that himself and Chrissie his assistant had spent hours and hours checking and double checking transaction logs and work to try to prove that it was the computer equipment that was changing the figures. I asked him if he had founding anything. He hadn’t. He is convinced that since he had a processor changed around about the time that the losses started it is that that is causing the losses.”

Mr Castleton was, at this stage, clearly attributing the losses in the shortfall to the Horizon system, wasn’t he?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: You suggested he contact Horizon and get a system check; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Did the Post Office see it as any part of its role to raise concerns about the Horizon system with Fujitsu on its subpostmasters’ behalf?

Catherine Oglesby: I can only speak from my role as a Retail Line Manager, and we could also ring and ask for different, you know, checks to be done, but it wasn’t something that was in the forefront of my mind. To be honest, I wouldn’t have given it a thought. I had no idea that there would be any problem with Horizon.

Ms Price: Given what Mr Castleton was saying, did you consider at this stage contacting Fujitsu yourself, as opposed to directing him to contact Horizon himself?

Catherine Oglesby: I was just trying to look and see if that – I can’t see the timeline of when I actually contacted them but we didn’t have a direct contact to Fujitsu. We would have to go through the Business Support Centre or the Horizon System – the Horizon Helpdesk.

You didn’t have – there wasn’t a direct link, you know, to contact Fujitsu, and I’m not sure at what point I made those calls as well.

Ms Price: You say in your summary:

“I visited the office on Friday 27 February 2004.”

You say this:

“We went over everything again. Lee was very distressed and angry, Chrissie his assistant was very worked up, upset and angry. They felt they hadn’t received any help and had been left to try to prove that the computer was changing the cash figures. At times they looked close to tears and said they weren’t sleeping. On top of all this Lee’s son needed an operation and was going into hospital. The stress levels in the office were high …”

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Mr Castleton was at this stage questioning the checks which had been done by Fujitsu, wasn’t he?

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t see in my notes where it says that.

Ms Price: So we go down another paragraph:

“I asked them what … I could do to help. We had covered all the usual possibilities. Lee and Chrissie kept on that they had not taken the money and that I must be the Horizon kit. Lee said that the Horizon System Helpline had said that the checks had been okay, but what had they checked?”

Your response was for him to ring the Horizon helpline back. Again, at this stage, did you consider contacting Fujitsu on Mr Castleton’s behalf, particularly given how distressed you saw him to be?

Catherine Oglesby: I believe that I was also doing things in the background. I maybe haven’t documented on there but I know I’ve got things from the problem manager, you know, from Richard Benton, who had done all the checks and sent that to Fujitsu. I’d got emails back from the Business Support Centre, from Andrew Price and Andrew Wise, so I was doing things as well, and asking him, you know, Mr Castleton, to do things, as well, so that we were both doing things to try to find out.

Everything just kept coming back that everything was fine with the Horizon system.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen, please, document reference POL00071240. This is a record of your interview with Mr Castleton on 10 May 2004. Could we have page 3 of this document, please. About halfway down the page, Mr Castleton says:

“He said that no one had visited from Horizon to look at his problems and balances.”

Your response is this:

“CO Explained that Horizon would not attend his office due to poor balances, they would need evidence of a problem which he was unable to provide, she also mentioned that she had given him advice and spent hours and hours on this case and his cash accounts. She asked LC if he could show her a figure that the Horizon system had changed which did not make sense or could prove his allegations.”

What was the basis for the view you expressed here that Horizon – and by that we can take it to mean Fujitsu – would not attend Mr Castleton’s office due to poor balances, they would need evidence of a problem, which he was unable to provide?

Catherine Oglesby: If I remember correctly, I don’t think there was any people that would visit a branch from Fujitsu. That just wasn’t a possibility, if my understanding is correct.

Ms Price: Had you asked anyone from Fujitsu to attend Mr Castleton’s branch by this point?

Catherine Oglesby: I didn’t, as I said earlier, I didn’t have a direct contact with Fujitsu. I would have just gone via the Horizon Helpdesk.

Ms Price: So where do you think this understanding came from, that they would not attend in the circumstances of Mr Castleton’s case?

Catherine Oglesby: Just from my own experience. I’d never known anybody from Fujitsu to attend a branch for poor balancing.

Ms Price: But this was, you said earlier, the first large loss case that you had dealt with, wasn’t it?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: As far as you were aware, did anyone from the Post Office ever ask Fujitsu to send someone out to Mr Castleton’s branch to investigate what was going on?

Catherine Oglesby: Not that I’m aware, no.

Ms Price: Do you remember Anne Chambers, who gave a statement for and oral evidence at Mr Castleton’s trial?

Catherine Oglesby: I remember her name. I don’t actually remember the lady herself.

Ms Price: Mrs Chambers has given oral evidence to the Inquiry. Could we have the transcript of her evidence given on 27 September this year on screen, please. The reference is INQ00000980. Going, please, to page 14 of that document.

Catherine Oglesby: Are you able to make it any bigger, please?

Ms Price: Yes, if you just give is a moment I’ll help the RTS people zoom in.

Catherine Oglesby: That’s it.

Ms Price: So page 14 and what we’re looking for is the bottom of internal page 54, if we can zoom in a little bit more to make it easier for Ms Oglesby.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it’s quite big enough now, thank you.

Ms Price: Counsel to the Inquiry is asking Mrs Chambers about the limits on her investigations, and he asks this, at lines 20 to 22:

“So your investigation didn’t extent to whether there was a problem with the recording of the transactions beyond the extent that you’ve said?”

Mrs Chambers says this:

“There was no indication of any problem with the recording of the transactions that was visible to me, either when I looked in 2004, when obviously there was, you know, more files and things to look at …”

Then moving over to page 55, at line 18 Mrs Chambers says she could not see that without some way of knowing actually what had happened at the branch.

Counsel to the Inquiry says this, at line 21:

“One way of doing that would be to send somebody in on balancing day, for example –”

Mrs Chambers says:

“Yes, or just during normal processes.”

Counsel to the Inquiry:

“– and just watch the subpostmaster or their clerk do it?”

Then going to the right side of the page, the top of internal page 56:

“Yeah, and try to keep a record that you could check against at the end of the day. I mean, the postmaster had a lot of reports that had to be printed out at the end of the day, with totals on for pensions and various other things, and I believe that – but this is getting into business stuff, which wasn’t – I had less familiarity with, but they were meant to add up the dockets or counterfoils, or whatever they’d got, for various things and compare them against the totals on the reports, to make sure that what was on the system was consistent with the business that they had done.

“But there was something that I had no way of chose checking.”

The question from Counsel to the Inquiry is:

“Those are two things that could be done to seek to discover whether there was an underlying problem and, if so, what it was?”

The answer is:

“Absolutely, and it is possible that if those sort of checks had been done, it might have highlighted some sort of system problem. At the time, my view was that seemed very unlikely, but – or, you know, completely unlikely, completely impossible, but, in light of where we are now, who knows.”

So it seems from this that Fujitsu would not have required specific evidence of a system problem in order to visit Mr Castleton’s branch. Was that something that you – can you help us, knowing this, with why it was that you concluded that there would be a need for specific evidence of a system problem?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, I wasn’t aware that Fujitsu would visit a branch. That was – that’s maybe my naivety but I wasn’t aware of that, I hadn’t heard of that at any other branch but, as you say, this was the only one that I was dealing with, with high losses. The things about the checks around the pensions and that the lady’s talking about there, those were the things we spoke about earlier when I suggested that everything was double checked against the reports before it left the branch.

Those were the things that Mr Castleton and I discussed him doing before it actually left the branch every day, and he never – I think in all my notes that I’ve made – he never found one error, you know, that the system was making that didn’t correspond with the summary.

Ms Price: Do you accept that someone from Fujitsu going out to the branch was something which should at least have been explored by the Post Office in the very unusual circumstances of Mr Castleton’s case?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, with hindsight, I think, yes, it should have been.

Ms Price: Going back, please, to your summary of events and if we can have that back on screen, please, LCAS0000699, page 3., and scrolling down a little, please. We can see your summary here of the fact that the apparent shortfalls or apparent losses kept accumulating. Then an audit happens on 23 March 2004 –

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: – and that’s exactly it, the penultimate paragraph there.

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: At the bottom of the page, you discuss your decision to suspend Mr Castleton on the same day as the audit. What was your reasoning for suspending Mr Castleton at that point?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, the losses were – we couldn’t explain the losses. Obviously, Lee was upset, and I – the only explanation Mr Castleton was coming back with was that it was the Horizon equipment. So I really wanted to try to take him and his staff out of the equation and put somebody else in there to see how the branch would balance, to see if it carried on or if it stopped.

I wanted to, you know, safeguard Post Office funds, as well. We were at a lot of money at this point.

Ms Price: The temporary subpostmaster who was put in place at that stage was Ruth Simpson; is that right?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, it is.

Ms Price: So going over the page, please. You say about three paragraphs down:

“I asked a very experienced postmaster if she would run the office on a temp basis.”

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Ms Price: Did you know Ruth Simpson before you asked her to take up this position?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes. First Lane post office was one of the branches in my area, so she was a postmaster in my area.

Ms Price: Going, please, to the top of page 5 of this document, after Mrs Simpson has spent some time in situ, at the top of the page, you approach the Investigation Team for a second time, and you say this:

“I spoke to Paul Whitaker from the Investigation Team again. He said that they didn’t wish to take on the case or interview the [postmaster] as he had kept me fully informed of the situation on a weekly basis. Again, he said that they needed to prove dishonesty and being able to prove this looked unlikely.”

Why did you raise the question of potential criminality with the Investigation Team again?

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t remember the exact conversation but I will have been looking for some support or help from somewhere, I will have been speaking to the Contracts team and my line manager, as well the Investigation Team. So I was looking for some support, really, and some guidance.

Ms Price: The Investigation Team said, again, that they didn’t think it was a criminal matter. After this, Greg Booth took over as a temporary subpostmaster, didn’t he? Can you remember why there was that change from Ruth Simpson to Greg Booth?

Catherine Oglesby: Ruth had her own branch and I think she could only commit to a few weeks and – so she could only commit to a few weeks, so I needed to find somebody else.

Ms Price: Based on the account that you’ve included in this summary, it’s right, isn’t it, that both temporary subpostmasters, Ms Simpson and Mr Booth, had some balancing issues, albeit that they were small discrepancies? Take time to look back at your summary, if you need to.

Catherine Oglesby: I’ve written another note here. Yes, they had shortages and gains, over the weeks that they were there.

Ms Price: Could we have on screen please document reference POL00071234, and it’s page 14 of that document, please. This is a letter to you and Mrs Joyce, dated 28 April 2004, from Mr Castleton, and if we just go to the – well, we see the “L Castleton” at the top.

I think you’ve seen this document before, but the last page is page 17 of that document, please. Scrolling to the bottom and we can see there that it’s from Lee Castleton.

Going back to the first page, please, towards the bottom, Mr Castleton says this, starting on the bottom line:

“But would like to know whether these losses actually exist or if as I believe they are a figment of a computer’s imagination.”

Then he requested a number of things relating to Horizon. So we have at 1:

“A full list of all software updates since January 2004 to now, 28 April ‘04 …

“2. List of all calls to Horizon and NBSC from this office, since 16 January 2004 …

“3. List of all calls to Horizon and NBSC from any office in relation to computer balance problems that seem unexplained.

“4. List of any Horizon problems which are either ongoing or have been dealt with including suspense account problems. What action was taken and description of the work.”

Then over the page, please:

“5. A detailed list of the requirements of an RLM in such a case …

“6. Contractual obligations of Horizon with respect to how and when Horizon should act when a fault on the system is suspected.

“7. What action is taken with data at ‘Clear Desktop’ within Horizon …

“8. … detailed breakdown of what is checked during a Horizon system check when system checks have been done on machines.”

Further information sought there on system checks:

“9. List of BT line faults …

“10. I would also like to know if the computer system has been off over the period of my suspension. The reason for them being off. The actions taken …”

Just going over to the final page for completeness:

“Any software changes or repairs required to bring the system online again.”

Your response to Mr Castleton is at page 18 of this document. Scrolling down a little, please, from you. Going up again, please to Mr Castleton, 6 May 2004, including a number of documents. But it’s right, isn’t it, that you didn’t provide Mr Castleton with all of the items he requested in his letter?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, that’s right.

Ms Price: With the benefit of hindsight, do you accept that the Post Office should have asked Fujitsu to provide the evidence that Mr Castleton was asking for?

Catherine Oglesby: I think I did ask for it but I just didn’t receive it to be able to pass it to him and, yes, I do agree we should have.

Ms Price: Again, with the benefit of hindsight, do you think it was the wrong choice to dismiss him before the questions he had about Horizon had been answered?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, the decision to dismiss him – because I’d put people into the branch and there were no real – I know there were small losses and gains but that’s something you would expect in any branch, I based, you know, part of my decision on that the Horizon system was working and was robust. I had no reason to believe it wasn’t. With hindsight now, then maybe it was premature.

Ms Price: You set out the reasons for the termination of Mr Castleton’s contract, or a summary of those at least, on the last page of your summary document. If we can have that back on screen, please, it’s LCAS0000699.

It’s the penultimate page, in fact, because the last page is blank. About two-thirds of the way down the page, you say, under the heading “Monday 10 May 2004, RTU interview”:

“At the interview Lee could only give one explanation for the losses at his office and that was computer software problems. He did not provide any instances where the figures on his cash accounts were incorrect, it was always the cash figure that didn’t match. He asked me to explain the discrepancies at the top of his final balances.”

You go on to say:

“I sent copies to Liz Morgan and Davlyn Cumberland in Leeds, two very experienced suspense account people. They helped me with the wording for my explanation. I sent a letter to Lee on Friday 14 May, plus the interview notes. Both Liz and Davlyn could not see anything wrong with the way the computers were working.”

You say:

“I discussed the whole case with my HOA …”

Can you just clarify what that acronym is?

Catherine Oglesby: Head of Area, my line manager.

Ms Price: “… throughout.

“My decision is to summary terminate Lee Castleton’s contract for services.”

What did you think had happened to the money represented by this shortfall?

Catherine Oglesby: I didn’t know where the money had gone and that’s why we were trying to look at every aspect of, you know, where it could have gone. Just an unexplained loss. It could have been somebody, you know, taking the money, not necessarily Mr Castleton. It could have been, you know, the – they were doing a really large giro business deposit from a car auction, and I know that the customer would leave a lot of money there in the branch. You know, that might have been the source of it. We talked about that previously, making sure that was correct, and things like that.

So I didn’t know where the cash had gone. I’d suggested lots of things to try to narrow it down, which Mr Castleton hadn’t wanted to do, like the individual balancing. I’d put people in the branch to try to prove to us both, really, that the Horizon system was working correctly. So it was just unexplained losses. So I didn’t know exactly where the money had gone.

Ms Price: So was it your view that there was a loss? Did you find that, as a matter of fact, before you terminated Mr Castleton’s contract?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, it was a matter of fact that the money was missing, so there was a loss.

Ms Price: When it came to the civil proceedings brought by the Post Office against Mr Castleton, you provided a witness statement. Could we have that on screen, please. It’s POL00107117, and it’s paragraph 9 of that statement, please. You say:

“At the material time, the subpostmaster also had to balance the physical cash and stock against the cash and stock shown on the computers on a weekly basis and produce a Cash Account. The Cash Account contained information such as cash and stock in hand at the end of that week, receipts, payments, the balance due to the Post Office and whether there were any discrepancies such as a surplus or shortfall. The subpostmaster had to sign the Cash Account and of course should not have done so unless it was accurate.”

It’s right, isn’t it, that subpostmasters might well dispute apparent discrepancies appearing on a final balance but still roll over into the next trading period to enable them to carry on trading? Did you come across that?

Catherine Oglesby: They would declare their loss or the gain, though, and they’re signing with the loss or the gain on the account.

Ms Price: But the case being run by the Post Office against Mr Castleton was that the act of doing that, of signing and rolling over, was an acceptance that the accounts were correct, and you say here:

“The subpostmaster had to sign the Cash Account and of course should not have done so unless it was accurate.”

But because error notices took time to come through, there might well be occasions where cash accounts were confirmed and a subpostmaster rolled over to allow them to continue trading, when they didn’t accept there was a discrepancy; do you see that?

Catherine Oglesby: I can see what you’re saying but they would declare the loss or the gain on the account and then sign and roll over. Is that what you’re saying? So they would do that, yes, but the loss or the gain would be listed, you know, on the account.

Ms Price: So if the subpostmaster doesn’t think that there is a loss, they’re not accepting the discrepancy that’s there on the draft, if we can put it in that way, accounts. They don’t agree that there is a discrepancy. There might be an error notice out there, there might not, but they don’t agree with that discrepancy. What you’re saying here is the subpostmaster had to sign the cash account and, of course, he should not have done so unless it was accurate.

There were often times, weren’t there, when subpostmasters would not think a discrepancy was accurate and there was an error notice in the pipeline or another reason, but they had to roll over, didn’t they, to carry on into the next trading period?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, but they’d still be signing the account to say that that was accurate, the cash and stock was accurate and, at that point in time, there was also a discrepancy. So that would be a loss or a gain. So they’re signing the account, you know, to say that’s accurate at that point, with the loss or the gain in there.

Ms Price: What would have had happened if Mr Castleton had refused to sign the cash account which showed the loss or the apparent loss?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, nothing would have happened that I could think of.

Ms Price: Would he have been able to roll over into the next trading period?

Catherine Oglesby: Without signing, yes, it would, yeah, he would still roll the – he would still roll the branch over into the next period. It’s only a signature on a document. You could still physically do that on the machine.

Ms Price: Sir, those are the questions that I have for Ms Oglesby. I’ll turn now to Core Participants to see if there are any questions.

Mr Henry has some questions, sir.

Questioned by Mr Henry

Mr Henry: Ms Oglesby, in the past, subpostmasters were prosecuted on data, in other words the books, they had generated and were responsible for, which they had constructed and signed off themselves, and were indisputably accountable for. You agree with that, don’t you, before Horizon?

Catherine Oglesby: Oh, before Horizon? Yes, it was a book.

Mr Henry: Yes. Now they were being judged on data generated by Horizon, which they could not interrogate or control, correct?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, they could check the documentation that Horizon then would be summarising, so that all the documentation could be cross-referenced against the figures on Horizon.

Mr Henry: But they were not in control of it?

Catherine Oglesby: Could you explain what you mean, please?

Mr Henry: Well, it was generated by Horizon itself and they could not check how Horizon performed the calculations.

Catherine Oglesby: But they could check – so if we just take an example, say the pension dockets, there would be a counterfoil for each pension that would have been inputted into Horizon, and then the total on Horizon for the pensions you could physically add up – as we used to do before Horizon, physically add them up and cross-reference them with the figure on Horizon, so you could double check all of the entries.

Mr Henry: But you’re assuming that the system is bug, error and defect free when saying that, aren’t you?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I am, yes.

Mr Henry: I’ll move on. Janet Skinner, paragraph 89 of your witness statement – you recognise the name Janet Skinner, didn’t you?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I do.

Mr Henry: She worked in your area for years and, in fact, you were her Area Manager at one time, weren’t you?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I was.

Mr Henry: You knew that she was an experienced subpostmaster?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, she was an employee, I believe.

Mr Henry: Well, she was experienced and well regarded. You knew that?

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t know how long – I can’t remember because it’s quite some time ago, how long she’d worked there, but I just know that I knew the name Janet Skinner and she had been in my area at one of the branches. I couldn’t recall which one now but I did know her.

Mr Henry: Fine. She was dismissed and prosecuted in May 2006 and you were aware of that, weren’t you?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, I was aware of it. I didn’t know the details of the case.

Mr Henry: As RLM in that general area, you would have also become aware that the temporary SPM who came after her, just like Mrs Skinner before her, was investigated for stealing money. Do you remember that? Wendy Lyle(?).

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t, I’m sorry. The name doesn’t ring a bell at all with me.

Mr Henry: Well, the person who replaced Janet Skinner was arrested for theft. So you had an experienced member of staff, Janet Skinner, who’d suddenly incurred large losses and was arrested, and then you had her replacement, Wendy Lyle, who also incurred large losses and was arrested. Did that cause you to think that there might be something wrong with the system?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, you say I knew all of this, but I wasn’t – I’d moved roles in 2005, so I don’t I can’t recall, you know, knowing that information.

Mr Henry: I mean, you earlier accepted that you did know that Janet Skinner had been prosecuted. You didn’t think that this was worth mentioning when you gave evidence against Lee Castleton in December 2006, did you?

Catherine Oglesby: I don’t know at what point I became aware, whether I would – you know, this is going back some 20 years. I don’t know whether I would have known at that point or not. So I wouldn’t like to say. If I’d have known, then I would have mentioned it, so I’m presuming I didn’t know.

Mr Henry: I want to just briefly touch on the witness statement. No need to put it up but do you not recall that at paragraph 53 of your witness statement, which was page 15 of the statement that you filed in that case, you said the following:

“Since Mr Castleton has been suspended the temporary subpostmasters had worked with exactly the same Horizon kit and the balance had continued to be fine each day within expected parameters. Mr Castleton had not given any credible explanation for the unauthorised shortfalls. In these circumstances I decided to terminate summarily.”

That wasn’t accurate, was it?

Catherine Oglesby: Which part?

Mr Henry: Well, we know, don’t we, that Mrs Simpson was having difficulties and there were shortfalls, weren’t there, and there were discrepancies above and below the line, weren’t there?

Catherine Oglesby: Mrs Simpson wasn’t having difficulties. She had one particular error of £100, which she did have an explanation for, which was –

Mr Henry: Sorry, you carry on, please.

Catherine Oglesby: – which she thought her staff member had left an amount in the stack on Horizon and paid it out a second time, which she’d previously done, I believe, at her own branch. All the others were – all the other losses and gains that I’ve noted were sort of under the £20 limit, really, and some were over and some were short.

Mr Henry: She didn’t process the Lottery transactions, even though they were there from her first day, did she?

Catherine Oglesby: Unless you can show me my notes, I don’t recall, I’m sorry.

Mr Henry: Well, I’m under some pressure of time, so if I might just ask you to recall this. She didn’t use Horizon until 11.30 am on 1 April 2004, did she?

Catherine Oglesby: I’m sorry, that’s going back –

Mr Henry: Because of a crash. It crashed. Do you not recall her saying that it had to be rebooted, and then she offered a different explanation, so a mutually inconsistent explanation, that it hadn’t crashed but that she just decided to work manually.

Catherine Oglesby: I can’t recall that, I’m sorry.

Mr Henry: I suggest that there were evident problems with Horizon when Ruth Simpson took over and no one was being frank about it; isn’t that right?

Catherine Oglesby: No, I don’t agree.

Mr Henry: Could I ask you, please, to consider the answers you’ve given to Counsel to the Inquiry, and I’m going to ask if you might have been displaying a degree of bias against Mr Castleton and that you actually thought that he was dishonest. What do you have to say to that?

Catherine Oglesby: No, I didn’t think he was dishonest. I was trying to find an explanation and help and support him to try to find where the errors were.

Mr Henry: Why did you speak to Mr Paul Whitaker twice in the Criminal Investigation team; why did you speak to Mr Paul Whitaker twice?

Catherine Oglesby: To try to get some support because, obviously, I was very concerned at the losses. So it was to try to get some help and support for that.

Mr Henry: But you wouldn’t go to the criminal Investigation Team for that, particularly since he had told you emphatically that Mr Castleton was not dishonest, that he had been frank about the losses and had brought them to you – correct – and he said that to you on two occasions?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes, he did.

Mr Henry: Right. What I’m going to suggest is that it would have far better suited your narrative, made it a lot easier for you, if Mr Castleton was dishonest, Horizon was robust and you could have got a confiscation order against him in the criminal courts. Isn’t that the truth? That’s the way you were thinking at the time?

Catherine Oglesby: I was – I didn’t think for one minute that the Horizon system wasn’t robust. Every time I’d asked anybody to check anything, everything came back that the Horizon system was fine. So I was trying to help Mr Castleton and try and find out where – and get help from other people, you know, in the business.

Mr Henry: You see, what you ought to have done, rather than calling the Criminal Investigation Team, was to bombard Fujitsu with requests. That’s what you ought to have done, Mrs Oglesby. Don’t you accept that now?

Catherine Oglesby: With hindsight, yes, probably.

Mr Henry: So I put it to you again that the reason why you twice contacted the Criminal Investigation Team was because you hoped you could persuade them to take on this case?

Catherine Oglesby: I was looking for help and support. That’s why I contacted them.

Mr Henry: That’s your answer?

Catherine Oglesby: Yes.

Mr Henry: Right. Can I ask you, please, to just deal with paperwork. Did you not remove paperwork from Mr Castleton during his suspension – balance snapshots, transactional logs – purportedly to get them analysed; do you remember that?

Catherine Oglesby: I believe I took them at the audit. Unless I’ve made a note for when I took them, I think I took some at the audit.

Mr Henry: He did exactly as you’d suggested, contrary to what you say in paragraph 60 of your statement to the Inquiry. He did exactly as you suggested. He took repeated snapshots, balance snapshots, he also annotated transactional logs and they were taken away by you, weren’t they?

Catherine Oglesby: I did take some balances and some snapshots, which we discussed at his interview on 10 May and which I gave him copies back of and that’s stated in there.

Mr Henry: I suggest that’s not true. You did not give him back copies and they were never returned to him. Your memory is playing tricks.

Catherine Oglesby: I’m just – if you can just have a moment to find the notes from the interview, that’s all I’m going on, is the notes there. Just a second. I might have a …

I’m just looking at the notes of 10 May; I won’t be a moment. I’m sure it says on there that we discussed them and copies were given. Yes, it does. It says:

“We went on in detail to discuss the balances, error notices, snapshots, and cash declarations. Copies of all this information is provided with a list of all the results of the balance.”

So that’s what I was going on there.

Mr Henry: That was not provided to him. That was provided to you. You were provided with his originals and they were never returned.

Catherine Oglesby: Well, my understanding was he got copies of those, and then the originals were put in the file and given as part of the appeal process. Everything was put together.

Mr Henry: Ms Oglesby, this is the subject of a complaint by him – subject of a complaint by him that he hadn’t had the material returned to him and that it hamstrung his action against the Post Office; don’t you recall that?

Catherine Oglesby: Well, my understanding is that he got copies of that.

Mr Henry: I see. I ask you no further questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: Does anyone else wish to ask any questions?

Ms Price: No, sir, no further questions from Core Participants.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right.

Well, thank you, Mrs Oglesby, for making your written statement and for answering questions from Ms Price and Mr Henry.

That concludes, I believe, today’s business, yes, Ms Price?

Ms Price: Yes, sir, we return tomorrow at 10.00 for Tony Utting.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, all right. Thank you very much, everyone.

Ms Price: Thank you, sir.

(4.29 pm)

(The hearing adjourned until 10.00 am the following day)