Official hearing page

17 November 2023 – Anthony Utting

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( 10.00 am)

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

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

Mr Beer: May I call Anthony Utting, please.

Anthony Utting


Questioned by Mr Beer

Mr Beer: Thank you. Good morning, Mr Utting, my name is Jason Beer and I ask questions on behalf of the Inquiry. Can you give us your full name, please?

Anthony Utting: Anthony Richard Utting.

Mr Beer: Thank you. Thank you for giving evidence to the Inquiry today and for the provision of a witness statement to the Inquiry. You should have a copy of that witness statement in the bundle in front of you. It’s 25 pages in length, dated 23 October 2023. Can you take that out, please, in volume 1 at tab A1. If you turn to page 25, you should see a signature.

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Is that your signature?

Anthony Utting: It is.

Mr Beer: Are the contents of that statement true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

Anthony Utting: They are, yes.

Mr Beer: Thank you. The URN for that – the document needn’t be displayed – is WITN08200100 and a copy of it will be uploaded to the Inquiry’s website. I’m, therefore, not going to ask you questions about everything that’s in it, just selected parts of it. Can I start, please, with your professional background. You joined the Post Office in January 1986; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: You left the Post Office in 2007 –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – when you joined Royal Mail Marketing; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: A job that you, in turn, left in 2017?

Anthony Utting: I had six several jobs in marketing but, yes, I left the business in 2017.

Mr Beer: If you could just come forward a little bit and make sure you keep your voice up so the microphone picks up everything you say, please, Mr Utting.

So in terms of the period between 1986 and 2007, if we just break that down, I think you started working on the counters; is that right?

Anthony Utting: That’s right, yes.

Mr Beer: In post offices?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: In 1990, you joined the investigations team; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I had a short period in personnel when I first came off the counters then I joined the investigations team.

Mr Beer: That was initially, you say in your witness statement, as a Postal Officer. What was a Postal Officer in the Investigation Team?

Anthony Utting: So a Postal Officer was the same grade as I was when I was on the counter. My role in the Investigation Team was really to collate loss reports. So we used to get every loss claimed down from Customer Services and we used to put them onto a spreadsheet, a software package called RapidFile, and then at the end of every month we used to produce a monthly report.

So this was all Royal Mail and it was basically to look at where certain types of mail were going missing across the district that I worked at.

Mr Beer: Then eventually you became an Investigation Manager; is that right?

Anthony Utting: I was Acting Investigation Manager. I was on temporary propose from about mid-‘92, beginning of ‘92, I think it was, then I joined POID.

Mr Beer: You joined POID, the Post Office Investigation Department, in 1993; is that right?

Anthony Utting: I think it was ‘92, I’m not sure.

Mr Beer: In your statement it says ‘93 but I won’t quibble with you over that.

Anthony Utting: Right.

Mr Beer: In ‘95 or ‘96 you joined Royal Mail Security as a Security and Investigations Manager; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, it was the same job but POID was being disbanded so, instead of working for Corporate Centre where we’d been, we just merged into the business unit we were working at, at the time.

Mr Beer: In 1999 you move to the Post Office as an Investigation Manager; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: In 2001 you were appointed an Investigation Team Leader?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: At some point thereafter, I don’t think you can remember the precise date or even year, you became Policy and Standards Manager?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, when I became a team leader I went off on a project for a year to develop the Post Office Card Account, and, when I came back, shortly afterwards I became Policy and Standards Manager but I’m not entirely sure when that was.

Mr Beer: That would make it about 2002; would that be right?

Anthony Utting: It was probably middle of 2002.

Mr Beer: Then in 2004 you became the National Internal Crime and Investigations Manager?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: You stayed in that role until you moved over to Royal Mail in 2007, albeit in early 2007 you took charge of what was called the commercial security and mails integrity element of the role; is that right?

Anthony Utting: So that was always part of my role when I was National Investigations Manager. When John Scott took over as Head of Security he split the role and I got given the commercial security and mails integrity part and stopped doing anything to do with investigations.

Mr Beer: So from that time, early 2007 onwards, you weren’t concerned with the investigation of the type of alleged crime that we’re concerned with in this Inquiry; is that right?

Anthony Utting: I wasn’t concerned with the investigation of any crime. I was removed completely from that area of the business.

Mr Beer: From early 2007?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: So looking at the period from 1999 onwards, when you moved to the Post Office as an Investigation Manager, until early 2007, which is really our relevant period for you, did you conduct any investigations yourself?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: How many investigations would you yourself conduct a year, for example?

Anthony Utting: When I first started, obviously when I’ve joined the Post Office, we still paid benefits via benefit books and Green Giro cheques, and there was quite a lot of fraud in that space. And I probably investigated seven or eight cases a year of that nature. Then with audit shortages we would only get involved if we were called because somebody went to a post office or the auditors found something.

We had things like pension overstatements, giro suppressions. I would imagine I probably dealt with – because it was always fluid, so you had cases at different stages of maturity. On any one time, I probably had 10 to 15 cases on the books.

Mr Beer: You were described from 2004 onwards as the National Internal Crime and Investigations Manager. Did you manage a team?

Anthony Utting: The whole team.

Mr Beer: How many people were in the team?

Anthony Utting: I think when we started we had 65 and, when we did the last reorganisation, I think it was down to about 45.

Mr Beer: Why was there a reduction?

Anthony Utting: Cost.

Mr Beer: Did that have an impact on the number of investigations you were able to carry out?

Anthony Utting: Oh, yeah, yeah. We changed the trigger points upwards. I told the business what we would be doing and why we wouldn’t be able to sustain the effort that we’d put in previously. Obviously, less people means less capacity and, therefore, we raised the triggered points and set up less cases.

We also had to bear in mind that with the removal of pension books and Giro cheques the fraud on the counter was going to change considerably and pension allowance fraud cases took an awful lot of time and, generally, ended up with trials at Crown Court. And with those going, there was – it was like a balancing act between how much work was going to drop off to how much resource we could remove.

Mr Beer: You mentioned a couple of times there “trigger points”. Can you explain to the Chairman what a trigger point is?

Anthony Utting: So when – when I was Policy and Standards Manager we wrote a document that basically listed all of the types of crime or loss that could occur at a branch and we set – based on the seriousness of what it was, we would set a trigger point to the amount – the monetary value that we would get involved with.

So we didn’t set trigger points on anything really, other than the amount of the loss, because, obviously, we cost money to use and, therefore, we would set a trigger point based on the nature of the crime and the value of loss, as to whether we would get involved or not.

Mr Beer: So for alleged crime X, Investigations Department won’t investigate –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – unless the value of the alleged loss is Y or above Y –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – which might be £10,000/£20,000?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, if it was a branch office and it was a single counter till and somebody had a £500 loss that was completely unexplainable, then we might go straight out and do what we called an open inquiry, which was basically go to the office, interview people and see what you could establish and then go away again.

If it was something like an audit shortage the triggers were much higher because the business had its own processes in place, in relation to subpostmaster’s contract that unless it was –

Mr Beer: Sorry, if you could slow down a little bit, please. I’m getting the thumbs up from the transcriber there. You speak very quickly and I’ve asked you a series of relatively open questions and you’ve given us very full answers, for which I’m grateful, but if you slow down little bit because everything you say has to be typed up, as you say it.

Anthony Utting: That’s fine.

Mr Beer: So just going back to the trigger points, you said that with the reduction in numbers of staff from 65, roughly, at the beginning, until 45, roughly, at the end of your period of tenure, that caused you to raise the trigger points; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can you give us a general impression, for this period, say end ‘99 until early 2007, you were an Investigator and a Manager of Investigators –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – what was it like, working within the Post Office in that period?

Anthony Utting: So the Investigation Team was quite detached from the business because, obviously, the nature of what we did didn’t always make us popular with people. So we were always seen as the – they used to describe us as a necessary evil on occasion.

Mr Beer: Just slow it down again.

Anthony Utting: Sorry.

Mr Beer: Who would describe you – who is the “they” in that sentence – as a “necessary evil”?

Anthony Utting: So the senior people that we discussed it with, people like the Federation of SubPostmasters. We used to meet with Colin Baker and a guy called John and a lady – and I can’t remember her name – periodically, and they all understood what we did and why we were necessary but that didn’t make us popular.

And in the wider business, obviously a lot of people in Post Office, in the administration function, had previously worked on the counter, and the ID, as we were called, when you’re on the counter, we’re those nasty people that come and give you a hard time if you have a loss.

So we weren’t loved by everybody. But from the Post Office perspective, the business was becoming much less of the old style Post Office, as knew when I was on the counter, and much more of a finance-orientated organisation.

Mr Beer: Can you expand on that what you mean?

Anthony Utting: It just – obviously, the Post Office was losing money and, obviously, I’m probably not qualified to – I was the Investigation Manager, but the Post Office was becoming much more cost conscious so, at every opportunity, if they could take out cost, then they would do so and there was also a drive to be much more formal in relation to postmaster contracts and recovering losses and that sort of thing.

It became a much less friendly organisation, where everyone felt part of a family, and much more a quite stern business and it was much more contract related.

We used to have quite a difficult time with Fujitsu around Horizon and they used to always create the contract and the commercials, and if we wanted to the business to do anything, then it was always about how much it was going to cost to do and everything else, and that wasn’t always the case previously. And there’s good reasons for doing things that way but it just meant that the Post Office changed.

Mr Beer: What did that change in this period, what effect did that have on the nature of the work that you were undertaking in investigations?

Anthony Utting: It didn’t have a massive effect, other than the fact that, when I took over, we had a certain number of cases on hand amongst the Investigators and, obviously, with the amount of resource reducing –

Mr Beer: Just slow down.

Anthony Utting: Sorry. With the amount of resource we had being cut, I set a drive in place and said all of the old cases that we’ve got need to be closed, and got it quite strict with the Investigators and told them that every case had to be shut that was over six months old, unless there was a good reason not to, which made me even less popular with the Investigators.

But, ultimately, if you’re managing to cost, there’s only so much you can do and the Investigators had massive workloads and we needed to make sure that it wasn’t ridiculously so.

Mr Beer: This drive – I think you, amongst the things you said, included a drive to not only cut cost in the expenditure of resource on investigations but also in the recovery of money from subpostmasters?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think it was just subpostmasters; it was any loss that the business incurred, they were becoming much more inclined to pursue it. We introduced financial investigations under my control, and part of that was to aid our ability to recover monies more quickly, when criminal offences had been committed.

Mr Beer: When were financial investigations instituted. I mean, in what year, rather than –

Anthony Utting: It was either very late 2004/2005. We were talking about it at the time that Phil Gerrish left and I took over, but it actually kicked off while I was in charge.

Mr Beer: Was that to carry into effect the desire from senior management to recover as much money as was possible from subpostmasters?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think it was so much a drive from senior management; I think it was instigated by us, on the basis that the police were doing it, the DWP, who we worked very closely in relation to pension frauds, were doing it. And when we’d worked with the DWP we’d met a police Financial Investigator and he’d pretty much offered up – if the Post Office was prepared to pay the salary, the police would give us an embedded Financial Investigator.

Because we were more – the Post Office were not minded to recruit from external sources at that stage because they were trying to cut resource, so we spoke to them and we said “Well, what about if we train our own?” And we spoke to the Assets Recovery Agency and they said “Yeah, we can train them”, and I think the DWP went the same way.

So we employed – well, we didn’t employ financial – we trained some of our own Investigators to become Financial Investigators.

Mr Beer: Were the majority of the Investigators in the ID, like you, former counter staff?

Anthony Utting: We had a mixture. So we had guys that were ex-police, we had guys that were ex-forces. We had people that had come in from outside the business. I would say the people we recruited more latterly tended to be Post Office because the Post Office didn’t want to recruit externally at the same time they were making people redundant internally.

So I think more latterly, it was mostly internal, while I was there. I think after I’d left it changed again.

Mr Beer: Thank you.

Can we turn to the next topic, please, which is the production of Post Office policies, concerning investigations and prosecutions. So this is focusing on the time in particular when you were Policy and Standards Manager. That’s from 2002, we’ve established, I think, until 2004. What was the nature of your role as Policy and Standards Manager.

Anthony Utting: So it was two-fold. One was looking at the internal policies of Post Office and how they related to the role that we had, and the other one was looking at the security and investigation policies that came from Security and Investigation Services, and being the business lead in Post Office Limited to make sure that they worked for us and that we abided by what was being set by them.

Mr Beer: Was it a policy writing function or did part of your role include ensuring compliance with policy?

Anthony Utting: It was more a writing and management. The policies were distributed amongst all of the investigation teams, and it was the responsibility of the team leaders and the operations lead to ensure the policies were being complied with. So I was almost the person that wrote the stuff; I wasn’t the guy that managed it and policed it within the business.

Mr Beer: Thank you. Can we look at some examples, please. These will come up on the screen for you, and start, please, with POL00039960.

We can see the title of the policy “Investigation and Prosecution Policy”. If we scroll to the foot of the page, if we just keep going, we can see that it’s dated February 2003 and, therefore, is in the relevant period that we’re looking at: some point in 2002 until 2004.

If we can turn to the second page, please, and scroll down, please, we can see that the author is said to be the “Law and Legislation Programme Manager”.

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Can you remember who that was and where they sat in the business?

Anthony Utting: I’m not 100 per cent. I think that was actually John Messenger, who is the final review.

Mr Beer: The final reviewer, at the bottom of the page?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, it may be him, it may be someone who worked under him. John was the person that I liaised with around these policies at that time.

Mr Beer: In which department did John work?

Anthony Utting: He worked for Security and Investigation Services, so he was part of Andrew Wilson’s central Security team.

Mr Beer: We can see that that under “Assurance Details” your name appears?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can you tell us what does the title “Assurance” or the appearance of you as having given assurance for a document or a policy like this mean?

Anthony Utting: It would mean that I’d read it, ensured that it was suitable for us in Post Office Limited and then I would sign it off on behalf of Tony Marsh to say that this policy would apply to our investigations.

Mr Beer: How would you carry out that role or discharge that responsibility?

Anthony Utting: So I was really just looking at the policy to ensure that it was still current. A lot of these policies, they weren’t written on the spot; they were probably reiterations of older policies and they were just being updated every year. So I would read them through and make sure they were still current and applicable in Post Office Limited, sign them off, and then there would either be a circular from Corporate Security or, if they didn’t send a circular, we would send a circular out to our Investigators to update them on what the policy now said.

Mr Beer: If we go back to page 1, please. We can see the purpose of the policy set out at the top:

“The aim of this policy is to set out the criteria against which we investigate crimes and suspect crimes committed against our Business and also define when actions proceed under criminal law.”

Then scrolling down “Introduction”:

“Our Business and reputation depends on the integrity of its employees and procedures [et cetera].”

“Reporting Offences

“Crimes or suspect crimes against the following must be reported to Corporate Security or the appropriate Business Security and Investigation Unit …”

Can you explain what the difference between Corporate Security and appropriate Business Security and Investigation Unit is, please?

Anthony Utting: So Corporate Security was part of the Corporate Centre of the business at the time. So Royal Mail – I think it was Royal Mail Group then or it might have been Royal Mail Holdings, I can’t remember – but it was made up of a Corporate Centre which was the core part of the headquarters function, and then below that were all of the different business units.

So we had Royal Mail International, Royal Mail, Parcelforce, Post Office Limited and I think it was – I can’t remember what they were called now, Romec but they may have gone by then, that was the engineering function. And each of those business units had their own security function. Corporate Security has sort of a dotted line management responsibility, so they set policy and the business unit signed it off and abided by it.

Mr Beer: To be clear, this is a policy issued by the centre; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes, if John Messenger’s name is on it, probably, yes.

Mr Beer: But it applied to Post Office –

Anthony Utting: Oh yes, yes.

Mr Beer: – and that’s why we see your assurance details on it?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: So:

“Crimes or suspect crimes against the following must be reported … or liaison with the police …”

Then they’re listed:

“Each case [at 3.3] will be dealt with on merit and action taken … will be in accordance with the disciplinary code of the business.

“Where evidence of crime committed by an employee of Royal Mail Group (including Post Office Limited) against Royal Mail Group (including Post Office Limited or its customer is established, the offending employee may also be dealt with in accordance with criminal law. The prosecution guidelines of the business will be used in making any decision to proceed under criminal law, in consultation with Legal Services Criminal Law Division.”

What does this actually tell us?

Anthony Utting: It just tells you that everybody in the Post Office is subject to the disciplinary procedures but, if a suspect crime is considered, then the Investigation Team may be involved.

Mr Beer: The purpose of the policy was to set out criteria against which crimes and suspected crimes would be investigated. It doesn’t really do that, does it?

Anthony Utting: I’ve read this policy when it was sent to me. I did this 20 years ago. At the time, I would probably have read it and said “Yeah, that’ll do”. Reading it now, I can’t 100 per cent say I understand what it says but I think, basically, what it’s saying that – this is a Security policy, so the only people that would see this would be people within the Security team and, basically, it’s telling them that if there is a crime suspected, then the Investigation Team may become involved and look into it.

What it doesn’t say is that if the Investigation Team became involved, usually the disciplinary would go on hold until we conducted our preliminary enquiries.

Mr Beer: It doesn’t really set out criteria in which –

Anthony Utting: No, it doesn’t give the sorts of criteria we discussed earlier, like the triggers that we – where we would get involved.

Mr Beer: That can come down. Thank you.

In your witness statement – there’s no need to turn it up at the moment – well, in fact we’d better. Page 7 of your witness statement, please. It’ll come up on the screen for you. So WITN08200100, at page 7, and paragraph 17.

You say:

“I have been asked to describe what the process was for dealing with complaints regarding the conduct of an investigation by the Security team. I have no recollection of any formal process, but can say that all Security Team managers and staff were subject to the same disciplinary procedures as other members of Post Office staff, save that where any serious allegations were made, these could be referred to the Corporate Security Team who would undertake an independent investigation of what went on ‘outside of the line’. These investigations would normally be undertaken where there was an allocation of serious misconduct, or a suspicion of criminality. There was also a team of Harassment Investigators who would investigate allegations of bullying and harassment from across the Royal Mail Group and Investigators could also be investigated via that route.”

Mr Beer: Can you tell help us, can you recall of any instances in this seven-year period that we’re looking at, six or seven-year period, where an investigation was commenced into a complaint regarding the conduct of a POID or ID Investigator?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Without giving the details of the exact – the names or similar – what kind of complaints were made and investigated?

Anthony Utting: Without giving details, it’s very difficult to describe.

Mr Beer: Go ahead.

Anthony Utting: So we had an allegation about a group of Royal Mail Investigators who were sexually harassing a member of the team. I was involved in that investigation. Then there was an – there’s an allegation of a Senior Manager in Corporate Security behaving improperly at an out-of-work function; I was involved in that investigation.

As a result of the first investigation, I was investigated for harassment – no, that was the second one. The first one, I was investigated for – I think that was probably described as harassment as well. So we were investigating our own Investigators – well, they weren’t ours; they were another group’s Investigators – and, as a result of both those investigations I ended up the subject of an investigation myself.

So there were periodically instances of people within the Security team being investigated for different things but it was always done outside of the team they were in.

Mr Beer: This investigation of the Investigators, did that ever concern the quality and nature of the work that they were undertaking, rather than the kind of things that you’ve just mentioned, which seem to be different species of alleged misconduct?

Anthony Utting: I think there were reviews of cases. It was a long time ago and I can’t remember specifics. I believe, if we had a case – and I think there was an example of a case that we lost at court or was thrown out because of a breach of PACE, and I can’t remember details, and I think that was investigated. And the right people to look at that were Legal Services and Corporate Security because they were the people in the business that had the expertise necessary to look at what went wrong and why.

Mr Beer: Thank you. That document can come down.

So investigations might arise from the way in which a case was disposed of at court?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Was there any form of systemic review of the outcomes of cases that, putting it colloquially, went against the Post Office in court?

Anthony Utting: I think – again, it’s a long time ago, I think when we lost a case, there would be a report written by counsel to describe what happened and why they thought there’d been a problem.

Mr Beer: To whom would that be sent?

Anthony Utting: It would be sent usually to Criminal Law and I think Criminal Law would probably have shared it with the leadership team of the business concerned.

Mr Beer: The leadership team, can you be a bit more precise, in the case of Post Office –

Anthony Utting: In the case of Post Office, it would have been probably Phil Gerrish before me and me, if there’d been one while I was there. I don’t remember one, I don’t remember seeing one when I was there. But I might have done, I don’t know.

Mr Beer: Can you help us – I mean, it might be difficult if you don’t remember one in your tenure – what was the nature of the review undertaken? So it was written up by counsel, passed to the solicitors, and then what?

Anthony Utting: If there was a remedial training requirement for whoever the Investigator might have been, then that would have been looked at. If the Investigator had done something wrong, it probably would have been looked into separately. To be honest, I can’t fully remember exactly how things would have worked but it wouldn’t have just been “Oh, yeah, we failed, here’s the report, put it in the drawer”; someone would have looked at it to find out if there were lessons to be learned.

Mr Beer: Okay, can we move on, please, to look at the management of casework or casework management. You tell us in your statement – this needn’t be turned up – in paragraphs 9 and 10 on page 5 and on paragraph 31 on page 12, that you have no recollection of a document that you were shown called “Casework Management” dated October 2002.

I just want to look at that document, if we may, please. It’s POL00104777. Again, if we look at the foot of the page – we’ll see first, sorry, “Casework Management (England & Wales)” is its title and, if we look at the foot of the page, we’ll see the date as October 2002.

We see from the top of page 1 the “Purpose” of the document:

“The aim of this policy is to ensure that adequate controls are in place to maintain standards throughout investigation processes.”

This is a six-page document. If we look, please, at page 2, and scroll down a little bit, please. That bullet point, second – now third from the bottom:

“The issue of dealing with information concerning procedural failures is a difficult one. Some major procedural weaknesses, if they become public knowledge, may have an adverse effect on our Business. They may assist others to commit offences against our Business, undermine a prosecution case, bring our Business into disrepute, or harm relations with major customers. Unless the offender states that he is aware that accounting weaknesses exist and that he took advantage of them, it is important not to volunteer that option to the offender during interview. The usual duties of disclosure under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 still apply.”

So this policy from 2002 appears to contemplate, firstly, that procedural weaknesses may exist, that they became public knowledge, they might undermine a prosecution case and that they shouldn’t be mentioned in an interview unless the suspect states that they’re aware of them. Can you explain what “major procedural weaknesses” might be referring to?

Anthony Utting: I think there’d be a few things. So when – this is 2002 and that point we were still paying benefits using books and Giro cheques, and when pensions were paid at post offices using books there were a large number of foils at the end of the week to be calculated and sent off. When the foils got to Lisahally in Northern Ireland, they were sample checked.

So if you had – if you were doing a case in relation to pension fraud, you wouldn’t want to mention in an interview that they only sample-checked the calculation for pension payments at the end of the week, because if that gets out into the wider Post Office, it might encourage other people to go and do the same. Because the sample check at Lisahally, bearing in mind how many post offices we had and the amount of staff they had, wasn’t a regular occurrence. So when they identified an issue, they would have to then back check that to office for a number of months to find out if it was a one-off or something more serious.

So we would never say in an interview to somebody that that sort of process happened because you don’t want people to start thinking they can take chances or people to know that not everything was 100 per cent checked under that system.

I think when we had Horizon that became probably less of an issue because the Horizon data calculated everything for you – there were still ways of inflating your pensions because, obviously, you could put something into Horizon and the foil wouldn’t be there but the report would say it was. So Lisahally, when they checked, would file that foil was missing and tell us that there were foils missing and, therefore, we could start an investigation.

But that’s the sort of procedure, I think, that that sort of thing is applying. You have to bear in mind that this is a Corporate Security policy, so it’s quite broad, because it would apply in Royal Mail and Parcelforce as well. So saying things like the cameras that are in the sorting office watching for people stealing aren’t always switched on or aren’t always being monitored is not something that you would say to someone in an interview. So I think that’s implying that sort of thing.

Mr Beer: It’s very general, isn’t it?

Anthony Utting: Royal Mail is a very big organisation. So writing a distinct policy for an individual business unit would probably have been a little bit tighter than that.

Mr Beer: Is it reflecting a policy and culture to hide procedural weaknesses?

Anthony Utting: I would say no, because the last sentence tells you that, at the point that we’re going to prosecute somebody, the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act still applies and, under that Act, we would be duty bound to disclose anything anyway.

Mr Beer: Is it reflective of a policy to avoid issues becoming public because they may harm the reputation of the Post Office?

Anthony Utting: Potentially. I’m not – I think potentially that could be argued, yes.

Mr Beer: Can we turn, please, to POL00048361. This is an Investigation Team report and it’s dated, we can see on the right-hand side there, December 2006. We’ve moved on a bit here to the period when you were National Manager. Can you see that?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: You can see at the top, and it appears on every page, it says “Post Office Limited Investigation Team Monthly Report”. As it says there on the tin, was this a report that was prepared every month?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: What was the purpose of the preparation of an Investigation Team monthly report?

Anthony Utting: It was something that was instigated – I think it was when I worked with Rod Ismay, Alan Cook, and – well, Peter Corbett, I think, wanted there to be more visibility of what we were doing and how we were doing it.

Mr Beer: Just breaking that down, Peter Corbett was –

Anthony Utting: He was a Finance Director, he was one step above my line manager, Rod Ismay.

Mr Beer: So when were these introduced?

Anthony Utting: I would say the end of 2004, maybe a bit later. I can’t remember. I think I wrote about – I think I wrote about 12/13 of them. But I was on holiday one month and Dave Pardoe did it instead.

Mr Beer: Did they continue to be written until you moved on in 2007?

Anthony Utting: So when I stopped having involvement in the Investigation team at the early part of 2007, I don’t know if they were continued. I think they may have been but I don’t know. I had no involvement with investigations.

Mr Beer: So you said that Mr Corbett, as Finance Director –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – who was the line manager, the boss, of Rod Ismay –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – who was your line manager –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – wanted greater visibility of what the Investigation Team was doing?

Anthony Utting: Yes. I think that’s how it started. Yes.

Mr Beer: And visibility to whom?

Anthony Utting: To the POL ET, basically.

Mr Beer: To the?

Anthony Utting: The POL ET, that’s the Executive Team in Post Office Limited.

Mr Beer: Can you explain your understanding of what the Executive Team consisted of?

Anthony Utting: It was pretty much the Post Office Limited board so Alan Cook – before him it was David Mills, after him it was Paula Vennells – and then there was Dave Miller; the Commercial Director who was George somebody; HR Director, Debbie somebody; obviously Peter Corbett; and I think there were a couple of others but I can’t remember who they were.

Mr Beer: Do you know why it was thought that it was necessary for the highest level within the organisation to have greater visibility on what the Investigation Team was doing?

Anthony Utting: I can’t recall exactly. I think, when I first met Peter Corbett, when I started working for Rod, I think Peter Corbett was a little bit surprised at who we were and what we did and it may have been that he just wanted more people across the top of the business to know that we were there, rather than anything else because, like I said earlier on, the Post Office Investigation Team were – we were in a corner somewhere and we lived in dark places and they didn’t – no one paid much attention to us other than when something went wrong.

Mr Beer: You’ll see who this report is addressed to. So it’s addressed to the POL Executive Team, the POL ET – and you’ve just listed in broad terms who that consisted of –

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: – to the Director Security Corporate.

Anthony Utting: That’s Andrew Wilson.

Mr Beer: So that’s back in Royal Mail?

Anthony Utting: That’s in Royal Mail Corporate, yeah.

Mr Beer: Head of Investigations Corporate, that’s back in Royal Mail –

Anthony Utting: That’s back in Royal Mail, that’s Phil Gerrish.

Mr Beer: Head of Criminal Law?

Anthony Utting: That’s Rob Wilson.

Mr Beer: That’s in Post Office?

Anthony Utting: No, Rob Wilson was in Royal Mail.

Mr Beer: By this time, December ‘06, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, Post Office Limited, all the time I worked in Post Office Limited, we didn’t have our own Criminal Law Team.

Mr Beer: Head of Security Post Office Limited?

Anthony Utting: That was Tony Marsh.

Mr Beer: Was that a fairly constant distribution list?

Anthony Utting: It was a permanent distribution list. We didn’t send it to anyone else.

Mr Beer: In general terms, we’ll look at this report that we’ve got at with us, in general terms, what was the content of the monthly reports?

Anthony Utting: It was just a monthly update on what we were doing, where we were with things, anything major that had come up that we were dealing with that we thought they needed to know about, any problems or issues that we were having, just so that they knew what we were doing and if there were issues, we needed support, this was a good way of alerting people that we were coming, banging on the door for things.

Mr Beer: Did you ever receive any response from the Post Office Executive Team in relation to these monthly reports you were writing?

Anthony Utting: Err –

Mr Beer: Did anything come back down?

Anthony Utting: I believe I got emails from Alan Cook occasionally, saying thank you. I had communications with David Miller reasonably regularly and I think he found it useful. When he left, I think Alan Cook sent an email to Paula Vennells to say this is a useful report, you should pay attention to it.

Mr Beer: Why –

Anthony Utting: He didn’t say anything further than that because he copied me into the email. And I would occasionally have conversations with Phil Gerrish if – about stuff because he’d been in my role before me and I used him as a bit of a sounding board for things.

Mr Beer: So this was a means of communicating to the Post Office Executive Team the activities of the Investigation Team in the previous month, so that the Executive of the Post Office could be in no doubt what the Post Office Investigators were up to, what their work was in that previous month?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, it had an element of an ongoing performance report because, obviously, we’d give updates on things we were already doing and general performance measures about how many cases we had, how much money we were investigating, and stuff like that.

Mr Beer: So trends were set out –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and forecasts were made?

Anthony Utting: I believe so, yes.

Mr Beer: So the Executive Team could see from that, by both a collection of the reports but also within each report, where a trend in the investigation of crime or a forecast of the investigation of crime was made, the big picture?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at this one. This one states:

“The principle aims of the Investigation Team are to stop criminal offences taking place, apprehend and prosecute those who commit offences against us in order to maximise our recovery and reduce loss to [the Post Office] and its clients through the identification of areas of weakness throughout the business both operationally and within our product offerings.”

Was that a standard sort of template at the top of each report?

Anthony Utting: I think that is at the head of every one, yes.

Mr Beer: Was the role of the Investigation Team, therefore, preventative in nature?

Anthony Utting: It was combined preventative and investigative.

Mr Beer: How did the preventative element of the Investigation Team manifest itself in practice?

Anthony Utting: So we would look at procedures and identify areas of weakness where fraud or theft could potentially occur and try to help with processes. That was done in conjunction with the Security Team and they – and the Audit Team, and they usually led on those things. But if we did an investigation and found something that was wrong, then we would highlight it in order that it could be addressed.

On the product side we would look at what was being sold and how it was being processed to see if there were opportunities for people to abuse the process. We had issues with a number of products and particularly with some promotions that we did that facilitated people taking advantage.

Mr Beer: In time, across the period that we’re looking at, was it the case, however, that far more emphasis was placed on debt recovery through the civil and criminal courts, rather than preventative action?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think so. I think they were always both dealt with. I think, from the perspective of my team, my team was primarily focused on the investigations side, with conducting investigations to find out what went wrong and who perpetrated it, if there was a crime. But as part of that, we would also feed back to the business any weaknesses that we observed that needed to be addressed.

Mr Beer: Can we look at the headlines, if we scroll down, please, at 1.0, and in this report you give them an executive summary at the beginning; is that right?

Anthony Utting: That’s right, yes.

Mr Beer: “1. Major process weaknesses identified in respect of Postal Order Cashback offer for Home Insurance”, et cetera.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “Investigations raised into two frauds against IASA …”

Anthony Utting: I haven’t got a clue what that is.

Mr Beer: No.

“3. Internal Contact Centre fraud at EDS Preston …”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “The Travel Card Product is still causing concerns …”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “5. Rugeley Case finalised and postmaster pleaded guilty …”

Anthony Utting: That’s Rugeley.

Mr Beer: Rugeley, my mistake:

“6. Identity Fraud issues continue to be raised and Police and the [Serious and Organised Crime Agency] are showing interest in both check and send and redirection frauds being perpetrated at Post Office branches.”

So is the idea of this a means of communicating the headlines to your Executive Team?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at page 2, please, and scroll down to the foot of the page. I’m going to skip over the details that we’ve just seen summarised in your executive summary to the Executive, and look at paragraph 2.0, “Investigation Operations”. This seems to be in grey shaded or bold. Is that because it was important or just to differentiate it from the rest?

Anthony Utting: I think it was just to explain that that was the header.

Mr Beer: I meant that you can see that the whole box is grey shaded?

Anthony Utting: Oh, I think that’s because we did – this is like a period update, so it’s – we did this every month so they could see it and it just means that this is the bit – this is our performance on a monthly basis. The rest of it was: these are the items that need to be read.

Mr Beer: I see.

“This month’s recovery figure is £63,000. Period 9 case raise figures for deficiencies at our alone were £140,000.

“In total, 31 new investigation cases were raised during the period, with a current loss value of £245,000.

“At present the team is dealing with 248 ongoing investigations with a loss value in excess of [£9 million] of these, 80 are currently going through the courts.

“Post Office OD caseloads …”

What’s Post Office OD?

Anthony Utting: Err … I really don’t know. I can’t remember.

Mr Beer: In any event:

“[They] have been managed down …”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “… and are now at a sustainable level … the team continues to work at capacity and some enquiries are inevitably lapsed before any value can be added. There has been and will continue to be a fall in prosecutions achieved and this will eventually impact on recovery figures.

“A review of the criteria used to instigate enquiries is about to commence and this will see a reduction in the number of cases raised to investigation status.”

Is that a cross-reference to the upping of the trigger.

Anthony Utting: This goes back – it does, and the first part of it reflects on the drive that we had to reduce caseloads. I think, when I took over, there were something like 600 cases ongoing and a lot of them were old and stale and weren’t going anywhere. So the first thing we did was close them down, the ones that weren’t going to go anywhere, in order that we had more manageable workloads across the team.

Mr Beer: “New [key performance indicators] are also currently being developed that will show how the team continues to add real value to Post Office Limited.”

So, overall, the Executive, is this right, would know, month on month, how much money had been recovered by, or by the work of, the Investigation Team.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: That amount is identified as deficient at audit as well, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes. So the figure that we produced there is across all investigation cases and, at this time, audit shortages would probably be coming more regular, but it would include all of the other fraud type cases that we had, and because of the length of time it takes to get into prosecution and then do recoveries, some of that money would still be from pension cases.

Mr Beer: As you’ve told us already, you could apply levers to decide how many investigations would be commenced?

Anthony Utting: We would. We wouldn’t be doing that on a monthly basis. That would be probably a yearly review.

Mr Beer: Would the Executive have to sign off that change in trigger points?

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure the Executive would. When we did it, I told Rod Ismay – I think Rod Ismay and Peter Corbett were aware what we were doing and agreed. I mean, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if they sign it off or they don’t, because you get a choice of you do a fewer number of cases but do them well, or you have a vast number of cases and they sit on the books because no one gets to deal with them.

Mr Beer: So would you agree that, through this kind of reporting, there was a formal and established mechanism for the communication of information as to the work of the Investigation Department to the Executive?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Did you ever attend any meetings with the Executive or any of the other people, the collection of people to whom this was addressed, to speak to these reports?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: So what formally came back, then? You were firing this stuff in, which we can see is, in part, to justify the team. It says “These KPIs will show how the team continues to add real value to Post Office Limited”. So it’s important to put a marker down, presumably, as to the continuing value and therefore existence of the team?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I think that’s – one of the primary reasons for us, from our side, doing it, was to let them know that we weren’t just people that sat in dark rooms and didn’t do anything. But what came back was Alan Cook thanked me, Dave Miller, when I saw him, said, “I’ve seen your report, it’s good”. Occasionally, a particular subject would come back from somebody. I know, in the case of the Travel Money Card, there was quite a disagreement between me and the Commercial Team about the Travel Money Card and how it was run, and that later came back via John Scott as well, but, yeah, it was – basically, we were telling them what we were doing and, by and large, they said, “Thanks very much”.

Mr Beer: So nothing of substance came back; is that fair?

Anthony Utting: Only if there was an issue in relation to a particular product and somebody came and asked questions about “Why are you saying this?” and then we would give our view as to why we were saying it and what should be done about it.

Mr Beer: Thank you. That document can come down.

We’ve heard some evidence from a lady called Teresa Williamson that, after she left the Criminal Law Team in 2003, there was a restructuring of reporting lines, so that the Criminal Law Team no longer reported to the head of Legal Services but, instead, reported to the Head of Security and Operations. Do you remember that?

Anthony Utting: I think that when the Head of Criminal Law stopped reporting to the head of Legal Services, he actually reported to Andrew Wilson, so that’s not Security and Operations that’s the Corporate Security Director. I think that’s what happened. I don’t know.

Mr Beer: So you think that evidence we’ve heard might be wrong?

Anthony Utting: Possibly, yes.

Mr Beer: If it’s the case that Criminal Law reported to Head of Security, would you see a problem or a conflict arising there?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know. I can see that some people might look at it and say “So the business is now controlling the lawyer”, but I don’t think it worked that way. The Criminal Law Team were still seen as the independent legal experts. Andrew Wilson wouldn’t – and I know him, he wouldn’t have dreamed of telling Rob Wilson how to manage a legal case. I think it was more of an accommodation rather than to take control.

Mr Beer: What do you mean an “accommodation”?

Anthony Utting: So the Legal Services – the Criminal Law Team needed to report somewhere and, I think at the time, somebody in some project somewhere probably decided that, if they’re dealing with criminal law, why don’t we stick them with the Security Manager? But I don’t know and I’m speculating.

Mr Beer: The monthly reports that we’ve seen, if systemic problems or repeated problems with Horizon had existed, of which the Investigation Department became aware, that would be an appropriate medium, an ideal medium to communicate those problems to the Executive Team, wouldn’t it?

Anthony Utting: Oh yes, if we’d seen a large number of cases, where doubt was being cast upon Horizon then it would probably have gone into that report quite quickly.

Mr Beer: Can you remember that ever occurring?

Anthony Utting: Not while I was ever in charge, no.

Mr Beer: Just to be clear on that, you don’t remember that occurring because systemic or repeated problems with Horizon were not brought to your attention and that’s why they weren’t included within the report?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, we – all the time I worked in investigations, there was no indication to us that there was any sort of systemic problem with the Horizon system.

Mr Beer: Was that the position right up until your function changed in early 2007?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I believe so. We had obviously cases where people said there were problems with Horizon. From my recollection, they were very few and, usually, the evidence that we had suggested that Horizon wasn’t the problem.

Mr Beer: You tell us in your witness statement, paragraph 8, that, in your operational investigation roles, you would be responsible for providing a disciplinary report relating to the cases that you investigated, where a suspect was identified, investigated, and for ensuring that these were completed, where required, by Investigators under your direct supervision, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Was that, when you were looking at cases investigated under your supervision, the report, your principal window into what had gone on in the case?

Anthony Utting: No, I think the suspect offender report would be the one. So when they conducted a case, and it’s hard to – because I know something changed, but when I was an Investigator we used to write two reports. We’d have a suspect offender report, which went in the case file and there would be a discipline report that went to the Discipline Manager within the business.

And when I was the prosecution authority, I would be reading the case file report not the discipline report, so I’d be reading the full report that had everything in it.

Mr Beer: You refer there to the case file report, is that the same report as a suspect offender or offender report?

Anthony Utting: Yes, because that’s – the case file was, like, the core document in an investigation and the case file came first into the Casework Team and then the case – the physical case file would go to Legal Services. Their advice would be inserted into the case file then it would come back to me for prosecution authority.

I think, later on, they started doing things electronically but, I think, when I was there, it was – we were still passing electronic case files.

Mr Beer: In your witness statement, you refer to your involvement in a case against Mr Thomas, Hughie Thomas?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: That’s paragraph 47 and 48 of your witness statement. I just want to look at some documents arising from that. FUJ00155181. Can you help us, please, with what this document is, if we just pan out a little bit, please. Do you recognise the nature of the document?

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure exactly because I didn’t do these documents, but it looks to me like he’s – Graham’s asking somebody to do some analysis on some call logs in relation to, I’m presuming, Mr Thomas and an allegation that there’s a fault with nil transactions on card account, I think.

Mr Beer: So, first of all, who was Graham Ward?

Anthony Utting: Graham Ward was the Casework Manager in the Investigation Team.

Mr Beer: So was he managed by you?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: How many people did he manage?

Anthony Utting: Five, I think.

Mr Beer: For the entirety of the period that we’re looking at, were you Graham Ward’s manager?

Anthony Utting: No. We had a lot of reorganisations and I changed roles a few times. Graham started to work for me, I believe, when I took over as National Investigation Manager. So, prior to that, the Casework Manager, who I believe then was Brian Sharkey, would have reported to Phil Gerrish. But we did a reorganisation soon after I took over, and Graham became the Casework Manager.

Mr Beer: In any event, for this audit record query, ARQ, Mr Ward has asked, in Mr Thomas’s case:

“Please conduct an analysis of all Helpdesk calls for the above period.”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: The period is 14 September 2005 until 13 October 2005.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “Also please conduct a thorough examination of the system in general with a view to refuting the postmaster’s allegation that there is a fault with the ‘nil’ transactions on card account/online banking transactions.

“Please bear in mind we are investigating a substantial shortage in the accounts and should this proceed to prosecution we may be asking for a supporting witness statement.”

So this ARQ request, as I’m going to call it, were you familiar with these?

Anthony Utting: I knew they happened. I wouldn’t say I was familiar with how it worked, but I knew they happened and I knew they a requirement where we needed data for Horizon.

Mr Beer: The request was “conduct a thorough examination of the system with a view to refuting the postmaster’s allegation there’s a fault”.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Would you see requests like this?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Presumably, if you were writing it you would write it in a more open way?

Anthony Utting: That doesn’t look very scientific, does it?

Mr Beer: Well, it looks loaded, doesn’t it?

Anthony Utting: Definitely.

Mr Beer: Is that reflective of an attitude of mind that was common amongst Investigators at the time: we need to disprove what a postmaster is saying to us, rather than openly to investigate the accuracy of reliability of what a postmaster is saying to us?

Anthony Utting: It looks like that on paper but I don’t think that was the mental state of us in the investigations. I think it’s probably poorly worded but it’s not – I don’t think that reflects where we were as a team.

Mr Beer: Okay, that can come down. Thank you.

You tell us in your witness statement – it’s paragraphs 20, 21 and 22 – of the involvement of Investigators following the identification of shortages at audits. And you tell us in paragraph 22, again no need for this to be turned up:

“An investigator would take steps to secure all necessary documentation and other evidence at the branch. They would then gather any further evidence they required, interview suspects and witnesses and analyse the documentation and reports from Horizon in order to establish the cause of the loss.”

What does “all the necessary documentation and evidence” mean?

Anthony Utting: It would depend on the case but they would – within the office, the Audit Team would be asked to produce all the reports Horizon had for the branch. The way Horizon worked is I think it was possibly 29 days, or maybe a bit longer, after branch trading was introduced, that we could produce all the transactions direct from the terminal in the office. So rather than us have to rely on ARQ, which was a limited resource, we would print all the reports we could from the Horizon terminal in the office so that they could be analysed manually to see if there was anything in there that pointed a solution to why the loss occurred.

There would also be any paper documentation. There were occasions where people would have an envelope or a bag somewhere that – where they were putting money, so we would not necessarily always take it but make a note that it was there so that we could establish what the purpose of it was later on. If there were – if we went into an office and the Investigators, when they searched the office, found documentation that had been suppressed then that documentation would have been seized.

So anything that was in there. It all depended on what the case was because audit shortages, on the face of it, all looked the same but when you get to the office they might be very different.

Mr Beer: In audit shortage cases, as you’ve described them – and by an audit shortage case you mean where an auditor or auditors have attended, they’ve conducted a stocktake and there’s a material difference between what the system records as being present or should be present –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – in the branch, by way of cash and stock, and that which is actually present in the branch by way of cash and stock – in what circumstances would Investigators identify whether further evidence from the Post Office or Fujitsu was required about Horizon?

Anthony Utting: Again, it would depend on the case. If there were – if the subpostmaster or counter clerk had given an indication of when a loss actually happened, I would expect to look at the Horizon data for that period to see if there’s anything in there that would facilitate the loss. It would all depend on the case and the nature of how the loss occurred, if we could establish that, and whether the Horizon data was going to give us an inkling.

Mr Beer: Was, throughout the period of your tenure, an assumption made that the data produced by Horizon was reliable and robust?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Given that assumption or that belief, would that have had an effect on the assessment of when and in what circumstances it was necessary to obtain ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: I expect so. I don’t know. I would imagine that, if there was something that had been indicated to us that suggested that we should look at Horizon, we would look at Horizon. I think, because we worked in a world where Horizon was 100 per cent infallible, then we would work on the basis that the loss didn’t – wasn’t – didn’t occur because of Horizon. So you’re not going to see anything in Horizon, if Horizon hasn’t done anything.

Mr Beer: So putting it another way: you didn’t think you needed to prove the reliability of Horizon by obtaining underlying data; you took the figures produced by Horizon as being accurate and reliable?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Was that a common mindset, so far as you recall, amongst your Investigators?

Anthony Utting: I think they all had the same mindset. I think everybody believed that Horizon was showing the right figures and, therefore, there was no need for us to go poring through every single transaction.

Mr Beer: So, given that mindset, when and in what circumstances was ARQ data obtained?

Anthony Utting: So I think the case that you’ve just shown me, where the postmaster has said something specific about certain transactions, then we would get the ARQ data and ask Fujitsu to explain what it was telling us.

Mr Beer: Who was responsible for deciding whether to retrieve ARQ data or not?

Anthony Utting: So the Investigator in the case would look at what they’d been told and what they’d seen and they would make the request for the ARQ data. That would come in to Casework and I think Graham – I think it was just Graham – would then go to Fujitsu to explain what we wanted and why.

Mr Beer: Was there any sort of vetting or supervision over when and in what circumstances ARQ data could or could not be requested?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think so. I think in the case of an investigation, if the investigator asked for it, they’d have got it.

Mr Beer: You told us earlier that it came at a cost.

Anthony Utting: Oh, yes.

Mr Beer: Was cost irrelevant, then?

Anthony Utting: To me it was irrelevant. The way we managed it is if we had gone over our numbers for a month, we would delay requests until the following month. I know we had discussions in the business. I know we had some quite forthright discussions on occasion on the basis that, if we haven’t got the evidence, we can’t conduct an inquiry or a prosecution.

Mr Beer: Forthright discussions with whom or amongst whom?

Anthony Utting: So I had some discussions – I think there are some documents in here – with the person that managed the Fujitsu account, to say that we’ve got a job to do and having Fujitsu say, “You can’t have that because it’s not in the contract”, isn’t the answer. And, obviously, we were pushing for the business to increase the ARQ requests that we could obtain because, with Horizon cases becoming much more prevalent, there was going to be a need for us to use data much more.

In the old days, with pension frauds and the like, Horizon data was irrelevant. We had the pension frauds – we had the pension foils and everything else we could get back.

Mr Beer: At what point in an investigation, so post-audit, would the retrieval of ARQ data be considered?

Anthony Utting: I think it would be when the Investigator was going through the summary and writing his report and looking at what he’d been told and what he knew, and what the reports that he’d got from the office had told him. Then he’d look at whether he needed to go further.

Mr Beer: I’m interested in particular whether it was pre or post-charge. I know charges weren’t, in fact, laid but you know what I mean.

Anthony Utting: I imagine that they would initially look for themselves but, once the case had gone to Legal Services and if it was going to Crown Court, to counsel, then counsel or Legal Services would say, “You need to get Fujitsu data or a Fujitsu statement to say the system’s robust”.

Mr Beer: You said I would imagine they would look for themselves. Do you mean pre-charge they would obtain ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: I think – I don’t know how the process worked. I don’t know whether – because of the constraints we had, I don’t know whether there was any sort of limitation on not getting ARQ data until somebody had been charged. I would imagine not because, if you charged somebody, get ARQ data and find something that says you can’t prosecute, then you’ve wasted your time going to counsel.

So I don’t know how exactly it worked but I would imagine Investigators would consider whether they needed ARQ data before they finished their report.

Bear in mind that, after you’ve interviewed a suspect, you’ve got a limited time period to write your tape summaries and get your report in. So that may have been a constraint, in itself.

Mr Beer: If ARQ data was not requested in a particular case, what material would the Post Office rely on in proceedings, in order to prove a loss?

Anthony Utting: I really can’t remember. I didn’t deal with any of these cases, so I don’t know how that would have worked.

Mr Beer: I mean, before Horizon came in, there were paper records generated by the branch?

Anthony Utting: Yes, and after Horizon came in, there were paper records generated by the branch using the Horizon system. But if Horizon’s working perfectly, getting Horizon data isn’t going to change the report. So I think the Investigators would assume, if Horizon is working fine and the reports are the reports, it’s no different to having a manual report that the subpostmaster’s prepared.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much, Mr Utting.

Sir, I wonder whether we might take our morning break?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, by all means.

Mr Beer: Come back at 11.35, please.

Sir Wyn Williams: Very well see you then.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much.

(11.17 am)

(A short break)

(11.35 am)

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

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

Mr Beer: Thank you, Mr Utting, we were just talking about when and in what circumstances a request for ARQ data would be made in an audit shortfall case. Can I just have a look at something in your witness statement, please, on that topic. So your witness statement at page 13 – it’ll come up on the screen, please.

Page 13 at the foot, paragraph 32, under the heading “Analysing Horizon data, requesting ARQ data from Fujitsu and relationship with Fujitsu”. You say:

“I am asked what analysis would be undertaken of Horizon data by investigators when a shortfall was claimed to have been caused by Horizon. I have no recollection of what analysis would be undertaken, as this would depend on the individual case. The cases I dealt with were predominantly about suppressing of transactions or fraudulent transactions such as double counting or encashing stolen benefit books. In these cases we would want to have evidence of what transactions took place, when they took place and who undertook them. We would match these up with the associated documentation to show that the system had been used fraudulently.”

Then this:

“In an audit shortage case, I am not sure what Horizon would be able to tell us. Though it has been a long time since I looked at one.”

The sentence there “In an audit shortage case I am not sure what Horizon would be able to tell us”, are you saying by that, “I’m unclear what Horizon would be able to tell us, I just don’t remember now”, or are you saying, “I do not think that Horizon would be able to tell us much”?

Anthony Utting: I think it’s a bit of both. I mean, it’s a long time since I conducted an investigation into an audit shortage and I’m not sure I ever did one in relation to Horizon. But as I said in the bit before, it would all depend on the case and what the person had said at interview about how the loss had occurred.

Mr Beer: If the person said in interview, and we’ve got quite a lot of interviews where people have said this, “I know I didn’t steal the money and I don’t believe my staff did because I believed them to be people of honesty and integrity, they’ve worked for me for decades”, or whatever, “but unexplained losses and discrepancies arose on Horizon, which I noticed at the time and I reported to the Helpdesk or NBSC or both”, what is your understanding of what Horizon data would be able to tell you as to the truth or accuracy of what they were saying?

Anthony Utting: I think you have to remember we were living in a world where we were told and believed that there was no problem with Horizon. So unless there was a transaction that could be pinpointed that caused the loss, and we were told that Horizon didn’t generate such transactions, you weren’t going to get to the bottom of that.

So I don’t know – I don’t have – I’ve got quite a good memory but this was 17 years ago. I don’t know what I would have looked at or what an Investigator would have looked at. But unless, like in the case of I think it was Hughie Thomas, where he actually said “zero transactions in relation to card account”, we would be looking for a needle in a haystack that wasn’t there. So I don’t –

Mr Beer: Or a needle in a haystack that, it turns out, was there?

Anthony Utting: Potentially, yes. I don’t know.

Mr Beer: Can we look at some examples of how this unfolded in practice. Can we start by looking at POL00110269. Can you see that this is a report that was prepared by Geoff Hall, an Investigation Team Manager for West, for you, and it’s an interim report, as at 14 October 2004 about the Blackwood office in Gwent, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: He says:

“Thursday, 23 September 2004.

“At about 10.00 am I received a telephone call … asking me if I was aware of large losses being incurred at Blackwood [office] I explained … my team were not involved in any enquiries … Cris proceeded to inform me that an audit conducted at the office that morning had confirmed a shortage of £435,984.12.”

If we scroll down, please:

“On preparing the final account … the initial discrepancy was disturbed and reduced, resulting in a final figure of £435,293.44 …”

He says:

“I immediately contacted Steve George, Investigation Manager, and dispatched him to the office to assist with the retention of transaction logs from the Horizon system and any further evidence that may assist with future enquiries. On his arrival Steve was greeted by Graham Summers, Retail Line Manager, who explained that he had been aware of the deficiency for some time and that he considered it to be a Horizon system problem.

“Steve obtained transaction history logs with the assistance of auditors and these have now been retained for examination and comparison with Fujitsu Horizon system data.

“Steve contacted me and explained that the total deficiency was as a result of an accumulation of large losses that had been declared and rolled in the office cash accounts since as far as back as week 47 …

“The losses had been dramatically increased …”

Then if we go to page 4, please, and pan out please. In relation to the heading “28 September”, Mr Hall narrates what happened when the subpostmaster and his wife attended at the office, where they were arrested and taken into custody. If we scroll to the second paragraph from the bottom, Mr Hall tells us:

“Neither [that’s Mr and Mrs Prosser] had any suspicions of staff under their employ both claiming to trust them all implicitly and when asked for an explanation as to how these losses had occurred both were adamant that their staff were honest and the Horizon system was to blame. They claimed that there had been problems since the Bureau was migrated from the Forde Moneychanger to Horizon in February 2004. There was also mention of flashing lights on the keyboards whilst the terminals were not being used by staff, almost as if transactions were being ghosted. They were unable to explain any of the discrepancies and confirmed they were not in a position to repay the outstanding monies.”

Then if we go forward to page 9, please. He concludes his report to you by saying:

“No evidence at present to suggest theft by postmaster or staff. Losses in my opinion have undoubtedly been facilitated by the lack of procedural security within the office and failure to secure interconnecting door with Royal Mail.”

If there was no evidence of theft and allegations, as we’ve seen, by the subpostmaster of problems with Horizon, what should have been done to investigate those?

Anthony Utting: So we – I think, from the investigation perspective, my team was there to investigate criminal offences and, if there was no criminal offence, effectively it wasn’t our role to investigate the Horizon system. Our role was to investigate potential criminal offences. What should have happened, looking back, is that somebody – and I note that I think it was the terminals in the office and their personal computer were mirrored – somebody should have looked through that to see if there was anything in the system that would facilitate the loss.

But I think that would probably be something that, if we weren’t going to be involved because there was no criminality or evidence of criminality, the business should then have been going to Fujitsu to say, “You need to pore over this and look at what’s transpired”. I don’t think my team would have had the necessary skills or experience to analyse an IT system.

Mr Beer: Does it follow from those answers that, once the conclusion had been reached that there was no crime or no sufficient evidence of crime to progress the matter, that was the end of the matter, so far as the Investigation Team were concerned?

Anthony Utting: I can’t remember, because it was a long time ago. I think the problems with the case – and I think I was actually involved interviewing one of the Senior Managers here – was that, if you’re going to pursue anybody for theft, then you can’t do that if you knew what they were doing, and the people in Post Office Limited knew these losses were occurring and accumulating, not in my team, but in the business and, if the business knew these losses were occurring, and were letting the postmaster increase them week in, week in, and albeit hiding them in the system, then that’s not dishonest, because they were telling the business what they were doing and, therefore, you wouldn’t be able to prove theft anyway.

Mr Beer: Who, within the Post Office, should have taken up the baton after that last sentence had been written, nonetheless, to investigate what the subpostmaster was saying about Horizon?

Anthony Utting: I think – and I’m not an expert here, I don’t know where it went. I’ve seen a document – I think I was given a document Wednesday or Sunday – that I think they pursued the postmaster civilly for the loss, or something went on. So whoever was going to take on the baton of dealing with the loss should have been instigating an investigation to understand what the postmaster was saying and whether there was anything in there.

I would have – it’s easy now because we all know what’s gone on, but this was an opportunity for the business to do a proper root and branch review of – if the loss is this big, and this is nearly £500,000, then in my head – and I’m not an expert – it justifies spending some money to get some proper experienced intelligent view, looking at the system.

Mr Beer: Did there ever come a time when there was such a collection of cases or collection of allegations about problems with Horizon that that kind of root and branch review was done?

Anthony Utting: Not while I was there. When I was there, there were relatively few cases and we had discussions. I was involved in some other cases, I’m sure we’ll discuss them, whereby there were allegations against the system. But we were living in a world with 57,000 counter positions and 11,000 or 14,000 branches, and there were probably less than ten cases where postmasters were making allegations at this time.

So we would have asked the question “Is there a problem?” and we were getting the answer back “There is no problem, this is just people making allegations”.

Mr Beer: Can I turn, then, to some of that account and begin by looking at POL00107426. This is an email exchange from November 2005. Can we start, please, at page 5. Just scroll down.

Can you see this is signed off by “Litigation Team Leader, Company Secretary’s Office, Legal Services”?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: It’s a Mandy Talbot email. If we go back to page 3, please. Can we see the beginning of the email there from Mandy Talbot, and it’s 23 November 2005 to, amongst others, you?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can you help us, looking at that cast list on the distribution and the copy list, what that collection of people represents?

Anthony Utting: Dave Smith, I think, was in charge of IT at the time, I think. Jennifer Robson, not sure. I think she might have been in the Legal team but I’m not sure. Me. Rod Ismay was my boss, he was in charge of Product and Branch Accounting. I’m not sure if he was, at that stage, but he was involved with the finance side of the business. I think Clare Wardle was a solicitor. Nicky Sherrott, I don’t recall, and Mandy was a Civil Litigation lawyer.

Mr Beer: You can see the title “Challenge to Horizon”?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: This email, essentially, summarises two cases, the Castleton case and the Bajaj case. In relation to the Castleton case, you see it says, “Summary of Facts” and in paragraph 1 there’s a high-level summary:

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

Then if we go forward to page 5, please. Following the summary – and I’m not going to read out the summary, we’ve looked at it before – she says, under “Issues”:

“In each case [that’s both the Castleton case and Bajaj case] the postmasters are challenging the validity of data provided by the Horizon system and the cases became litigious before that evidence could be properly investigated.

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

“(a) acquire the necessary data

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

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

“Fujitsu’s reputation will be affected.”

So this is Mrs Talbot briefing some relatively senior staff at the Post Office, giving a warning about the collection of data concerning the reliability of Horizon and the potential for the compromise of future proceedings and compromise the reliance on Horizon itself, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: There was a reference – we skipped over it, I’m not going to go back to it – to there being a meeting between Tony, Rod and David and external solicitors being arranged to discuss the best way forwards.

Did you attend any meeting with Rod Ismay, David X Smith – the IT David Smith – and external solicitors, with or without Ms Talbot, to discuss the way forwards in relation to the issues that she’s identified?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall but I may well have done. I did attend meetings with Dave Smith and, obviously, Rod Ismay was my boss so I’d spent a lot of time with Rod but I don’t recall any specific meetings, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t go to one.

Mr Beer: Can I turn to a meeting that took place a couple of weeks after this but not with external solicitors, and that’s by looking at POL00142539.

Now, this is a relatively new series of documents for the Inquiry, which may be significant, given the date of these meetings. We’re going to look at the agenda first and then the minutes of the meeting. For the Inquiry, this is relatively early in the piece, because it’s November and December 2005. Can you see the agenda for a meeting of the 6 December 2005?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I can.

Mr Beer: It’s in the Juniper Room at Coton House in Rugby. What was that –

Anthony Utting: Coton House was the management training centre for the Post Office – well, all of Royal Mail. Juniper Room –

Mr Beer: The room doesn’t matter –

Anthony Utting: It’s just the name of one of the rooms.

Mr Beer: Coton House in Rugby, that’s not where these people worked, is it?

Anthony Utting: No, Coton House was a management training centre but there were meeting rooms there. We used to hold a yearly get together of the whole Investigation Team and we usually did it there because, as a training centre it also had an accommodation block.

Mr Beer: So how significant an event would it be to pull this collection of people together at the training centre in Rugby?

Anthony Utting: Well, the training centre had meeting rooms, so anyone could use it. We had quite diverse teams across the country, so Rugby is a reasonably central point, so people would join up there. Some of these guys worked in Chesterfield and others worked in London. So Rugby was probably – it’s right next to the M6, so it’s –

Mr Beer: I shouldn’t read anything into the fact that –

Anthony Utting: It’s not a massive – we’ve sold it now. It’s not a massively important building.

Mr Beer: Just looking at page 3 of this note, we can see the agenda, 10.00:


“Required Outputs: Shared understanding of the meeting objectives …

“Common understanding [under 2] of who currently does what …

“Lessons learnt; process gaps [under 3] and problems logged on flip charts.”

So if we scroll down, lunch between 12.00 and 12.45, and then if we carry on over the page, finish at 2.45. So a reasonably substantial meeting.

Back to page 1, please, and if we look at the list of proposed attendees, does that include some relatively senior people from within the business?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know the relevant seniority of all of those people. They were probably more of a working group subordinate to a more senior group but I don’t know –

Mr Beer: Did you have any dealings with, do you remember, Keith Baines?

Anthony Utting: He was – I did have dealings with Keith Baines. He was the person I usually spoke to if – when we got into heated discussions about ARQ requests and the amount of data we were allowed to get from Horizon. Keith, I think, managed the contract with them and he was bounded (sic) by the contact, which wasn’t always helpful.

I think Marie worked for Rod Ismay. I think Mike Gallagher probably worked for John Smith. Dave Hulbert, I can’t remember who he worked for. He may have been Dave Smith as well. John Legg was part of the Network Services Team. Jennifer Robson would have worked for Rod Ismay as well, I believe. Obviously, Mandy Talbot. Graham Ward worked for me.

Mr Beer: So do you think you asked Mr Ward to attend this?

Anthony Utting: Quite possibly. Either myself or Rod would have asked me who was the best person and, as Graham was the Casework Manager who managed the ARQ requests, he was probably the most skilled person to be there.

Mr Beer: We’ve seen the email at the end of November with for the proposal for a meeting being arranged, that said with external solicitors. Looking back, do you think this might be the meeting that was, in fact, arranged?

Anthony Utting: It may well have been. It may well have been an initial discussion to find out what the issues were and what could be done before they instigated discussions with externals.

Mr Beer: So we’ve got a range of teams represented from across the business here?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we scroll down, the heading is “Horizon Integrity”:


“There have been several recent cases where subpostmasters have cited errors in the Horizon system as explanations for discrepancies in their accounts – either as part of a challenge against termination of their contracts, or in challenging the Post Office’s right to recover error notices/transaction corrections from their remuneration.

“Recently, a letter was published in ‘The SubPostmaster’ in November [apparently enclosed] asking readers to send in details of incidents where they believed that Horizon has caused errors in their accounts. Lawyers acting on behalf of a subpostmaster currently in dispute with the Post Office have written stating they are contemplating a joint action on behalf of a number of current and former subpostmasters. This would challenge the accounting integrity of the Horizon system and Post Office’s right to make transaction corrections and recover resulting debts based on Horizon data.”

Would you agree that the way matters are described there is a bit more a small number of cases against 14,000 or 19,000 branches.

Anthony Utting: I don’t know. I think you can read it that way but, at the time, we were assured that there weren’t any problems and we didn’t see – we were the Criminal Investigation Team and what was going on in Civil was almost invisible to us. Other than cases where we were asked to support, as in the Castleton case, we wouldn’t know how many cases there were.

It’s easy to look back and say this should have been a prompt to do something but, at the time, with all the other things that we were dealing with, I wouldn’t have considered this to be massively significant to me.

Mr Beer: The note continues:

“In one past case [Cleveleys], Post Office settled out of court following an adverse report on Horizon’s potential to cause errors from an expert appointed by the court. Fujitsu advised that the report was not well founded, but Post Office and Fujitsu were not able to persuade the expert to change it. This report was largely based on a review of Helpdesk logs, since it related to events more than 18 months prior to the case, and Horizon transaction data was retained for 18 months only.”

Then skipping the next paragraph:

“The above was discussed at a meeting called by Dave Smith on 25 November and as a result urgent actions have been taken to support current live cases, and this workshop was organised to recommend further actions to reduce this risk area in future.”

“Meeting purpose:

“To review the issues and recommend …

“1. Who manages dealings with subpostmasters and their lawyers relating to actual or potential civil cases? What processes are required to identify as early as possible those cases that [have] a Horizon aspect? Who needs to be involved in such cases, and how will they be coordinated?

“2. Are any new provides required with Fujitsu to obtain data, analysis, reports or witness statements for civil cases?

“3. Is there a need for an independent expert to be appointed in advance who could on request provide evidence to the court in such cases? If so what exactly would be expert’s role be, what qualifications and qualities are needed in such an expert, and how would we go about appointing one? What preliminary work would be required by the expert to ‘get up to speed’?

“4. Who will act as the client briefing external lawyers and facilitating their obtaining relevant information in these cases?”

Then over the page at 5:

“What are the budget implications of the above?”

Then there’s the agenda.

So would you agree that there’s a recognition here of the fact that there was no process of collating information about cases in which the integrity of accounting information produced by Horizon was being raised and challenged and making such information available to all functions across the Post Office?

Anthony Utting: There was – I don’t think there was. I think everything we saw was piecemeal. There was no coordinated …

Mr Beer: Can we go to the minutes of the meetings themselves and see what was decided. That’s POL00119895. We can see attendees who, in fact, turned up, and I think it’s per the cast list that we saw on the agenda.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Under “Findings”, if we scroll down, please:

“1. There is no generally understood process for identifying emerging cases in which the integrity of accounting information produced by Horizon may become an issue.

“2. There are a number of channels by which such cases may enter Post Office … and there is no process for making information about them available to all relevant functions. This increases the risk that different parts of the business may be dealing with the same issue and not coordinate responses.”

Would you agree that those two findings, taken together, 1 and 2, present a serious risk or a serious problem?

Anthony Utting: I think they do. I’m not sure that that’s entirely accurate because I don’t think there would ever be a criminal investigation at the same time as there was a civil litigation case going on. I don’t think debt recovery would be active whilst there was an investigation going on, though – because one would generally feed the other.

I do agree that there was no process across the business, that nobody knew how many Horizon issue cases there were and, if Civil Litigation had got cases, they wouldn’t tell Investigations and, certainly, if the case never involved an Investigator, the Debt Recovery Team wouldn’t have involved us.

Mr Beer: The focus on coordinating a response, as between criminal and civil proceedings, is one risk, isn’t it, but isn’t there another more important and serious problem identified, namely that the whole picture was not being assessed by anyone within the Post Office, so that the number of people raising the issue of Horizon integrity was not being assessed?

Anthony Utting: No, it wasn’t. I think, going back to what was in the agenda, reading the agenda now, you can see that we’re still living in a world where everybody thinks Horizon is fine and dandy and there aren’t any issues, and the agenda would tend to lean towards “We know there are no problems with Horizon but what do we do about identifying the number of cases and dealing with them?”

I don’t think – and we – we’ve all got the benefit of hindsight. I don’t think that the agenda was as open as maybe it could have been.

Mr Beer: I missed that last part. I don’t think it –

Anthony Utting: I don’t think the agenda was as open as it could have been.

Mr Beer: “3. The transaction logs that can be obtained from Fujitsu via audit query requests [that’s ARQs] provide the data that is required for the investigation of claimed anomalies in particular cases. However, interpretation of this data is not simple. It requires a considerable level of understanding of branch transaction and accounting processes and how these are implemented on Horizon, as well as the skills to analyse such data using PC-based tools.”

So this is dealing with the need for understanding and technical skill and not just the provision of the raw data from ARQs.

Anthony Utting: I think so, yes.

Mr Beer: “4. Fujitsu’s price for providing the data and for skilled resource to analyse and report on it is high, and the capacity provided in the contract currently is fully used to support investigations relating to potential criminal offences.

“5. To date, the number of cases in which the integrity of Horizon data has been an issue is small; however, recent correspondence in The SubPostmaster may well cause an increase; also there may also be an effect from the introduction of transaction corrections, replacing error notices.

“6. The NFSP has had no involvement in cases to date, and this is expected to continue unless there was considerable momentum for a change of policy from their membership.”

Just pausing there, why would there be an effect from the introduction of transaction corrections replacing error notices in the number of cases in which the integrity of Horizon data was raised?

Anthony Utting: Off the top of my head, I don’t know. My understanding of transaction corrections is they were error notices but they were done automatically, instead of sending an error notice to the branch to bring them to account. So, if there was an error that could be shown to be an error, then there shouldn’t have been an issue with a transaction correction being implemented.

Mr Beer: “7. Challenges to Horizon data integrity may arise late in the process; for example following a suspension or issue of a late account …

“8. If all potential cases were to require Horizon data to be analysed early in the process, then the workload would be considerable – and much would later prove unnecessary. Currently there are around 12 suspensions per week, and a significant proportion of them will relate to financial discrepancies. Most of these are subsequently settled by agreement, or are not contested.

“9. Where a case does go to court, it is essential that Post Office is able to refute any suggestion that Horizon is unreliable (in general) or that it could have caused specific losses to the subpostmaster bringing the case. The evidence needed for these 2 points will be different.”

So that’s reflecting the fact, isn’t it, that one might have general evidence as to the reliability of Horizon versus an individualised investigation in relation to the losses said to have occurred in that branch and how Horizon was not responsible for those losses, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Paragraphs 10 to 13:

“10. For the general point, evidence will need to be in the form of a credible expert opinion that confirms that the system has been designed, built and operated in accordance with good practice and that its overall performance provides confidence that it is operating as intended.

“11. On the specific errors claimed to have been caused in a particular case, evidence will need to show (by reporting a detailed analysis of the transactions, and other system log entries recorded at the branch) that the system recorded transactions and calculated accounts accurately; and the transaction data is an accurate record of what was recorded in the branch at the time transactions took place …

“13. Such evidence will be given greater weight by a court if it is provided by an expert who is distanced from the Post Office and Fujitsu. Evidence will need to be given by the person who carried out the analysis – this may mean in some circumstances an independent expert would need to repeat analysis for himself that Post Office or Fujitsu had already carried out …”

Then “Recommendations”:

“1. A coordination role would be established to maintain a list of all current civil cases and potential civil cases where accuracy of Horizon accounting information may be an issue, and ensure that all relevant business functions are made aware of these cases.”

So far as you are aware, was such a coordination role established?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall. I think we – I discussed it with Rod, and with Mandy at various points, and I think with Keith Baines as well. Whether it actually ever came in a fruition, I can’t recall.

Mr Beer: Can you recall anyone ever actually holding that role?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Was there ever any equivalent role established in relation to criminal cases, namely somebody maintaining a list – and this is as early as 2005 – of the cases in which the accuracy of Horizon accounting information was called into question?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall, sir.

Mr Beer: Would you agree that, just like this recommendation for civil cases, there would have been good sense in doing so in relation to criminal cases?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: That’s so that the business as a whole can understand the nature and extent of the allegations being made?

Anthony Utting: Yes, but if we did it in – and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done – if we did it in investigations, I think at that time we had very few. Unless everybody else was doing it, what we were doing wasn’t going to be that helpful. But you’re right, the business should have done it.

Mr Beer: Quite aside from allowing the business to gain a better understanding of the, at that time, alleged problems with Horizon, it may have also assisted in discharging disclosure obligations in criminal proceedings?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “2. Briefing is required – primarily for the Contracts and Services Managers, but for all staff dealing with subpostmasters – setting out business policy, lines to take, and how to identify potential emerging cases.”

Can you remember, as a result of this time period, lines to take being developed about problems with Horizon?

Anthony Utting: I don’t believe so. We were under the impression and everybody who we spoke to told us there was no problem with Horizon. We may have suggested when we interviewed people that there were no problems and that Horizon wasn’t at fault. I don’t know, if we –

Mr Beer: So that itself was the line to take?

Anthony Utting: Well, it was, but I don’t know if we made any formal – gave any formal instruction to Investigators that that’s the line they should have taken. I think, when – I don’t know, when I was an Investigator, I tended not to tell people things because I was asking questions.

Mr Beer: You wouldn’t offer your view of the position: you would try and get information from them?

Anthony Utting: Yes, yes. My role as an Investigator, I thought, was to gather evidence, not tell people things. We did that when we did put the case file together and did disclosure.

Mr Beer: It’s not the position of an Investigator to offer his or her subjective view on an issue in the course of an interview, is it?

Anthony Utting: I wouldn’t. Some may, I wouldn’t. When we were trained, we were trained to deal with facts and not give opinions. So, during the course of an interview, I wouldn’t have been expressing opinions about things; I’d have just been asking questions.

Mr Beer: If we go over the page, please, to paragraph 4:

“Fujitsu’s price for providing the data and for skilled resource to analyse and report on it is high …”

We’ve gone wrong somewhere, I’m looking at page 4. Thank you:

“4. Appointing an external expert is likely to give the best results in court. The expert will need to be able to testify both on the overall status of Horizon and related systems and on the analysis of data relating to individual cases. Such an expert may be needed for the Castleton (Marine Drive) case after 7 February. Therefore discussions with Fujitsu should be initiated on the role, [terms of reference] and access to Fujitsu staff and information for such an expert [I think that should be full stop]. Advice should be obtained from Peter Corbett on the desirability of using our external auditors to provide such an expert, even though such a person may be seen as less independent by a court.”

So this is recommending the appointment of an expert external to Post Office and Fujitsu with discussions initiated with Fujitsu on the role that this person is going to perform.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Did that happen?

Anthony Utting: Not to my recollection. It may have – discussions took place, I don’t know if it ever got beyond a discussion.

Mr Beer: Were you ever aware of an expert being appointed in criminal cases, external to Fujitsu and the Post Office on the prosecution side?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall any while I was there.

Mr Beer: Would these minutes have been fed back to you, by Graham Ward, essentially your deputy, at the meeting?

Anthony Utting: He may have done but he may have – because he was working – he was representing the Investigation Team. It was a business initiative. He probably did send me the minutes and I probably did read them but we were a contributor to this, not a leader. So I don’t know if we would have taken any actions on the basis of what was in here.

Mr Beer: But we’ve seen from Mandy Talbot’s email, on which you were –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – a copyee, that there were a number of cases in which the integrity of Horizon was being called into question –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – by number of subpostmasters?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: There was a meeting arranged at which representatives of different parts of the business joined together to reach a consensus as to what needed to be done –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and there’s some pretty clear recommendations here –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – that do not seem to be implemented in practice?

Anthony Utting: No. I think the action point we’ve just been looking at suggests that – and it would probably not be one of the people in that meeting but Rod Ismay would probably be approaching Peter Corbett with regards to where to go with it. Because I worked for Rod and so did some of the more senior people in that room, and Rod was a direct report to Peter. So if anyone was going to talk to Peter it would probably have been Rod.

I think our role in that meeting was because we held the key to the ARQ requests and part of Graham’s function would have been to preserve our ability to get data we needed for criminal cases, as well as giving advice on how to do it for other departments. I think the biggest issue was there was a contractual limit on how much data could be attained and, for reasons that I don’t know, the limit also included that it needed to be for investigations and prosecutions.

So there was going to be – need to be a fundamental review of what data we could get from them, in order for this to be progressed, and that wasn’t something for the Investigation Team to deal with.

Mr Beer: We can see who walked away from the meeting with actions, by scrolling down. I’m going to skip over 1 and 2. But 3 was left to Mr Baines, Keith Baines:

“… to prepare and circulate to meeting attendees a first draft of a Business Policy document … on Horizon including guidance on what should be said to subpostmasters raising concerns beginning (and why).”

That document:

“… should also provide guidance on how to recognise potential cases.

“4. DH [Dave Hulbert] – to propose a process for coordinating business response to potential cases.”

Then, lastly:

“5. [Keith Baines] – to discuss the need for and [terms of reference] of an external expert with Fujitsu.”

Then over the page at 6, Mr Baines again, the third action that he had:

“… to brief Dave Smith on the meeting’s recommendations.”

Would that be Dave Smith, IT Dave Smith, or Managing Director, Dave Smith?

Anthony Utting: I’m just trying to think. I think Alan Cook was still there then, so it would have been Dave Smith but I think he was Operations Director. I can’t recall his role. I think he had something to do with operations and not just IT but I may be wrong.

Mr Beer: Looking at this as a whole, would you agree that some fairly serious concerns were being raised here about the way in which the business was responding to challenges made by subpostmasters to the accuracy and reliability of Horizon?

Anthony Utting: Yes, that’s right.

Mr Beer: That a series of actions were raised, including (1) to record and coordinate the number and nature of the challenges, and (2) to consider the appointment of an independent expert to report on both Horizon’s generic reliability and on individual challenges that were made.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: So far as you’re aware, were neither of those things done?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall. There were other discussions that we had, there were other emails in the bundle around discussions that I’d had with Keith Baines and Mandy about what we should do and how we should do it. I think we discussed it probably in our one-to-ones with Rod but, as I say, Rod was the person in charge of that area and I don’t know how much involvement we would have had other than being the experts in the ARQ process.

Mr Beer: Can I turn to the preparation of case files, please.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: That can come down. Thank you.

You tell us in your witness statement – it’s paragraph 22, it needn’t come up – the process for the preparation of a case file to be submitted to Casework and then on to the lawyers within the Criminal Law Team. Can we look, please, at some practical examples of this. Firstly, POL00104747.

Can we look, please, at paragraph 3.2 to start with, which is on page 3. Thank you. So this is a policy setting out the creation of casework files and the submission of casework files. It says, as its “Purpose” – I skipped over it and I shouldn’t have done:

“The aim of the policy is to ensure adequate controls are in place to maintain standards throughout investigation processes.”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: It’s dated January – sorry, it’s effective from March 2000. Can you see there’s a list of the documents that needed to be included from the fourth and fifth bullet points in the file:

“Enclosure envelopes should be used to enclose the following supporting documents …

“(a) Appendix A.”

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: “Original statements and, where appropriate, copies of original exhibits.

“(b) Appendices B, C etc …

Then there’s a long list of documents, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: We can see, amongst the long list of documents to be included within Appendices B and C, about six down, “Disclosure forms”. What were disclosure forms?

Anthony Utting: In this context, I’m not entirely sure. They may have been the disclosure forms that we would use later when we came to produce a committal bundle. That could possibly be what they were.

Mr Beer: Do you mean the –

Anthony Utting: The sensitive –

Mr Beer: What we might know –

Anthony Utting: – in the report, yeah.

Mr Beer: – as schedules of sensitive and non-sensitive unused material?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00064235. This is an example I’ve picked of Ms Hamilton’s case, as an example. Can you see this is headed “Disclosure Officer’s Report”?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we just pan out a little bit, please, just so you can see the whole thing, and then look over the page, and the next page. If you see at the foot of the page, bottom left, there is a generic description of the document as a CS006E report; can you see that?

Anthony Utting: I might be able to. Yeah, I can see that.

Mr Beer: That’s on each page. So this is a Disclosure Officer’s report, rather than, I think, a schedule of sensitive or non-sensitive material. If we go back to page 1, please, and look at the rubric underneath the heading. The form says:

“The following items are listed on the schedule(s) for this case and may undermine the prosecution case (primary disclosure)/assist the defence [case] (secondary disclosure)/or are required to be supplied under section 7.3 of the Code (delete as [appropriate]).”

So this is requiring in a Disclosure Officer’s report to identify any unused material which might undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – which is, in a compressed way, essentially the test under the 1996 Act for disclosure?

Anthony Utting: I just followed instructions, I don’t know the legal stuff.

Mr Beer: Okay. It also states that the list will include material that’s required to be supplied under Section 7.3 of the Code. What would you understand that to be a reference to?

Anthony Utting: I probably knew 17 years ago.

Mr Beer: But you don’t now?

Anthony Utting: I wouldn’t have the first idea today.

Mr Beer: Then the first two columns, the “Schedule” and the “Item number”, can you see that they’ve got an asterisk next to them?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we go down to the bottom of the page, a bit further, can you see the asterisk is picked up?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “Enter [either] CS006C or CS006D and enter Item No from the schedule.”

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: We know that they are a reference respectively to the documents or the form representing, in the first instance, the non-sensitive and, in the second instance, sensitive unused schedules.

So if we move up to the top of the page again, the document’s requiring the author to set out which schedule the document appears on, whether it’s a sensitive or non-sensitive schedule, and then the item on that schedule, yes?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Does it follow that, in order to submit a casework file to the Criminal Law Team for a charging decision, a Post Office Investigator should have completed the schedules of unused material in both species and a disclosure report before doing so?

Anthony Utting: I can’t recall exactly. I know they had to produce the first two. I’m not sure and I don’t think anyone was ever really sure who the Disclosure Officer actually was. I think a lot of emphasis was placed on the first two schedules. On this one, I’m not entirely sure. I would imagine that they would produce both the schedules and this one.

Mr Beer: But you can’t recall the stage of the process –

Anthony Utting: I can’t recall.

Mr Beer: – at which that occurred?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Whether it was before submission of the file to the criminal lawyer –

Anthony Utting: I think –

Mr Beer: – or after a charging decision had been made?

Anthony Utting: I think this was usually done after. I think this was part of the committal bundle.

Mr Beer: Does that mean that the reviewing lawyer wouldn’t have seen the unused material?

Anthony Utting: No, if there was anything in the evidence that helped the defence or undermined the prosecution, it would have been brought to the lawyer’s attention at the time the report was written but it would probably –

Mr Beer: By what means?

Anthony Utting: Probably in the body of the report.

Mr Beer: Can we just look at paragraph 31 of your witness statement, please?

Anthony Utting: I might have that wrong. I don’t recall when these forms were completed.

Mr Beer: Can we just look at paragraph 31 of your witness statement, which is on page 12. If we scroll down, you say:

“I have been asked to consider two documents … (Casework Management documents [one of which I took you to a moment ago]). I have no memory of these specific documents, but I recognise what they are and I believe they would have been circulated to all investigators as part of a Security Circular when I was an Investigator.”

Then over the page, please, three lines in:

“Bullet [point] 4 of page 2 is an instruction of what to include on an operational or procedural failures report and where to put this on the disclosure forms. I believe this would have applied to any bugs, errors or defects in the Horizon system that could have had an impact on a prosecution. Compliance checks were undertaken in all cases to ensure that the content requirements were met”, et cetera.

So are you saying there that, in relation to procedural failings, they ought to be identified both in the disclosure forms and in the report, the Investigating Officer’s report.

Anthony Utting: In the report in the case file. I don’t think it changed in my time, but any operational procedural failures would be included in the report in the case file. They may not have been included in the discipline file but I can’t – I know the reports moved around a little bit but there was always a duty to ensure that anything that potentially undermined the prosecution was brought to the solicitor’s attention at the start.

Mr Beer: You said in the course of that answer “they may not have been included in the discipline report”. Why was that?

Anthony Utting: It would depend on what it was. If it was they kept leaving the safe open or they shared tills, I believe that would have been included.

Mr Beer: Was it because the discipline report went straight to the suspect?

Anthony Utting: No, I don’t believe we would ever do anything – anything that we thought – bear in mind the suspect will have had all those things discussed with them at interview, they would know what we were going to say. I don’t think – it’s a long time ago.

I don’t think we would ever have deliberately not told something to a suspect because, if we picked up procedural issues, they would have been discussed with anybody who was being interviewed under caution while we were interviewing them because, obviously, if we’re going to conduct a prosecution and we are talking about potential failures in procedure that could have facilitated a loss, we’d have to discuss them with the suspect in interview because, otherwise, what’s the point of conducting a prosecution? You’ve got to establish what they’ve got to say about things.

Mr Beer: You tell us in your witness statement – this can come down – elsewhere, paragraph 22, that bugs, errors and defects in Horizon would have counted as the sort of procedural failing that the guidance that we’ve looked at was intended to cover?

Anthony Utting: I would think so, yes.

Mr Beer: Did you ever see bugs, errors or defects in Horizon listed on a disclosure report or in a schedule of unused material, whether sensitive or non-sensitive?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall ever seeing them but I don’t know that I would necessarily have seen the schedules because, in my role, I don’t know if I would have needed to see the schedules.

Mr Beer: You’ve anticipated my next question, what did you get, as the DPA, the designated prosecuting authority, in terms of schedules of used and unused material, when you were making a decision?

Anthony Utting: So if I was – when I was making – it would depend. I sat upstairs from the Casework Team so, if I was on site, I would probably be sent the case file and I would read the entire case file.

Mr Beer: That would include schedules of sensitive –

Anthony Utting: If they were there, yes.

Mr Beer: – and non-sensitive?

Anthony Utting: Yes, because if I saw anything in the case file that was suggested that there was a reason the prosecution might be at risk then I would probably want to discuss it with a solicitor. If I wasn’t onsite, I would – if there was an urgent need to do something, they would have sent me the report, the taped summaries, any interim reports and the advice from the solicitor, in order for me to make a decision.

Mr Beer: The schedules of sensitive and non-sensitive unused, were they the responsibility of the Disclosure Officer in the case?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Was there any process of a reviewing lawyer checking them?

Anthony Utting: I believe that they were always checked by the lawyer.

Mr Beer: What does checking or what did checking involve?

Anthony Utting: Reading through the schedules, making sure anything that was on the two front schedules, if it – if necessary, was included on the third schedule, probably ensuring – and I don’t know how much of this was based on trust – that the Investigator included everything that needed to be included on the schedules.

Mr Beer: That’s quite an important qualification, the extent to which it was based on trust. To what extent was there intrusive oversight of the completion of schedules of unused material by reviewing lawyers?

Anthony Utting: I can only – I can’t say for definite. Bear in mind that the National Investigation Team were spread across the land and the solicitors were – who took the initial advice were all based in Croydon and then in Victoria, they wouldn’t have had the ability to go to an Investigator’s office in Scotland and check that he’d included everything on his schedules. It was very much down to the Investigators to ensure that all of their evidence was included.

Mr Beer: So Investigators were essentially responsible for what went on a schedule and what didn’t?

Anthony Utting: Initially, yes. Definitely.

Mr Beer: Initially? When did it position change?

Anthony Utting: No, if, during the course of a case, the barrister asked a question or a solicitor asked a question about something, there could be an occasion where something was referred to in an Investigation report and then, when you looked in the schedules, it wasn’t there. So then the solicitor would come back and say, “Well, you’ve mentioned this, it’s not on the schedules, can we make sure it’s on the schedule and can you check to see if there’s anything else”.

Mr Beer: Thank you.

Sir, I’m about to turn to a separate topic, Mr Utting’s role as the designated prosecuting authority, and look at some case studies. I wonder if we might break until 1.45.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, of course.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much.

(12.42 pm)

(The Short Adjournment)

(1.45 pm)

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

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, thank you.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, Mr Utting. Can we turn to your role as the designated prosecuting authority, sometimes called the prosecuting authority, prosecution authority or DPA in the papers.

You tell us in your witness statement that you believed that it was the business policy to prosecute and you would authorise prosecutions if Legal Services advised that the Post Office advised might be successful.

Can you help us with what you mean by it was the business’s policy to prosecute?

Anthony Utting: By the time I joined POID in 1992, I was always led to understand that where a crime was committed against the Post Office, if it was within the guidelines to prosecute, then the Post Office would prosecute.

Mr Beer: What do you mean by “within the guidelines”?

Anthony Utting: So I probably didn’t know at 1992, but later on in my career I understood how Legal Services would consider their advice and I believe they followed – I didn’t know at the time, I don’t think, but from looking at things since, they followed the same Code as the Crown Prosecutors.

Mr Beer: When you became more senior, in the position in 2002 to 2007 in particular, did you have an understanding of how the Code for Crown Prosecutors worked?

Anthony Utting: I would say yes, but probably not to the level that you guys do.

Mr Beer: Can you explore the space in between those two possibilities. Did you have a copy of it?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Did you ever have a copy of it?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Did you ever receive any training on making prosecutorial decisions?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know if there was any formal training. I probably had a session with either Rob –

Mr Beer: Rob Wilson?

Anthony Utting: Yes, sorry, and maybe Phil Gerrish, because he did it before me. I don’t think there was a formal training.

Mr Beer: You tell us in your witness statement at paragraph 48 that, in order to approve a prosecution, you would have had to have read the case file and the advice from Legal Services?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Having read the case file and the advice from Legal Services, what criteria did you apply when authorising a decision to prosecute or making a decision to prosecute?

Anthony Utting: So it was probably very basic. So I would read the case file, the taped summary and look at the evidence from an Investigator’s perspective and then read the lawyer’s advice, and I would only challenge it if I thought that they were prosecuting and I wasn’t sure they should, or they were suggesting charges other than what I thought.

And it would more be a case around if they were recommending theft and false accounting, or just false accounting, and I thought they should – they should be pursuing theft I might have a conversation with the lawyer to establish why.

Mr Beer: Why would you think that theft ought to be pursued in addition to false accounting?

Anthony Utting: Well, if the case papers to me, as an Investigator, suggested that theft was a charge that we might apply, then I might ring the solicitor and ask why not. But, ordinarily, if they explained to me the reasons, then I would authorise what they suggested.

Mr Beer: That’s looking at adding a charge or charges.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: What about the other way round? On what basis would you decide not to authorise a prosecution?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall ever not authorising a prosecution –

Mr Beer: That was my next question: did you ever say no?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall ever saying no. They were the experts and they would give the advice.

Mr Beer: Did they advise on both evidential sufficiency and public interest?

Anthony Utting: From my recollection, yes.

Mr Beer: What was the purpose of your involvement?

Anthony Utting: Legal Services were independent of the business and the decision to prosecute needed to come from the business. This is my understanding of why it came from us.

Mr Beer: Would you consider interview summaries or transcripts when authorising prosecutions?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Would you or did you ever raise questions about obtaining additional evidence, having read such interview summaries or transcripts?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall. I think, once the case had come through the casework team, the prosecution was very much a matter between the lawyer and the Investigator and counsel, if and when they came on board.

Mr Beer: So you viewed it as a complete package; is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: It wasn’t your job to start suggesting additional enquiries or similar?

Anthony Utting: Not in those cases. When I was the Investigation Manager, if I had an Investigator that I was looking at a case – particularly a more junior Investigator, if I was looking at their case before it went in, then I might suggest further enquiries or further witness statements but, once it came to the prosecution authority, my role was to authorise the prosecution and leave experts to get on with it.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00048207. This is an email that you sent on the 17 October 2006 to – I think that’s a generic email account, isn’t it, Investigation Team –

Anthony Utting: That’s the Casework Team.

Mr Beer: That’s the whole of the Casework team’s email account, essentially?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “Re: DAM Authority [for] Josephine Hamilton”, and you say, “Prosecution please”.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Did you prepare a report or document or précis of your analysis of the evidence?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Would you simply convey of the outcome of your decision over email like this?

Anthony Utting: Ordinarily, no, I would write in the case papers. I believe this would have been a situation where I wasn’t in the office, and so they emailed me. They possibly rang me as well, if they needed it done, if I’d been away from the office for a couple of days, then I would simply have replied to the email. Which is why it says, “Re”, because I think this was a reply to an email.

Mr Beer: So the substance of your decision is conveyed in these two words: “Prosecution please”?

Anthony Utting: Simply, yes.

Mr Beer: If you wrote something in the case papers, it would be similar, “Prosecution” or “Prosecution approved”?

Anthony Utting: “Authorised”, something like that.

Mr Beer: “Prosecution authorised”?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Does that reflect the fact that you were essentially a rubber stamp?

Anthony Utting: It’s a very simple way of putting it. I wouldn’t see it quite like that because, if I was simply a rubber stamp then I wouldn’t have read all the case papers; I would have just said “Yeah, get on with it”, but that’s not how it worked.

Mr Beer: You’ve told us that you conveyed the outcome in one or two words and that you never said no. It sounds like a rubber stamp?

Anthony Utting: It does. I’m not going to argue that it sounds like a rubber stamp. I didn’t see it that way.

Mr Beer: Why didn’t you see it that way?

Anthony Utting: Because I was being asked to look at the case papers and agree that what Legal Services was advising was the correct way to go.

Mr Beer: You were reliant on the summary of the investigation carried out by the Investigator in the offender report?

Anthony Utting: Alongside the taped summaries and the evidence and the advice of Legal Services.

Mr Beer: In what circumstances would you be in possession of a full interview transcript?

Anthony Utting: At the point prosecution authority, unless the case had gone to Legal Services and they declined to advise until their team had full transcripts of interview, I would never see a transcript.

Mr Beer: Was it rare that a full transcript was prepared?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Why was that? Was that cost?

Anthony Utting: It was probably cost, effort, the time it would take. We had strict timescales on which – in which people had to submit papers. I think from the time I joined Investigations, we’d always done taped summaries and transcripts were only prepared if counsel asked for them.

Mr Beer: I think we’ve shown you a series of interview transcripts from the criminal case studies that we –

Anthony Utting: Some, yes.

Mr Beer: – have: Adedayo, Thomas, Skinner and Blakey, just referring to them, with no disrespect, by their surnames?

Anthony Utting: I think I’ve seen taped summaries and excerpts of verbatim. I’m not sure if I’ve seen full transcripts of all their interviews.

Mr Beer: Let’s just look at one of them, Blakey, please. Can we start by POL00044830. If we just scroll through this, we’ll see that it’s largely a transcript, albeit breaks into summary in places. If we just scroll then you’ll get the idea of it, keep scrolling. You can see it’s a pretty full transcript?

Anthony Utting: Oh yes, yes.

Mr Beer: If we just go back to page 1, please, we can see this is an interview of David Blakey conducted by Paul Whitaker with Helen Dickinson present and, indeed, she asked some questions too, of 13 May 2004. I think this was one of the cases in which you were a decision maker?

Anthony Utting: Probably, if it’s in the bundles, yes.

Mr Beer: Paul Whitaker, presumably you knew him, he was one of your team?

Anthony Utting: He was in one of the Investigation Teams. I think he was North of England team.

Mr Beer: Have you read – appreciating that, like me, you’ve got three bundles of papers – have you read this recently?

Anthony Utting: I think I probably read this the middle of October when I first got it, when I was writing my witness statement. But I read all these documents then, so my recollection is not going to be fantastic.

Mr Beer: Can we pick it up – and I’ll try and remind you without going through it laboriously because we’ve already looked at this with Mr Whitaker – bottom of page 4, please. Mr Blakey says, last line:

“About three months ago money started to go missing I covered this up hopping 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”, et cetera.

Then middle of the page, there’s a summary rather than a transcript:

“DB states the figure seemed to accumulate. He states that when they took over the office some time ago they suffered a few discrepancies which he put down to someone ‘unsavoury’ working for him. [Mr Blake] states that his wife suffers from asthma and whilst the office was suffering the big discrepancies a few years ago she was worrying. Some of those discrepancies came back through error notices, some did not. [Mr Blakey] states he replaced the money and everything was above forward. But it did not stop his wife from being ill. [Mr Blakey] states that when the losses appeared in the account more recently, he tried to protect her by not telling her. The last thing he wanted was for her to be that ill again. [Mr Blakey] states that before he knew where he was the amount had just built up and built up to where it is today. [Mr Blakey] states he should have told someone in the early days.”

Then Mr Whitaker bottom of the page, about five or six lines up:

“In relation to this money going missing. Where do you think it’s gone?

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

“Question: Do you think it’s a member of your staff that’s stealing?

“Answer: No, I’ll be absolutely honest; I trust the staff 100 per cent.”

Over the page, please. He says he can’t point the finger at any member of staff and says, “She won’t make mistakes”.

Then Mr Whitaker says, about 12 lines in:

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

He says:

“Well”, and is then interrupted.

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

“Answer: It’s some time ago to be honest with you …

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

“Answer: No way, no honestly, as God is my witness …

“Question: 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?

“Answer: No, that’s true.

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

“Answer: No, I know you don’t … but.”

Mr Whitaker interrupts:

“Now come on … I accept your candidness in relation to you’ve come in here and you’ve said yeah … you’ve held your hands up to say the money’s gone … you’ve been covering up to replace it … but you cannot sit here and expect me to believe that you don’t know where £60,000 has gone.”

Then over the page, please.

Third line Mr Whitaker:

“It doesn’t disappear. Money goes out of an office through incompetence or dishonesty …”

Then when he next speaks:

“… now if your staff are incompetent you get them together and say ‘Pull your bloody socks up’ or if they are dishonest you get them together and you say ‘One of you is having this away’, or you get on to the police or it’s sorted out that way. That’s not happened, has it? You know where this money’s gone because you’re the one who’s been taking it, David. Aren’t you?”

He says “No”, again.

Then foot of the page, a bit further down, last section:

“I can understand you’ve probably got your wife’s welfare at heart. But the size of the climb 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.”

Over the page, please. Third section:

“I know I’m right [says Mr Whitaker] because I know. David, I don’t know what you are trying to … Your reasons for doing it or whether you’re helping anyone or think you are shielding anyone by not telling the truth but you are not telling me the truth David, you can’t sit here and expect me to believe you.”

Then scroll down, please, fourth section from the bottom:

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

“Answer: Oh no.”

Mr Whitaker continues:

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

It continues, “PW” at the bottom:

“[Mr Whitaker] explains that it is not only him and [Ms Dickinson] that he has to convince …”

So that’s the interviewer telling the suspect that it’s his duty to convince them. Then he reads the caution again.

Over the page, please, to page 9 halfway down:

“You know where this money’s gone”, says Mr Whitaker.

“Answer: I really don’t. I don’t know where it’s gone. I really wish I did. I wish I could lay my hands on it now go and through to my wife and say here you are, love.

“Question: Think about what you’re saying, David. Think about what you’re saying. If we’re to believe that you don’t know where this money is and if we’re to believe you that you hadn’t had it, how many other people work here? There’s the four ladies and your wife.”

Then the foot of the page, about ten lines up:

“Now if you are saying is true. Because we don’t think it’s errors perhaps because the error would come back. So we’re looking at these four ladies. You’ve just said, well, you said at the start of the interview, you think they’re as honest as the day is long.”

He says:

“Yes, I do.”

Then the foot of the page:

“And the thing is we’ve got to speak to these four ladies possibly and we’ve got to question the honesty and integrity of these four ladies. Now are we to do that? Because that’s the only option that I can see. You are going to have to put these four ladies, we’re going to have to sit them down and interview them, because from what you are saying that’s our only option.”

He says:


Mr Whitaker says:

“Because we want to know who’s stolen our money.”

Then at the end of the next section:

“[Mr Whitaker] 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 [Mr Blakey’s] wife. However, [Mr Whitaker] states he feels this can be avoided as he feels that [Mr Blakey] has something he may wish to tell [Mr Whitaker].”

He says:

“David, money doesn’t go missing like that, it doesn’t go missing. I’ve been doing this job a number of years and it doesn’t go missing. Somebody takes it. Now I don’t know whether you think it’s better that you’ll admit to the covering up, to the false accounting or the covering up of it, and it will be all right as long as you don’t admit to the stealing ‘cause that’s not the case.”

Then the last page, over the page, bottom part of the page, the big section, Mr Whitaker says:

“… and I just don’t think it’s true I think you’ve had it, I think you’ve had the money, I think it started … I’ll tell you, I think it started a number of years ago and you’ve had a drip, drip, drip a bit here and a bit there and it’s come to today when the auditors have turned up because you haven’t had an audit here for a number of years, I don’t know whether you thought well I’m never going to get one or what, but the auditors turned up today and you thought, I’ve been caught, that’s me done, and you’ve had a think about it and thought, well, if I say I’ve covered it up it’ll be all right, nothing will happen, that’s what I think’s happened …”

That can come down, thank you.

Do you agree that this interviewing approach is for the interviewer to offer their subjective belief as to whether Mr Blakey is telling the truth?

Anthony Utting: I think it’s a tactic that’s employed in an investigative interview. If I had an Investigator who was conducting a tape-recorded interview with a suspected thief and they didn’t accuse them of being a thief during the interview, I’d probably be disappointed in them.

Mr Beer: I wasn’t talking about accusing somebody of stealing; I was asking about the repetitive statement of the subjective belief of the interviewer on whether or not the person is telling the truth or not?

Anthony Utting: I think it would depend on the situation on the day and the feel that the interviewer got for the person sitting in front of them and whether they thought they were telling the truth or not.

Mr Beer: So you think that’s okay?

Anthony Utting: Without sitting down and reading the whole thing again in context, then I don’t see anything massively wrong with that interview.

Mr Beer: Do you agree that the second thing the interviewer does is to threaten Mr Blakey with the need to interview his ill wife, which procedure could only be saved if he admitted the theft himself?

Anthony Utting: I think it could be put better but I think sometimes you need to be clear with the person you’re talking to what the next steps are going to be. I don’t think there’s any value in concealing from them what the extent of the investigation is likely to be.

Mr Beer: So nothing wrong in that –

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure of the context but it’s a long time since I did this. Reading it now, I’m not sure there’s much wrong with that approach.

Mr Beer: Thirdly, would you agree that the interviewer threatened Mr Blakey with the need to interview the four ladies that worked at the branch to “put them through it”, as he said, which could be avoided if only he admitted to the theft?

Anthony Utting: Again, I think the way he’s put it could be done better. I think it would have to be made clear that the other ladies would be interviewed but I’m not sure – I’m not sure if he intended it to be a threat. I think he was just laying out what the next stages of the investigation would be but, obviously, it’s up to perception from the person reading it.

Mr Beer: Fifthly, would you agree that Mr Whitaker speculates that Mr Blakey was saving the money that he stole for a retirement plan to look after a mistress –

Anthony Utting: I’m not –

Mr Beer: – or similar?

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure why he mentioned that. Why somebody had done something or suggested things like that, probably – it’s probably not the most professional approach.

Mr Beer: Would you agree that, sixthly, he, Mr Whitaker, was seeking to badger or hector Mr Blakey into making an admission?

Anthony Utting: “Badger and hector” I would probably disagree with but, yes, he was definitely exerting pressure.

Mr Beer: Again, on the appropriate side of the line, then, in your view?

Anthony Utting: I would say so, yes.

Mr Beer: So if you read this at the time you wouldn’t think “(Sharp intake of breath) Ouch”?

Anthony Utting: No, I don’t think.

Mr Beer: So did you ever receive any complaints regarding Investigators’ interviewing or questioning technique –

Anthony Utting: Um –

Mr Beer: – ie being oppressive in an interview?

Anthony Utting: I don’t believe so. Every interviewer approaches their interview in different way. We were all trained in cognitive interviewing techniques and one of the techniques we were supposed to employ was to try to get the person on side, so having an antagonist particular approach in an interview is a surefire way of getting the shutters drawn down. So it wasn’t the approach I would have taken but some people got results in different ways.

Mr Beer: Are you saying by that that you operated a broad church and that a variety of styles were permissible, including this one?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I would say so. Every Investigator had their own personality and their own way of doing things.

Mr Beer: They could bring their own personality to bear onto a subject in interview?

Anthony Utting: As long as they stayed within policy guidelines and the law, yes.

Mr Beer: What were the policy guidelines on interviewing suspects?

Anthony Utting: That all the evidence should be covered. Obviously, I’ve just explained we were trained in interview techniques. Badgering, obviously, was something that was frowned upon. If somebody did go over of the line and it was brought to our attention – and I would expect that to come out either through the solicitor in the case or when the case went to court because defence would obviously have a view on it – then it would come back and would need to be looked at but I don’t recall ever having any of those cases ever come back.

Mr Beer: By that last answer, are you saying you would wait for complaint to be made in the course of court proceedings as the judge of whether interviewers were –

Anthony Utting: If I saw inappropriate behaviour by an Investigator, whether it be on a tape-recorded interview or when we went into an office, then that Investigator would have a discussion. But I don’t remember having to have a discussion in relation to a tape-recorded interview.

Mr Beer: That’s in the entirety of the seven years that you held a relevant role?

Anthony Utting: In relation to tape-recorded interviews, yes. I do remember speaking to an Investigator about how they behaved when we went into an office one day to speak to the manager but that was not to do with talking to a suspect.

Mr Beer: If a member of the Criminal Law Team decided that there was insufficient evidence to meet the test for prosecutions, would the file ever reach your desk?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: It would?

Anthony Utting: I think so.

Mr Beer: Why do you think so?

Anthony Utting: I think if there was a view that we needed to discuss the case with Legal Services, it might come back. It might come to me in order that I could have the discussion with Legal Services. I don’t recall exactly whether the Casework Team had authority to close down an investigation if the case had been put forward for prosecution and the advice came back negative. They may have done.

I think – I do remember, I think, seeing some cases where they suggested that there was no value in prosecution but the case came to me so I could have a discussion.

Mr Beer: Did you talk Legal Services or the Criminal Law Team around?

Anthony Utting: No, I would just ask them the reasons.

Mr Beer: Did such cases end up in prosecutions?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think so. I don’t remember having an argument that I won.

Mr Beer: So you did see cases where there was an agreed insufficient evidence to prosecute?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: What were the reasons for those? Can you remember the evidential insufficiency?

Anthony Utting: I think most of the time it was because there was a possibility that something else had occurred. So if there were poor procedures in an office and there was a counter loss and we couldn’t ascribe the loss to an individual, an individual may well have been interviewed under caution and the case file gone to Legal Services for advice but, if they saw elements in the evidence that suggested that there was a risk to the prosecution because, say, other people had access to the till or the safe or whatever –

Mr Beer: A bit like Mr Blakey?

Anthony Utting: Potentially, yes, yes.

Mr Beer: Where, as things stood at the date of the interview, there were six people –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – him, his wife and four counter staff –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – who could equally have been responsible for the theft but the interviewer was putting it on the basis of: it must be Mr Blakey?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, I think there were other things in the papers in the report had suggested why he went down that line. I can’t recall them immediately, but I don’t recall the case. But, looking at the papers, I think there was some reasons why they went down that road. But I can’t recall what they were.

Mr Beer: If a criminal lawyer decided that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute but that prosecution wasn’t in the public interest, would the file reach your desk?

Anthony Utting: Probably.

Mr Beer: Did you ever overrule such advice, ie you decided that the public interest test was met?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall. It’s unlikely. We may have had a frank discussion about it but I doubt I would have overruled them.

Mr Beer: Was cautioning a suspect a facility open to the Post Office?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: By that, I don’t mean a criminal caution preparatory to an interview –

Anthony Utting: No, I know what you mean.

Mr Beer: – but like a formal warning?

Anthony Utting: I think we – we did have people cautioned but I think – I don’t remember if we did it in Post Office Limited, but I know with Royal Mail cases if we’d had a postman arrested or if – we may even have administered cautions, I can’t remember if we administered cautions or not, but I know that in Royal Mail cases with very minor theft cases or wilful delay, we might have the police caution an offender but I don’t recall if we did it ourselves.

Mr Beer: Okay. Can I move to a new topic, please, which is the extent to which Post Office focused on debt recovery. You tell us in your witness statement that, after you became National Investigations Manager, you also became a member of the Royal Mail Group Security Committee, which was comprised of the most senior and experienced security managers within Royal Mail.

Anthony Utting: That’s right, yes.

Mr Beer: Did the Royal Mail Group Security committee exist for the entirety of your period as National Investigations Manager?

Anthony Utting: Yes, I believe – well, it may not have existed at the start but it certainly existed when I stopped being involved with Investigations.

Mr Beer: What was the role and function of the Royal Mail Group Security Committee?

Anthony Utting: It was really around Andrew Wilson getting the most senior people together to discuss what was going on across the group and Security and to make sure we were all aligned with where we were going on what Corporate Security was doing.

Mr Beer: How often did it meet?

Anthony Utting: I can’t recall. I think it might have been quarterly.

Mr Beer: Was it a formalised and minuted type committee?

Anthony Utting: I think it was but I can’t remember.

Mr Beer: Were actions raised from it which required to be addressed following each meeting?

Anthony Utting: I really can’t recall. I think I only – it can’t have been in existence that long because I think I only went to about four or five.

Mr Beer: We’ve seen, from the November and December 2005 email agenda and minutes, that issues were being raised at that stage as to the absence of a collective forum within the Post Office for addressing concerns that were being raised about the reliability of Horizon?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Were those concerns fed back to the Royal Mail Group Security Committee?

Anthony Utting: I would imagine, yes.

Mr Beer: Would it not be the ideal forum for the provision or exchange of information about concerns or allegations about problems with Horizon and concerns about the lack of facility and oversight within Post Office Limited for the management of such allegations?

Anthony Utting: I think it was important, I think, that the Committee was aware but, because Horizon was business unit specific, it was probably not the place to get action undertaken, because this was just the Security people from all the business units talking to Andrew Wilson, and not Post Office Limited.

It was much – Andrew may have been a good person to use as a lever to get the business to do something but he wasn’t the person to take charge of that because he only dealt with Security and Criminal Investigations; he didn’t deal with business policy, the postmaster’s contracts, the discipline in relation to branches, and he didn’t have any involvement with Horizon.

So I don’t think he would have been the right person to do that and that committee wouldn’t have been the right place to deal with it.

Mr Beer: Just explain why. If there was a problem with Horizon or an alleged problem with Horizon, which is fairly fundamental to the –

Anthony Utting: It is to the Post Office –

Mr Beer: – to the Post Office –

Anthony Utting: – but not to Royal Mail Group because the Post Office is a small part of Royal Mail Group and Andrew’s team was looking at the whole group. This is a business unit specific issue and, therefore, would be more properly dealt with within the business.

Mr Beer: Wouldn’t you want to tell the group’s Security Committee?

Anthony Utting: I think I said that they were informed of it but I don’t think they took on ownership.

Mr Beer: What do you mean by you don’t think they “took on ownership”?

Anthony Utting: I think it was a business unit issue that was managed and owned within the business.

Mr Beer: So it was kept within Post Office Limited?

Anthony Utting: I – honestly I can only deal from the Security perspective with – as far as Security was concerned. I believe Andrew would have been aware but he wouldn’t have been actively involved.

Mr Beer: You tell us in your witness statement, paragraph 7 – no need to turn it up – that you were responsible in your role for examining business processes, products and identifying potential risks?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Did that ever involve the risk of Horizon not being robust?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Did it ever involve identifying the risk not only to the safety and fairness of criminal convictions but also to the continued operation of the Horizon system because of any bugs, errors or defects within it?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: Who was responsible for that kind of big picture assessment of Horizon?

Anthony Utting: I would have said the head of IT.

Mr Beer: Who was that, whilst you were National Investigations Manager?

Anthony Utting: I think it was Dave Smith but I’m not 100 per cent sure.

Mr Beer: But it’s one thing for an IT system to have faults which have an impact on accounting: how do we return our annual accounts in truth and fairness each year? It’s another if you’re using that system, the data produced by that system, to prosecute people, isn’t it?

Anthony Utting: I mean, I’m a layman but I would say they’re one and the same. If you can’t trust the system, you can’t trust your accounts and you can’t choose the data to prosecute people. I don’t think there’s any differential in that respect: it either works or it doesn’t and it’s either fit for purpose for both purposes or, in my view, it’s not.

Mr Beer: You don’t think there’s any difference between relying on data for evidential purposes to prosecute somebody in a criminal court versus the checks and balances that you might apply from an accounting perspective?

Anthony Utting: Again, I’m a layman. I would imagine the charge on the prosecution is probably perhaps greater in respect of if you’re producing a set of accounts and the auditors come in, there’s probably a little bit of leeway as to whether they’re 100 per cent accurate or whether they’re 100 per cent checked, whereas if we’re in prosecution, we need to be 100 per cent certain of what we’re saying.

Mr Beer: Did you rely in your mind on the fact that auditors were auditing Post Office Limited’s annual accounts and, therefore, you took from that that Horizon must be robust and reliable?

Anthony Utting: Regardless of the auditor function, the Post Office was using this to manage its business with its clients and the Government and, of course, I expected it to be 100 per cent robust. It should have been and we understood it was.

Mr Beer: So the fact that auditors were performing a function for an accounting purpose didn’t give you any added – you didn’t rely on that, in your mind?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think – it’s a long – I don’t remember what I relied on but the fact that the business accounts were being signed off by auditors has obviously got to give us some confidence that what’s in there is right.

Mr Beer: Did you know, in fact, the extent to which the auditors examined the operation of Horizon or whether they entered caveats in the accounts to say that they had not done so?

Anthony Utting: I wouldn’t be aware of anything of that nature.

Mr Beer: Can we turn, against the context of one of the answers you gave earlier about the introduction from, I think you said, 2002/2003 onwards, of a drive for financial investigations?

Anthony Utting: I think it was 2003/4.

Mr Beer: ‘03/’04?

Anthony Utting: Yeah, I think.

Mr Beer: So can we look, please, at POL00121521. If we just zoom out, please. You’ll see that these are “Criminal Asset Recovery Security Guidelines”, version 2, dated 2003. You’re attributed co-authorship with MF Matthews?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: They’re said to be approved by Mick Matthews. What role did he perform?

Anthony Utting: I think at this stage he was a Commercial Security Manager but I’m not 100 per cent sure. He later became a Financial Investigator.

Mr Beer: There, the owner is said to be Phil Gerrish.

Anthony Utting: He was my predecessor.

Mr Beer: Your predecessor –

Anthony Utting: (The witness nodded)

Mr Beer: – who was given assurance at the foot of the page, and then they were authorised by the Head of Security?

Anthony Utting: That would be Tony Marsh.

Mr Beer: Mr Marsh?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we turn to page 4, please. Can you see, in the second paragraph, 1.2, you and Mr Matthews state:

“By recovering the assets we send out a clear message to the criminal/potential criminal that there is little point stealing as we will endeavour to recover their ill-gotten gains and as such reduce the benefit of their crime. This is a message the present Government wish to send out as they are in the process of setting out the National Confiscation Agency, whose role it will be to remove assets from organised crime.”

What was the relationship between subpostmasters and organised crime?

Anthony Utting: In the great scheme of things, it was rare. There were instances, particularly around this time because we were still doing benefits by book and cheque, organised crime would steal benefit books in the course of post and then employ subpostmasters to encash them. So we had cases where hundreds of thousands of pounds per year were being encashed with stolen benefit payments through sub post offices.

There was a particular case we did with the DWP where there were a group of subpostmasters who appeared to be working along the same lines, who all knew each other and were all cashing stolen benefit books.

Mr Beer: So here you’re not talking about the species of alleged crime that we’re concerned with in this Inquiry –

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: – a postmaster prosecuted for allegedly stealing £2,000?

Anthony Utting: No – not in that context, no.

Mr Beer: Is what we read here a reflection of a new and more aggressive stance taken by the Post Office in financial investigations to send out a clear message to the criminals?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think it was new. I think it was different. The legislation was new, at that stage, and we were looking at employing the legislation to make it easier for us to make recoveries in the case of a criminal trial.

Mr Beer: Were you generally of the view that, if a shortfall was shown at audit, there was likely to have been criminal activity? Was that your modus operandi?

Anthony Utting: I think you would go into the office with as open a mind as you could. We were –

Mr Beer: Sorry, what was constraining you from haven’t a completely open mind?

Anthony Utting: Experience of going into as many audit shortages we did, pre-Horizon and during Horizon, where it wasn’t anything other than a crime.

Mr Beer: So that mindset might colour the ability of an Investigator to have an open mind?

Anthony Utting: In practice, possibly. In theory, no.

Mr Beer: So, in practice, which is what we’re more concerned with –

Anthony Utting: I understand what you’re saying. The difficulty is when you work in investigations and you get called out to the same thing ten times, and nine times – the first nine times a certain outcome is apparent, when you go in the tenth time, it’s very hard to say, “I’m not going to jump to that conclusion until I’ve seen the facts”. You’d like to think that you would always keep an open mind as you go in the door but we’re human beings.

Mr Beer: Isn’t that the function of senior management: to ensure that its Investigators remained impartial and independent and retained an open mind and, in particular, would pursue with diligence all reasonable lines of inquiry that pointed away from the guilt of a suspect?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: How was that hammered home to Investigators, if it was?

Anthony Utting: Well, it would be – it was written in the policies that we had. It was written in the circulars that we had. Legal Services, when they gave their advice and when they spoke to Investigators about cases, would always be looking at what else is there? Team leaders in one to ones, when they were looking at cases and how things were progressing, would also be asking: what else are we looking at? What else have we got?

It’s just the nature of being an Investigator is that you should pursue the avenues that you see as potentially giving you an answer that steers you in one direction or another.

Mr Beer: I mean, you said in an answer there that it was in the policies. We’ve seen evidence that the duties under the Code of Practice issued under the 1996 Act, to pursue all reasonable lines of in lines of inquiry –

Anthony Utting: Is this CPIA?

Mr Beer: – yes – didn’t appear in Post Office policies for a decade?

Anthony Utting: But every Investigator from the time the Act came into force had a copy and was told they had to abide by it.

Mr Beer: So why wasn’t it in policy for a decade?

Anthony Utting: I think it was probably an omission on the basis that they had a copy of the Act and they were expected to read the Act and abide by it.

Mr Beer: But having a copy of an Act, some parts of which applied to a Post Office Investigator, other parts – many other parts of which did not –

Anthony Utting: So there would have been –

Mr Beer: Is not really a substitute, is it, for –

Anthony Utting: It may not be. I believe that when CPIA came in and we were looking at how to manage prosecutions on that basis, there would have been ID circulars, to the effect of “This is what the Act means for you”.

Mr Beer: Well, we are yet to discover those but your recollection is –

Anthony Utting: There was a Security intranet site and all the policies and all the circulars were kept on it and all Investigators would have received circulars as they were published via an email.

Mr Beer: So you would expect, where a suspect raised a potential Horizon cause of a shortfall, to pursue with utter diligence every reasonable line of inquiry to see whether there was substance in that because, if they’d been told about it in their training, if they’d got a copy of the Act and the guide in their hands and if it was on the intranet, they’d be under no doubt that that’s what the law obliged them to do?

Anthony Utting: I think you’re right, but I think you have to remember we were living in a world where, if we got a statement from Fujitsu that said the computer system worked correctly, then, as far as we were concerned, that avenue was closed because there was no problem with the machine. As Investigators, we would always be reliant on a technical expert to tell us because, if I walked into court and said there was no problem with the Horizon system, the judge would probably throw me out on the basis I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Mr Beer: Can we turn to a different topic – that can come down, thank you – which is what Fujitsu told you and your relationship with Fujitsu. What was your relationship with Fujitsu like?

Anthony Utting: Personally, I didn’t have much of one. I did some work with them to help promote them with financial institutions once, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with Fujitsu at all. The relationship between us and them was very – it was strained, in as much as they relied an awful lot on the contract and the commercial basis of the contract, which made it very difficult for us because, when you’re gathering evidence, you don’t expect to be faced with a bill or a block to say “You can’t have that because it’s not in the contract”. So we had to manoeuvre around the contract in order to get what we needed.

Mr Beer: Would you say that your team’s relationship with Fujitsu was therefore strained?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00090437, and turn to page 87, please. This is an email from you to John Cole and Keith Baines; can you see that?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: “Analyst resource for Civil Litigation cases”.

You say:

“… as discussed the other day, I do believe that this is a job that could be usefully conducted within our team for a number of reasons.

“Positive stuff

“Our Investigators routinely have to acquire and examine Horizon transaction data as part of their criminal investigation and prosecution work and are therefore familiar with not only looking at and analysing the data, but can also prepare their own witness statements in support of the evidence they uncover.

“Because we also have strong ties with the Security and audit function within Fujitsu, we are also able to take witness statements from them in support of prosecution cases and could use the same links in support of Civil matters … I believe our contract states they will provide support in this area”, et cetera, et cetera, and you go on.

You’re making a bid in this statement, I think, to take on the investigations for civil losses.

Anthony Utting: I think that’s not quite how it was. It was a case of –

Mr Beer: You tell us.

Anthony Utting: – they – we’d agreed that somebody needed to do it, and it was identified that our team had people who could routinely look at data and see what was going on within the data, and had a relationship with Fujitsu, and I believe we were the only function that had that sort of relationship with the people that would be needed to write the witness statements.

So it was almost a case of I wasn’t necessarily keen to do it, but we were probably the right people with the right level of experience to do it. Notwithstanding I don’t think civil law is quite the same as criminal law, so we would have had to do things slightly differently, I believe.

Mr Beer: In those first couple of paragraphs, you’re pointing at strong ties or good links –

Anthony Utting: It says “Positive stuff”.

Mr Beer: – with Fujitsu.

Anthony Utting: I think there was probably a bit that said “Negative stuff”.

Mr Beer: Yes, we’re going to go on to that in a moment but this doesn’t identify issues or problems with Fujitsu?

Anthony Utting: Given the recipients of that email, I don’t think this was necessarily the place to put that.

Mr Beer: Why?

Anthony Utting: Because Keith Baines knew that we had issues.

Mr Beer: So he knew it already?

Anthony Utting: I believe he did, yes.

Mr Beer: Can we scroll down, please, to “The sting in the tail”:

“It needs to be understood that as the people running the system and its diagnostics, only Fujitsu can provide evidence that the system is working correctly. All we can do is look at transactions, identify the dodgy ones and provide some idea of what has gone on and who did it, so you might find that there has to be a lot of input from Fujitsu on this from a witness statement and court attendance aspect.

“I have spoken to Rod about this issue and as we are in the throes of a 20% reduction, unless I am able to keep two of the CM2 heads …”

Is that a reference to a grade of Investigator?

Anthony Utting: That’s the investigation standard grade, yes.

Mr Beer: “… that I am being asked to lose, I will not be in a position to undertake this work. I have asked Rod to speak to [Peter Corbett] about this and see where we stand.”

But you weren’t identifying in this the kind of difficult or strained relationship you pointed us to?

Anthony Utting: I think this was something different to that day-to-day working with relationship with Fujitsu. This is about whether we were in a position where we could set some bodies in place to help with the civil litigation side of the business.

Having had discussions with Keith Baines about – and it was probably more my team than myself that experienced the difficulties around the contract and getting information, I don’t know – I can’t remember if it mentions in this email or elsewhere that, all the time we were constrained by the number of requests that we were allowed to have, we’d either have to reduce the number of requests in prosecutions in order to enable some of the requests for civil litigation or find some other means of using the data. So there was a lot more than just this email. It was a bit of a discussion.

Mr Beer: Okay. Let’s turn, then, to the requests made for data from Fujitsu. You tell us in paragraph 34 of your witness statement that your role was to try to persuade the business leaders that you needed better access to data:

“… in order to carry out our investigation activity, as the decrease meant that investigators that to be more mindful of how much that they requested and it meant that with the investigations we had ongoing we struggled to get access to sufficient data in a timely fashion.”

Is that right?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: Does it follow, then, that commercial considerations had a significant impact on the work of the Investigators?

Anthony Utting: I would say probably – it would depend on how you looked at it. If you look at what happened as a result of commercial decisions, yes, because we didn’t investigate as many things because we had less Investigators. And the constraints on ARQ requests meant that sometimes we had to wait until the following month before we could make a request because we’d run out. And I think we did put a proposition together that said how many investigations we thought we’d be able to undertake, based on the ARQ data.

Mr Beer: Did it have an impact – ie commercial considerations, did that have an impact on investigations that you did commence?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know. It would be hard to say. I don’t think we ever had to close a case because we couldn’t provide the evidence. But listening to what’s gone on in the years since, we probably needed more data than we had.

Mr Beer: In the event that the ARQ request limit was reached, what impact would that have on a particular investigation?

Anthony Utting: It would have to wait until the next door opened and we could get some more.

Mr Beer: So Investigators might pause their investigations and wait until the following month –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: – or two months, or however long?

Anthony Utting: It was usually – I don’t think we ever rolled over two months.

Mr Beer: Was the request to increase the availability of data that you made to senior leaders within the Post Office turned down on the basis of cost?

Anthony Utting: I don’t recall. I don’t recall. I think there was something being built within the business at the time, called POLMIS.

Mr Beer: Called, sorry?

Anthony Utting: It was called POLMIS, I think it was Post Office Limited Management Information System, and there was a lot of data being shared by Fujitsu straight into that repository, and I think we had a business objects front end, so we could do some data analysis ourselves before going for ARQ. But I think it came in towards the end of my time and I’m not entirely sure what we did and how we used it, but I know business objects was a front end and we could do some analysis via that route.

Mr Beer: Did you have to adopt a position, you and your members of your team, in avoiding making requests for data, so that limits were not reached?

Anthony Utting: I think we probably sent out instructions to people to be mindful of what they asked for and to ensure that they only asked for ARQ data where they considered there to be a need for it, rather than using the data they picked up from the offices when they visited.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00114566, and page 31, please. If we can look at the email that starts halfway down the page, thank you. There’s an email from you to John Cole, Graham Ward, and Tony Marsh with the subject “Horizon data requests”, and you say:

“As discussed, we are looking at achieving 50 requests per month for the remainder of the year, at present end of December, but from what you were saying potentially end of March.

“Can you just confirm that the incremental step process is the only avenue open to us and that we will have the required request numbers using this process. If you could give us the exact figures, it would be most helpful, as we will use whatever requests are available.

“As you can imagine, with the changes taking place in the business at present, we are in increasing need of Horizon data and are still avoiding asking for it where possible in order to preserve our requests. This means that we will inevitably be looking for further increased access in due course and I will be preparing a blueprint to gain direct access in the next few weeks.”

Firstly, what changes in the business were you referring to at this point in July 2004?

Anthony Utting: So, we were coming to the end of legacy cases that didn’t involve Horizon and some of the fraud types where Horizon data was far less important, and more and more of what we were doing was because Horizon was across the whole network and everything we looked at involved Horizon.

More and more cases were going to require Horizon data and we were still in the throes of learning about data and how data was useful in the investigations. So our – our view was that, as time passed and more and more things happened in Post Office and the business changed, we would need more and more data in order to back up the evidential value of our prosecutions.

Mr Beer: This refers to “avoiding asking for it wherever possible”. Was that an instruction that all of the members of your steam knew about: avoid asking for ARQ data if at all possible?

Anthony Utting: So when we’re talking to Investigators it’s very different to talking to these guys. So the Investigators were told that you ask for ARQ data if you require it but, if you can use the data that you’ve picked up from the offices – because we would pick up a months worth of Horizon transactions and event logs from the offices when we visited.

So I wouldn’t be expecting an investigator to ask for ARQ data for that month, if he’d got printouts that had all the information on, albeit using a printer – a printed report that might be 7-foot long is a lot harder than using an Excel spreadsheet on a computer disk.

Mr Beer: Hold on, though. This says your Investigators are still avoiding asking for it wherever possible.

Anthony Utting: So that’s me talking to the business not what I am telling the Investigators to do.

Mr Beer: So was that not the truth, then?

Anthony Utting: So they’re asking – they’re avoiding it wherever possible but, what I’m saying to the Investigators, if you need it, you’ve still got to ask for it, which is why we were rolling the requests month by month.

Mr Beer: Well, if the Investigators were told “If you need it, go and get it”, there’s no problem?

Anthony Utting: So if you’ve got an Investigator investigating an audit shortage or any other type of fraud at the offices, the tendency would be “Right, let me get a month’s worth of ARQ data and have look”. If, in the view of the Investigator, they’re doing that for the sake of doing it then don’t use the ARQ data, use the month’s reports that you’ve got from the office. I’m just trying to manage my resource and what I’ve got access to.

Mr Beer: Were you aware of postmasters querying Horizon’s accuracy or raising Horizon-caused discrepancies with the NBSC and the Helpdesk at this time?

Anthony Utting: Only where it was mentioned in a criminal investigation. There was no sort of business alert system that said “We’ve had 15 calls about this this week and 17 about that last week”. That sort of information exchange didn’t exist.

Mr Beer: If a postmaster did not raise calls that they had made to NBSC or the Helpdesk, was that material sought from either NBSC or the Helpdesk?

Anthony Utting: I believe, as part of the evidence gathering, that Investigators would look at calls to the Helpdesk. They may – if it was –

Mr Beer: Even if the suspect hadn’t raised it?

Anthony Utting: I can’t comment on every single case. I didn’t see every single case. I think, if there was an investigation going on before the audit took place, calls to the Helpdesk would probably have been analysed before they went into the office. With an audit shortage it’s very much a snapshot, so whether they would then look, I don’t know.

Mr Beer: Either because the postmaster had raised the number of and nature of calls that they had made to NBSC or the Helpdesk or because the investigator, as a matter of routine, had sought such data from NBSC or the Helpdesk, if there were a series of calls where the postmaster was complaining about the operation of Horizon, would the Investigator seek ARQ data relating to the events described by the postmaster?

Anthony Utting: Ordinarily, I think, yes, they would.

Mr Beer: Would this kind of avoiding asking for it wherever possible –

Anthony Utting: That would be an exclusion.

Mr Beer: That wouldn’t act as a brake or a prohibition on them getting it?

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Beer: We can see at the foot of the page there that your email’s a reply to Mr Ward’s email of 12.36, setting out the number of ARQ requests.

Anthony Utting: So it’s not a supply to Graham’s email.

Mr Beer: Sorry?

Anthony Utting: I’d asked Graham for that information, in order that I could go to John Cole with it. It wasn’t me replying to Graham, it was Graham providing information –

Mr Beer: Okay, so if we just scroll up, sorry. You –

Anthony Utting: So I emailed John Cole –

Mr Beer: You forward it to Mr Cole, and you copy –

Anthony Utting: I copied Graham in and I copied in Tony Marsh because, obviously, I was talking to Tony about it.

Mr Beer: Why do you do that? Why are you copying Mr Marsh in?

Anthony Utting: Because I might need his influence later on if I needed to argue more strongly with the business that I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

Mr Beer: So his heft, essentially?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we just scroll down then, to see what Mr Ward had told you:

“This year we have submitted the following …”

This is 2004, and he totals them up, and says, with a projection of 20 for August:

“330, (our annual limit).”

If we just scroll over the page:

“Predicting how many we want isn’t straightforward as people in our own team RLMs/NBSC/Legal Services are aware of the problems/restrictions in obtaining these logs and thus don’t bother asking for them.”

Just stopping there, what you understand him to mean that Retail Line Managers, the Network Support Centre and Legal Services don’t bother asking for ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: That’s what he’s saying, yes.

Mr Beer: Is that because the investigators were taking up the allocation and more than the allocation?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Beer: “If we had greater access I am sure that once the ‘word’ got around, we would use up whatever was available.”

Anthony Utting: I think it’s a bit like building a motorway.

Mr Beer: Just explain what you mean by that?

Anthony Utting: You build a motorway, people fill it up with cars.

Mr Beer: “That said, with a monthly limit of 46 I didn’t have to turn many away, so I guess that having 50 per month for the rest of this year would see us through until the contract is amended … my guesstimate for the remaining year … would be 220”, and he explains why.

Did you understand Mr Ward to be informing you that some requests for ARQ data were actually being turned away?

Anthony Utting: Um, I don’t know that we actually turned them away. I think, if an RLM or NBSC wanted data, they were probably more cautious about asking for it. A bit like the Investigators: if you don’t really need this, don’t ask for it, because we can’t get it.

Mr Beer: Why would Legal Services be asking, ideally, for ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: I think that would probably apply to the Civil Litigation side because the prosecution side would never ask for data. They would ask us to get it. They would ask us to ask for it.

Mr Beer: Why would Retail Line Managers be asking for ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: I really don’t know, unless they were doing an investigation into something that happened in a branch that they were trying to find help and provide support for.

Mr Beer: Why would the NBSC be asking for ARQ data?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know, probably a similar reason to the –

Mr Beer: This reads as if there’s an otherwise limit need for them, in each of their capacities, to seek such data but they don’t bother asking because they know that they won’t get?

Anthony Utting: I think you could probably argue that.

Mr Beer: In criminal investigations, was a request for ARQ data delayed until a case had reached the Crown Court and plea was known?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think so. It may depend on the case but I don’t think so because, if the Investigator considered the content of the ARQ data to be material in whether we should prosecute or not, then we wouldn’t wait to charge somebody and then go back and say, actually, this was a mistake, let’s not bother.

Mr Beer: What about not asking for the ARQ data in anticipation that you might get a plea, for example, to false accounting?

Anthony Utting: Again, if the ARQ data was material to the case, then I would have expected to look at it first.

Mr Beer: You would have expected the Investigator to have looked at it first?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: But this financial constraint was –

Anthony Utting: It’s not a perfect world. They may well have taken the view that “We’ll put the case to Legal Services and if we prosecute and they plead, we’ve saved a request”. The Investigators themselves weren’t responsible for managing the requests; that was done by Casework.

So I don’t think Investigators, when they’re looking at a case initially, would consider the ARQ requests in that way, other than the fact that they were told “Unless you really need this, don’t ask for it”.

Mr Beer: Can we go to page 35, please. Scroll down, please. Can we see your email of 8 July to Keith Baines, again copied to Tony Marsh but I think with Dave Pardoe added in?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Beer: “Please see email below from Tony Marsh. Can you please give an update what activity has been undertaken with regard to gaining direct access to Horizon data for use within the business.

“I believe Tony raised the idea of having our own access to the audit data from within the business via a terminal … via which, we would be able to obtain data for all parts of the business and remove the need for us to make data requests for Fujitsu.”

Then the next paragraph:

“This issue has become considerably more important recently, as Investigators are finding it increasingly difficult to pursue criminal cases without having access to audit data. Defence teams have also identified this as a means of delaying and in some cases potentially ceasing prosecution activities and as you can see from Tony’s email this has meant that we have had to increase our use of audit requests to a point whereby we will run out at the end of August, with potentially serious consequences thereafter.”

Then you make the point that paper-based cases are a dwindling number.

It’s apparent from this escalation, this reminder, this request for an update, that you were finding it difficult to obtain approval from Post Office Executives to increase the ARQ data allowance.

Anthony Utting: Yes, from recollection.

Mr Beer: Did this financial constraint on securing data, that was essential one way or another to the viability and fairness of a prosecution, continue?

Anthony Utting: I think it was always an issue for us.

Mr Beer: Did that continue until the end of your days in the Post Office?

Anthony Utting: I believe so.

Mr Beer: Mr Utting, thank you very much, they’re the only questions I ask you for the moment.

I think there are some questions? No?

Yes, one set of questions.

Then somebody wants to speak to me. So I’ll let Mr Jacobs ask questions first, sir, on behalf of the Howe+Co Core Participants.

Questioned by Mr Jacobs

Mr Jacobs: Thank you, Mr Utting we act for 156 subpostmasters, including Suzanne Palmer who sits next to me to my left today.

You deal with Mrs Palmer at paragraphs 49 to 52 of your statement; do you recall?

Anthony Utting: I recall I read some papers and I think – was I the prosecution authority?

Mr Jacobs: Yes.

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Jacobs: What you say is – and I’ll read it to you:

“I was not aware that Suzanne Palmer had made any allegations about the functioning of the Horizon system and none of the documents disclosed to me suggest that she did.”

Now, Mrs Palmer did raise allegations about the functioning of the Horizon system from the very outset of Post Office’s investigation into her case. An Investigating Officer at Post Office who interviewed her, Ms Lisa Allen, who interviewed her in February 2006, she’s given a witness statement to the Inquiry in which she confirms that Mrs Palmer did raise Horizon issues at the interview.

Anthony Utting: Right.

Mr Jacobs: So what I wanted to ask you is, given that it seems to have been accepted by the Investigating Officer and by my client, do you accept that what you say in your statement is incorrect when you are saying that you don’t think she raised any Horizon issues?

Anthony Utting: It might be but I haven’t seen any documents to the contrary.

Mr Jacobs: All right. So if some who conducted the interview and reads back that interview says that she did, then that’s –

Anthony Utting: That’s fine, yeah.

Mr Jacobs: You accept?

Anthony Utting: Yeah.

Mr Jacobs: Good, okay. I just wanted to clear that up.

Now, there is no evidence that the Horizon issues that Mrs Palmer raised – and she said that the system went down causing losses, which she had to repay and there were other issues when the system went offline. She says Horizon generated error notices, she didn’t agree with those. There’s no evidence that that was ever investigated by Post Office, certainly no ARQ requests.

As the designated prosecution authority, which you were, is this something that you would have been made aware of? Would you have known this is a subpostmaster whose has raised Horizon issues but we haven’t investigated?

Anthony Utting: If it was in the investigation report, then I would have been aware. Honestly, I did – I have read the investigation report but I’ve got 2,000 pages.

Mr Jacobs: Of course.

Anthony Utting: If it was in the report that Ms Palmer had raised issues around the Horizon, then I would have been aware that she’d raised them. As I don’t think it was in there –

Mr Jacobs: No.

Anthony Utting: – the fact that the ARQ wasn’t asked for would have probably not mattered to me because they hadn’t mentioned it. I would – I don’t know if they can put the investigation report up on the screen and so I can look at it, but I don’t know.

Mr Jacobs: Well, we haven’t got it now and we’re a bit short of time but what I wanted to ask you is: do you think that this is something that should have been in the case summary and legal advice that was given to you as a designated authority?

Anthony Utting: If it’s material, yes.

Mr Jacobs: Now, you told Mr Beer this afternoon that you never said no to a prosecution.

Anthony Utting: I don’t believe I did, no.

Mr Jacobs: You said:

“I don’t recall saying no, they were the experts and they would give the advice.”

Essentially, if we could just break that down, what you’re saying is that, if a subpostmaster raised a Horizon issue and that Horizon issue had not been investigated but the legal advice that you received in your papers was to prosecute, you would have authorised it anyway because they’re the experts?

Anthony Utting: They would have had the same information as me, so they wouldn’t have been aware either. So they would have advised prosecution, and yes, I would have authorised it.

Mr Jacobs: So is it right that you took the view that you were a layman and it wasn’t your place to disagree with the experts?

Anthony Utting: In the majority of cases, yes.

Mr Jacobs: Because in Mrs Palmer’s case, there wasn’t an investigation, and these points weren’t raised in the report. They weren’t looked at by the Post Office.

Anthony Utting: I can’t comment.

Mr Jacobs: Okay. You’re here today obviously because there’s been a national scandal. With the benefit of hindsight, do you accept that the prosecution authority role didn’t really provide any scrutiny or oversight? That it was just a rubber-stamp exercise?

Anthony Utting: As I said to Mr Beer earlier on, you can see it that way. I’m not sure that I did. I did read all the papers. I did have a view.

Mr Jacobs: But you never challenged what you were being told. You didn’t see yourself as a filter; you just endorsed –

Anthony Utting: I saw myself as the person in the business that had to make the ultimate decision and, if I read the papers and the advice and couldn’t find a reason to disagree with it, then I would have authorised the prosecution.

Mr Jacobs: Okay. If I could move on. In your evidence this morning, you said that when the Post Office lost a case, there would be a report written by counsel –

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Jacobs: – which goes to the Criminal Law Team and then to the leadership team; is that right?

Anthony Utting: I believe so, yes.

Mr Jacobs: I want to ask you about that process in relation to Mrs Palmer’s case. In January 2007, at Southend Crown Court, Mrs Palmer was acquitted by a jury and they took approximately ten minutes to acquit her. The jury asked a question, which was:

“What was Mrs Palmer supposed to do if she didn’t agree with the figures that the Horizon system produced?”

So what we’ve got is not only Mrs Palmer but the jury raising this question about the Horizon system. The Post Office representatives at court were not able to answer the question. They were publicly floundering, something of a car crash. Do you think this is the sort of case that there should have been a review?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Mr Jacobs: Were you aware – having been the prosecuting authority, were you aware of any review being conducted or having been conducted?

Anthony Utting: I don’t know. Did you say January 2007?

Mr Jacobs: January 2007.

Anthony Utting: It was shortly before I left so any review may not have come through until after I’d gone. However, if the question was asked at court, I can’t understand why the person or the representative – I don’t know who was there from the Post Office, but the answer to the question should have been you declare it and then you argue the toss with the business –

Mr Jacobs: Well, we’re going to –

Anthony Utting: – because that’s the process.

Mr Jacobs: We’re going to ask questions of the Post Office Investigator who was present at court. But the Post Office were not able to answer that question –

Anthony Utting: No.

Mr Jacobs: – and the jury acquitted her of all counts in ten minutes. You said that you think that is something that ought to have been the subject of a review?

Anthony Utting: Well, I haven’t done this for 17 years but, in my view, yes, there should have been a review.

Mr Jacobs: Well, that’s helpful. Finally, this was 2007. If, as designated prosecution authority, you had continued in that role or others had done so in 2008 and 2009, and there had been a review of Mrs Palmer’s case, and it was known amongst your colleagues that jurors were raising questions and acquitting because Post Office was simply not able to deal with Horizon issues where subpostmasters had raised them and where there hadn’t been proper investigations, would that have influenced your role and your job as a prosecuting authority?

Would that have caused you or your colleagues to question what the advice that you received was?

Anthony Utting: So I’m sitting here with the benefit of hindsight and, of course, I’m going to say of course it would.

Mr Jacobs: Well, good, yes.

Anthony Utting: But I don’t live in that world any more. It’s a long time since I was involved in those things and the Post Office is a very different place and it was a very different place when I left to what it was when I joined. But I’d like to think, as the person in charge of the Investigation Team – and I considered my Investigators to be very professional and to be doing a good job – I’d like to think that we learnt from issues like this and we moved forward with better information and better understanding.

But I left in 2007. What people did after I left is really of no concern to me.

Mr Jacobs: Well, what you’ve said is helpful and you have acknowledged that this is something that should have been dealt with.

Anthony Utting: I think so, yes.

Mr Jacobs: Okay. I’m just going to see if I have any more questions to ask.

I’m going to ask you: Mrs Palmer was made bankrupt as a result of this. She’s still bankrupt today. Do you, as you played a role in her case, have anything you’d like to say to her?

Anthony Utting: When we did the job, we acted in what we thought was the right manner and pursued the case as professionally as we were able at the time. You’re one of a number of people that have got off on the wrong end of this, and it’s embarrassing for me to be part of the organisation that did that to you and, for that, I am sorry. But I’m not sure that what I say is going to help you at all because it’s of not much value, is it, to be honest?

Mr Jacobs: Thank you. I haven’t any further questions for you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Any other questions?

Ms Page: Yes, sir, from me, please.

Questioned by Ms Page

Ms Page: Mr Utting, I also appear for a group of subpostmasters, including Mrs Adedayo and also Ms Skinner.

The questions I’m going to ask you relate to the case of Janet Skinner and it’s relating to a discussion which was had between you and the lawyer, the lawyer looking after her case, who seems to have spoken to you in your role as somebody who authorises and allows charges to go ahead.

If we could bring up POL00048397, please. When it comes up, you’ll see this is a phone note, and it’s relatively short, so we can go through it. It says that it relates to Janet Skinner’s case, which is in Hull Crown Court on 5 January and, if we scroll down a little bit, we’ll see that this note is actually made on 5 January. So, evidently, the case was in court on this date.

What it tells us is that J McF – we know from other documents, Juliet McFarlane – made this note and she says, at first, she spoke to prosecution counsel, who had added false accounting to the indictment and she says that will be faxed over and the indictment is lodged at court:

“Defence wish to plead to False Accounting – loss not repaid. Counsel has drafted [false accounting] in such a way that in her opinion there should not be a problem with the Confiscation proceedings.”

Then she says this:

“Telephoned Tony Utting re acceptance of plea to False Accounting, gave details background to this case …”

Pausing there, that suggests, doesn’t it, that you were needed in order to approve the decision to accept pleas to false accounting; is that right?

Anthony Utting: I believe so, yes. I believe that the lawyers were not able to make those decisions for themselves. They just needed, for want of a better description, a rubber stamp from the business.

Ms Page: All right. So she’s running that past you, and then she goes on to say this:

“… gave details of background to this case and other Thief at office. Would accept [false accounting] in absence of contrary instructions.”

What we know from other papers is that there was a temporary subpostmaster who came after Ms Skinner and she was also arrested for theft.

Anthony Utting: I believe she was a member of staff at the office whilst Ms Skinner was there.

Ms Page: She had been a member of staff and then subsequently she became temporary subpostmaster.

Anthony Utting: Yes, I recall that much from the papers.

Ms Page: So you recall that much. Now, in this note, it appears as if that’s being presented as a good reason to accept the lesser charge of false accounting, yes, because it undermines the case against Ms Skinner?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Ms Page: So it seems that both you and Ms McFarlane recognised that as a feature that undermined the prosecution case?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Ms Page: So what is jumping out at you about that? What ought to happen with information that undermines the prosecution case?

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure what – because we’re at plea at this stage, so I wouldn’t be – I’m not an expert in anything in that area, but if we’ve gone to court and the defence have said the false accounting we can accept because she admits that she was falsifying the account, but she didn’t steal the money, and we had a risk to the prosecution on the basis that a person who worked at the same time as her was subsequently arrested for theft, then obviously prosecution for theft is not necessarily a great idea. But if she’s admitting to the false accounting and we think we can prove the false accounting, then we would accept it.

Ms Page: Do you see that as disclosable?

Anthony Utting: Well, we’re stood in the Crown Court. This was a telephone call at Crown Court, so it would be disclosable at that point.

Ms Page: The information about the other thief at the office, was that disclosable information, in your view?

Anthony Utting: Yes.

Ms Page: Yes.

Anthony Utting: I’m not sure, from this document, whether it was disclosed or not.

Ms Page: Did you say anything about making sure it was disclosed?

Anthony Utting: Well, it was – we are stood in a Crown Court. It’s a bit late now; the defence knows.

Ms Page: Well, let’s just understand that. Are you saying it’s a bit late because you didn’t think it was disclosable once pleas were offered?

Anthony Utting: No, I think – I don’t know if it was disclosed. I didn’t see – once I’ve authorised a prosecution, I don’t have any further involvement with the case, unless I get a telephone call such as this. At that point, I still wouldn’t know if it was disclosed. I was having a discussion with a solicitor based on some information she was giving me and accepting the lesser charge. My involvement went no further than that.

Ms Page: So you didn’t see it as part of your role, as somebody in charge of Investigators, to make sure that this was something that was disclosed to the defence?

Anthony Utting: Like I’ve said, I don’t know if was disclosed to defence at that stage. I don’t know, from this document, who was talking to who about what. All I know is that she rang me and said, “There’s a background to the case”. If there’s a background to the case and they already knew about the thief at the office, then my view would be that should have been disclosed.

Ms Page: From recollection, you did not make sure that it was disclosed?

Anthony Utting: I don’t think that I would need to make sure, when we’re stood there accepting a plea.

Ms Page: If it transpires, as I believe it will, from the documents we’ve had so far, that it was not disclosed, do you recognise that as a pretty clear and terrible disclosure failing?

Anthony Utting: If they knew about the thief in the office and the other person had been arrested prior to the case going to trial, yes.

Ms Page: Thank you. Those are my questions, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Ms Page.

Mr Beer: Sir, there are no other questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

Well, thank you for providing your witness statement and thank you for answering a good many questions during the course of today, Mr Utting. I’m grateful to you.

Wednesday next; is that right, Mr Beer?

Mr Beer: Wednesday, yes, it is. It’s sometimes difficult to remember which day of the week it is.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes.

Mr Beer: But Wednesday is our next appearance.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right. I’ll see you all at 10.00 on Wednesday morning.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

(3.18 pm)

(the hearing adjourned until 10.00 am on Wednesday, 22 November 2023)