Official hearing page

26 April 2024

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(9.45 am)

Angela van den Bogerd

ANGELA MARGARET VAN DEN BOGERD (continued).

Questioned by Mr Beer (continued)

Sir Wyn Williams: Morning, everyone. Yes, Mr Beer.

Mr Beer: Good morning, sir, good morning, Ms van den Bogerd.

We finished yesterday with some questions about the Post Office’s management of Second Sight; do you recall?

Can I ask you to start this morning with some questions about some other significant events that were going on whilst the Post Office was managing Second Sight. It’s the case of the late Martin Griffiths that I want to ask you about.

You tell us in your witness statement – I’m not going to ask it to be turned up, it’s paragraphs 149 to 158 – about your involvement, quite significant involvement, in the case of Martin Griffiths; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we start with some background information, please. Firstly, Mr Griffiths was the postmaster at the Hope Farm Road Post Office in Great Sutton, Cheshire; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Beer: By the time of his death, he had been the subpostmaster there for some 18 years; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t remember exactly but it sounds about right.

Mr Beer: A series of shortfalls had arisen at the branch or were said to have arisen at the branch, and Mr Griffiths had been accused of being responsible for them?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Beer: Notice of termination of his contract had been served on 3 July 2013?

Angela van den Bogerd: Correct.

Mr Beer: Mr Griffiths and his family suggested that it was the Horizon system that was responsible for the losses.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: On 17 July 2013, Mr Griffiths asked for his case to be put before the Post Office Board. I appreciate you wouldn’t have received this letter at the time but I just want to show it as background to what did happen.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: POL00145768. Thank you.

We can see this is a letter from Mr Griffiths, if we just scroll down, we can see it at the foot of the page, Martin K Griffiths, and we can see at the top of the letter it is addressed to Glenn Chester the Agent Contract Manager.

In your previous roles, had you come into contact with Mr Chester?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, I had.

Mr Beer: So he was a working colleague of yours; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: On and off over the years, yes.

Mr Beer: It’s 17 July 2013 and Mr Griffiths writes to Mr Chester:

“As you are aware, I have been a subpostmaster for 18 years and prior to the Horizon computer system I enjoyed a satisfactory post office business. For some considerable years I have been accused of wrongful accounting. Over the last 15 months alone, February 2012 to May 2013, more than £39,000 is deemed to be my shortfall, an average of £600 per week. This surely cannot be correct, but the notifications from the Post Office state this is the case.

“This worry has affected [and then there’s a redaction] and plans for retirement have had to be postponed. I have not had a break in my business house for more than four years, to keep a tight rein on the office. The financial strain on myself and my family is devastating and continues on a daily basis.

“On advice of Mr Alan Bates from the JFSA, I have been advised to contact my local MP regarding the recent media coverage on the BBC News and in the Telegraph, regarding the investigation into the errors discovered in the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

“I believe [the Post Office] has a Board meeting next week after all the media coverage, and would like my particular case to be considered along with the many others in a similar situation.”

Now, I don’t think you would have got this at the time; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct. I’ve seen this this morning.

Mr Beer: Yes. So this letter of 17 July, just fitting this together with our chronology, would have been just before the board meeting that I think you do know about, the Post Office Limited board meeting, at which the issue of the Second Sight Report and what the Post Office was to do about it was to be discussed. I think you did know about that.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I can’t remember but probably, yes. If it –

Mr Beer: It was the one where – did you know about this – the one where Susan Crichton was made to sit outside on a chair?

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay, I’m aware of it now. At the time, I wasn’t aware that that was happening.

Mr Beer: So you didn’t know that she was kept out of the meeting? It was proposed that she present a paper concerning what the Post Office should do into response to Second Sight and, instead of her presenting her paper, Ms Vennells presented it and she was sat outside on a chair?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I only became aware of that listening to Susan’s evidence this week.

Mr Beer: That wasn’t something that caused a stir at the time?

Angela van den Bogerd: Susan leaving, yes, but there was very little information around the background to that or the reasons for that, speculation around anything to do with the Second Sight but nothing – there was no messaging, no confirmation to us as to the reasons why.

Mr Beer: Okay. That letter can come down and just moving it forwards a fortnight, on 31 July Mr Griffiths’ mother wrote to the Post Office. Can we just look at that, please POL00147157. I think this is also a letter you have been shown this morning?

Angela van den Bogerd: This morning, yes.

Mr Beer: This all just background, some context for the Inquiry. If we look at the foot of the page, we can see it was from Doreen Griffiths, Mrs Griffiths, who I think was in her 80s at this time?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we look up, it’s again to Mr Chester:

“I write to you as the parent of Martin Griffiths, despite knowing that you say I am not part of the said sub post office. My son has been under severe pressure and I personally had to take on more work in the retail side of the business, including providing financial support for the shortages.”

I think you later learned, is this right, that Mr Griffiths’ parents had been putting money into the business, tens of thousands of pounds, to try to balance the books.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, I learned that later.

Mr Beer: They’d been using their savings, I think you learnt later, their life savings, to try to balance the books?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, that’s what I learnt, yes.

Mr Beer: “The so-called shortages over many, many months have been repaid mainly by myself and husband. Although you can continue to say there is no fault in the Horizon computer system, we eagerly await the results of the ongoing investigation being undertaken by Second Sight regarding software errors.

“Your letter of 3 July, stating termination of Martin’s contract, I feel is very harsh. Kevin Bridger has compounded the severe problems adding insult to injury (and I mean injury), by requesting a fine of £7,600 which represents 20% of the robbery with violence which occurred in May. It was due to the identification of the culprit by a member of staff, that the police were able to make a quick arrest and subsequently the robber received an 8-year jail sentence. This request for £7,600 suggests insufficient security at the Post Office and we will seek legal advice to refute this.”

I’ll come back to that in a moment, what that’s referring to:

“If as stated, my son is terminated on 3 October [three months from the 3 July letter], what is the position for the incoming subpostmaster regarding the £18,000 a year overheads? At present, this is shared between the Post Office and the retail business, therefore a legal arrangement needs to be made …

“With regards to your outstanding figures for repayment, only [£3,600-odd] remains as the [£3,000-odd] plus £200 was repaid at the end of June.

“I await to hear your comments.”

The reference to the robbery there, if we can look at that, please, I think you now know and you found out at the time of Mr Griffiths’ death, that there had been a robbery at the Post Office, is that right –

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Beer: – and two armed robbers took over £50,000 from the Post Office?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we quickly look at the circumstances of that, POL00342530.

Thank you. This a security report, we can see it’s dated 10 May and it’s about the robbery on 2 May. Although it’s quite a long document, I just want to read a summary of what was found on investigation and, if we look, please, at the fourth page, thank you:

“At approximately 5.25 pm on Thursday, 2 May, Martin Griffiths … and his clerk Julie Griffiths (no relation) were on duty and were putting all the cash and stock away. Both safes were open.

“Mr Griffiths was stood at the secure door which also housed the parcel hatch. The postman had arrived to collect the mail, Mr Griffiths had put around 2 mail bags outside of the secure door and the postman had taken these out of the office to his van.

“As the postman re-entered the branch, two masked men wearing dark clothing, one with a balaclava and one with a stocking [over] his head burst in and pushed the postman aside. Mr Griffiths stated that he was stood at the secure door with the door open so he could hand the daily work and giro pouch to the postman and get him to sign for the paperwork and went over to the secure door.

“one man tried to pull the door open which the other man attached the screen with sledge hammer.”

If we look, we can see that in the photograph:

“Mr Griffiths attempted to get the door shut at which point he believers he was hit on the left hand with some sort of metal bar (possibly a crow bar). At this point Mr Griffiths stopped fighting and allowed the 2 men into the secure area. At this point the assistant Julie Griffiths had crouched down and hid behind the coin safe.”

Thank you. That can come down.

I think the Post Office determined that Mr Griffiths was culpable for the robbery.

Angela van den Bogerd: I think that was the assessment, in terms of applying, as Doreen said 20 per cent. I wasn’t sure how much it was, but –

Mr Beer: Initially, I think they found him entirely culpable for the robbery, for breaching procedures –

Angela van den Bogerd: Mm-hm.

Mr Beer: – and required him to pay £38,000. Some of the money, I should say, I think £15,000-odd had been recovered –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – from the robbers by the police, they’d actually found them, because of the information that Julie Griffiths had provided. Then that amount, for which he was found to be to blame, £38,000 was reduced to £7,500-odd, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: So the Post Office was blaming him for the robbery?

Angela van den Bogerd: For not complying with certain procedures at the time, yes.

Mr Beer: Ie leaving the door open whilst the mailman came to collect the giro pouches?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I think it was the door and also the time lock on the safe was unset, I think, and that’s from looking at the papers. I didn’t know this at the time.

Mr Beer: Okay. On 23 September 2013, I think you know that Mr Griffiths drove his car to a layby on the A41, got out of his car and deliberately stepped in front of an oncoming bus?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: He was very seriously injured, taken to hospital, and remained in a coma for about three weeks.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: On the 11 October 2013, his life support machine was switched off and he passed away that day. It was later concluded by a coroner that Mr Griffiths had taken his own life.

I just want to see what happened within the Post Office when it was notified of what happened to Mr Griffiths. POL00162068.

Can we look at page 4, please, and scroll down, and again please.

On 23 September 2013, the day that Mr Griffiths walked in front of a bus, at 5.02 pm Mr Alan Bates emailed Paula Vennells, Susan Crichton, you and Andy Holt, copied to some other people, including Mr Arbuthnot and Jo Swinson, with the subject “Post Office read this”:

“This afternoon I received the following email, it is a prime example of the thuggery being exerted on defenceless subpostmasters (as [the Post Office] deny legal representation) by arrogant and uncontrolled Post Office personnel. Despite assurances from on high that this type of thing is in the past, it is clear from [Post Office’s] actions, it is still alive and active through the ranks.”

Then the email he received:

“Hello Alan.

“I am writing on behalf of my son-in-law Martin Griffiths who has recently been in touch with you about the treatment doled out to him by the hierarchy at the Crown Office in Chester. He had an armed raid in May, and the faceless wonders at the Crown Office have intimated he was culpable. Had him at the kangaroo court where he was not allowed any representation of his own, he was a broken man then.

“However, he was sent for last Friday to attend a meeting with the Crown Post Office personnel again, and all [week] he has clearly not been himself.

“This morning he drove off to work, got out of his car and walked in front of a bus.

“He is dangerously ill in hospital at Liverpool, the post office had driven him to suicide.

“All the family are at the hospital, I am alone waiting by the phone for further news of him.

“I would urge you to publicise this, another incident that has been caused by the Bully Boys at the Crown Office.

“May God forgive them.”

Mr Bates continues:

“I am aware of Martin’s case, and I know he was terrified to raise his shortages with [the Post Office] because of just this type of thing happening to him, but [the Post Office] got him in the end. Regardless of what may or may not have occurred with him, why did [the Post Office] have to hound him to the point of trying to take his own life? Why?

“Despite numerous warnings of never to attend any discussion with [the Post Office] without legal representation, Martin, trying to be helpful, didn’t take anyone with him as per the conditions [the Post Office] demand. If [the Post Office] cannot control their personnel, then the very least they can do is authorise and insist on a subpostmaster taking legal representation with them to any meeting with [the Post Office].

“I am very, very angry about this, and as per the wishes of the family I will be contacting many of the media contacts we have built up over the years.”

Back to page 4, please. Scroll down. We can see that Ms Crichton forwards it, the email, to Roger, “Can you help find the facts … We really need them evening …”

A couple of minutes later Mark Davies says, “We must get details of this this evening.”

Mr Gilliland says:

“I have spoken to Roger who’s trying to find out the details.”

Then if we scroll up a bit, so we can see the bottom of page 3, we can see an email which distributes this to you, yes, this chain to you, from Mark Davies, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Mr Davies says:

“Thanks – Susan, given the potential media element please can we line up a specialist media lawyer in case we need urgent advice this evening?”

So the immediate reaction, you agree, was not “Is Martin Griffiths all right, what about his health?”, was it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not at this point in this email chain, no.

Mr Beer: The immediate reaction was not, “What can we, the Post Office do to help this man’s family?”, was it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not at this point.

Mr Beer: “What about his wife and his children? What about his elderly parents? What about his sister? Should we get somebody down to the hospital?” That didn’t happen, did it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not getting somebody down to the hospital –

Mr Beer: No, the first thing was “Let’s get a media lawyer”.

Angela van den Bogerd: So that’s what Mark has said here.

Mr Beer: Is that what it was like working in this organisation at the time? It was all about brand reputation, about brand image?

Angela van den Bogerd: So my concern here, when I got – so the first I knew of this is – so it came in separately, I think, from, I think, Martin’s brother – Martin’s sister. So there was a separate report to Glenn of a – what I heard originally was a traffic accident. We didn’t know that he’d actually deliberately walked in front of the bus at that time. So, obviously, there’s some more correspondence because I’ve said – so Roger was actually, Roger Gale was actually running the Crown Network at the time.

Mr Beer: This email chain tells you he walked in front of a bus.

Angela van den Bogerd: No, sorry, something that came in separately. I’m saying there was two kind of parallel notifications to me. When I saw this – and I didn’t know Martin, this was my first involvement in it – then I was genuinely concerned for the family, which is why I got involved going forward.

Mr Beer: I think you’re talking about much later. I’m asking about what, on the face of the documents, the immediate reaction of the Post Office is.

Angela van den Bogerd: I mean, that is the immediate reaction. It’s on the email.

Mr Beer: Help us: is that what it was like working in the Post Office at this time, that the first thought was “We need a media lawyer here”?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think it’s the first thought, it was definitely a consideration in everything that we did around, you know, PR and the comms element. It was always a consideration.

Mr Beer: Why was that an important consideration, brand image?

Angela van den Bogerd: Throughout my –

Mr Beer: There’s a man that walked in front of a bus here.

Angela van den Bogerd: So all –

Mr Beer: One of your subpostmasters.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, in all my time with Post Office, from very early on, I was very conscious that, you know, PR was very important, and everything had to be – you know, so that involvement – it was a Comms Team. So Mark was the Head of – he was the Comms Director at the time and that clearly is his area and that’s what he said.

Mr Beer: If we scroll up a little bit. You reply:

“This not related to the Crown branch but is a [subpostmaster] case. I’m talking to the Contract Adviser …”

Is that Glenn Chester?

Angela van den Bogerd: It is, yes.

Mr Beer: Then you emailed Mr Chester within an hour or so saying:

“Glenn

“This is what we are dealing with and the reason I need to talk to you.”

What did you mean “This is what we are dealing with”?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I think I might have reached out and left a message saying, “I need to talk to you urgently” and that’s just me forwarding the information to him. Now, he separately, I think, at this point already knew.

Mr Beer: But “This is what we are dealing with”, were you saying that it’s because the hierarchy of the Post Office, including Ms Crichton, Ms Vennells, were involved in this now?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, what I was saying is “I need to talk to you, this is the information I have”, and that’s all the information I had at that point. So I was simply forwarding it to him. Like I say, I’m sure I left him a voicemail to say, “I need to talk to you urgently”.

Mr Beer: Why not “Glenn” or “Mr Chester, what’s being done for the family here”?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, I mean, this was me just forwarding it very quickly because I wanted to understand what, you know, what has happened here because I was not sighted on this case at all.

Mr Beer: Thank you. That can come down.

About a year after Mr Griffiths’ death, his daughter wrote to the Post Office and that was forwarded to you, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: I had an email from Lauren, yes.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00306234.

Sir Wyn Williams: Mr Beer, I don’t know whether it’s just here but, every now and then, we’re not quite catching what’s happening. So could everyone speak up.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I’m not speaking loud enough.

Sir Wyn Williams: Maybe it’s not affecting the hall but for, whatever reason here, every now and then the words tail off, all right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, sir, I’ll speak louder.

Mr Beer: Is it both Ms van den Bogerd and me?

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, it’s both sides actually.

Mr Beer: It might be to do with the amplification.

So we’ve got it up on the screen. So we’re now about a year after Mr Griffiths’ passing and his daughter, Lauren, wrote to you. She says:

“Angela.

“After speaking with my mum yesterday I am emailing you to let you know how disgusted we are with the treatment our family has received from the Post Office.

“As you are well aware it has now been almost a year since we lost our Dad. We hold the Post Office solely and wholly responsible for what happened to him. As I am sure you can imagine, our family has had an extremely tough year, with what I consider no support from the Post Office.

“My Dad was the main income earner for our family, without this income my family has been struggling to get by financially. My Mum cannot work in the shop of the Post Office due to the severe ill feeling she holds for it, and [redaction] with the stress and workload of keeping the shop open.

“Considering the financial size of a business such as the Post Office Limited, I cannot comprehend how our family has not been supported or compensated this past year. I firmly believe that we would not have received this kind of treatment from any other large corporate organisation.

“I understand that you are putting what you discussed with my Mum yesterday in writing to her. It appears from what I have heard that you are offering the £140,000 ‘compensation payment’ on the condition that we drop any action or legal recourse with the Post Office for any further compensation for its wrongdoing.

“No amount of financial compensation could replace the fact that the Post Office has taken our Dad away from our family but simply put, £140,000 ‘compensation’ for our Dad’s life is simply disgusting.

“I request that you escalate this matter and you forward this email on to the relevant parties within the Post Office. As stated above, this has dragged on for almost a year; the way in which the Post Office has dealt with this matter has been inadequate and incompetent.

“We will get back to you once we have received your response in writing. I would also appreciate a response to this email.”

Was it right that you were offering £140,000 compensation on condition that the family drop any action or legal recourse?

Angela van den Bogerd: So this – what we were offering here was the equivalent of a Network Transformation payment.

Mr Beer: Just explain what the equivalent to a Network Transformation payment is?

Angela van den Bogerd: So there’s – and there’s quite a lot of correspondence before we get to this email, which I don’t know if you’re going to go to but it gives the background. So, at this time, the Post Office was running a Network Transformation Programme which was compensation payment for a postmaster for loss of office, to leave their branch, for it to be transferred to a new postmaster, and it was all part of the refurbishment plan. So the compensation payment for that loss of office, I think, was equivalent to 26 months’ remuneration and that was a set calculation that was being offered to postmasters throughout the network. So –

Mr Beer: Just briefly then, why was that loss of office figure determined to be the appropriate figure to offer Mr Griffiths’ widow and family?

Angela van den Bogerd: So this – so what we did here or tried to do here is, prior to Martin’s death, he had registered an interest in leaving the Network via the Network Transformation Programme but when he was served three months’ notice that deemed him – he was no longer eligible because he didn’t have a contract or he was on notice of his contract so, at that point, he wasn’t eligible any longer.

So what I tried to do here is, just go back to the situation of processing the Network Transformation payment for Gina Griffiths, so that she could have – what he was trying to do was have payment for loss of office in terms of him leaving the Network. So what Lauren is saying here is, if this is packaged as a payment for his life – and that was never the intention, and I did respond to Lauren because, I mean, I had met with Lauren previously, so after Martin’s death I had met with Gina, his wife, and his mother at the same time.

Mr Beer: That was at a local pub?

Angela van den Bogerd: At their request, yes, at their request, because it was more private, away from the office. So I met them at the local pub and it was private. And what I’d said – and it was genuinely to give them as much support as I could and I said I’d be very happy to meet with anybody else from the family if they wanted to talk to me, and Lauren asked if I would meet with her and I met with her in London because that’s where she was working.

So I met with Gina and her mother-in-law in the November and I think it was the same month I met with Lauren, as well, and I met with Gina Griffiths and her brother on 1 September, which is what’s triggered this email from Lauren.

Mr Beer: But the way it was being put by you, it was your idea, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: To get the payment, I wanted – yes, so I was – I was concerned that – you know, so there was clearly the financial pressure on the family because, as they said here, Martin was the main earner. I mean, I didn’t know that at the time but, clearly, he was the postmaster, and I was trying to facilitate a way for that payment to be made because that’s – that was what his intention was prior to his death.

Mr Beer: But it was going to be conditional on dropping any claim that the family had against the Post Office, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the way the Network Transformation payments were structured, it was subject to a non-disclosure agreement and it was a final full settlement of all claims both ways. That was the structure of that Network payment so all I was –

Mr Beer: That’s for subpostmasters who were just leaving the business because of part of the Post Office’s closure programme, essentially. I mean, I know it’s called Network Transformation but –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – it involved closing thousands of branches?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, but that is what this was intended to do. I was trying to just replicate that for Martin Griffiths and Mrs Griffiths, so that we could facilitate that payment. So it was never – the intention was never linked to a payment for his loss of life. That was never the intention.

Mr Beer: But they had a live claim with Second Sight, didn’t they, that was being mediated, about the losses, the alleged losses, the shortfalls?

Angela van den Bogerd: So there was an application into the scheme, yes –

Mr Beer: This was going to be conditional on dropping that too wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was the broader piece of the Network Transformation, it covered everything.

Mr Beer: What does that mean? That’s just word soup?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry –

Mr Beer: “That was the broader piece of the Network Transformation” thing –

Angela van den Bogerd: So –

Mr Beer: What I asked you, Ms van den Bogerd, is: this payment was going to be conditional on the family withdrawing the claim they’d made under the Mediation Scheme, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, because that’s the way the Network Transformation payment was set out. Now, having met with Gina and her brother on 1 September to discuss what that would look like, I had some – so, in that conversation, they’d asked me to consider is there a way that we could at least facilitate the investigation into the case and allow some time, so there was – out of that conversation, then we structured a way forward that would allow Gina to – we could try and facilitate the Network Transformation, the transfer of the Post Office to an incoming postmaster and the discretionary payment we would put on hold, whether she wanted to accept or not, subject to her receiving the scheme report, and that’s what we structured to allow her the opportunity to decide whether she wanted to accept this discretionary payment or not, but she could still go ahead with the transfer of the Post Office.

Mr Beer: It was important to the Post Office to ensure that the Griffiths claim that had been lodged with the mediation was withdrawn, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: The last thing the Post Office wanted was the bad publicity of the Griffiths claim being progressed through the Mediation Scheme, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that was never my consideration. My consideration was to support the family.

Mr Beer: Can we look, please, at POL00306172. I think this was a draft letter you prepared for sending to Mr Griffiths’ widow, Gina, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we scroll down, you say:

“… Martin was not eligible for a [Network Transformation] Leavers Payment as he had been served 3 months’ notice of contract termination …

“… in recognition of [his] service … the Post Office would like to offer you … a discretionary payment of £140,000.”

That’s equivalent to the sum offered to subpostmasters who choose to leave.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: “I note that you have made an application on behalf of your husband to the Initial Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme … When a discretionary payment is offered, the normal process is for it to be made into full and final settlement of any claims that a subpostmaster had against Post Office Limited.”

Just stopping there, this says that was normal but the terms on which the Post Office could make this offer were completely discretionary, weren’t they? It was up to the Post Office to decide the terms on which the offer was made?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: It could be on any terms the Post Office choose to put forwards?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: The normal situation that you’re referring to there was a common or garden postmaster who was simply deciding to exit the business as part of the programme, as part of the Post Office’s general closure programme?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: These are rather different circumstances, aren’t they?

Angela van den Bogerd: I mean, it’s very tragic circumstances and –

Mr Beer: And therefore very different?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: So why were you saying this was all normal, that the payment has to be in full and final settlement of any claims, whereas this was a very different situation here. There was an outstanding mediation claim.

Angela van den Bogerd: So this was being done in parallel, so what I was trying to do was why facilitate the payment to Gina and the family at that time. Anything to do with the scheme claim would have taken a lot longer. I mean, at this point the application into the scheme had been quite delayed from Gina and her advisers at the time.

Mr Beer: You continue:

“In this case, acceptance of the Discretionary Payment will therefore come with a waiver of any claims under your Application and bring that Application to a close”, ie that’s the application in the scheme, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Then you continue:

“… your preference is to see the outcome of the investigations into your Application before making a decision on how to proceed but you also wish to move forward with the sale of your branch.

“To accommodate both these objectives, the Post Office agrees to pay the Discretionary Payment subject to the following conditions …

“1. Post Office finds a suitable alternative operator …

“2. The successful alternative operator enters into a legally binding but conditional … contract …

“3. You sign and return the attached Confirmation of Transfer document confirming you wish to transfer of the Branch to the new operator to proceed immediately. You have the option to accept the discretionary payment at the point of the transfer completing or alternatively you can defer the discretionary payment for 6 months for you to review the findings of both Post Office’s and Second Sight’s investigations into your Application (both of which should be with you within the next 2 months) and, if appropriate, mediate your Application with the Post Office, before deciding whether … to accept the discretionary payment.”

Is that what you were referring to earlier?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: “4. You sign … the response slip …

“5. You sign and return the attached Withdrawal Notice …”

Can I turn then to what next happened, by looking at POL00219796, which is email advice to you from Rodric Williams in January 2015, saying:

“Please find attached the draft settlement …”

I’m not, in the interests of time, going to look at the draft settlement:

“… setting out the basis on which the Hope Farm Road has been resolved.

“The agreement has been drafted to resolve all claims that either the deceased (Mr Griffiths) or the applicant (Mrs Griffiths) may have against [the Post Office]. Equally the agreement also resolves any claims [the Post Office] has against the deceased or his estate, ie we will not be able to seek recovery of any outstanding losses in the branch accounts or incurred through the robbery at the branch. Please let me know if this is not our intention.”

Was that still a live question –

Angela van den Bogerd: I mean, there were –

Mr Beer: – making the claim against Mr Griffiths’ estate for the robbery?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that was still open at this point. Yeah.

Mr Beer: You were still thinking of suing his estate?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, it hadn’t been concluded. So, at the point of which – of Martin’s death, then the – if I remember correctly, the outstanding debt was still live on his account and the robbery of £7,000, or whatever that was, was still – yeah. But from my – my intention was never to recover any of that and we didn’t.

Mr Beer: He continues:

“You will note from paragraph 2.1 that Mrs Griffiths has agreed to staged payments, which we asked for as an incentive to Mrs Griffiths maintaining confidentiality. As drafted, if Mrs Griffiths’ were to breach confidentiality, we could stop any further payments but not recoup sums already [made]. Please let me know if you would like the agreement to be amended to give us that right.”

Mr Williams is saying that the provision in the agreement for staged payments to Mrs Griffiths were included as an incentive to her to maintain confidentiality. That was important for the Post Office, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: It was from Rodric. I mean, that was nothing I’d ever discussed. I mean, that came … so I wasn’t involved in this – in the initial – sorry. Rodric was drawing up the settlement agreement with Mrs Griffiths’ solicitor. I’d had an earlier conversation with Mrs Griffiths’ solicitor, when Gina contacted me – contacted me via her solicitor to see if we would actually settle the case with her, and this is after the meeting.

So I had the meeting on 1 September. I’d written the letter and sent that to Mrs Griffiths and, on the basis of the conversation I’d had with her and her brother on the 1st, I didn’t anticipate that we would be proceeding with the payment because I got the impression that she wanted to wait to see what the outcome of the investigation into the scheme case was.

Mr Beer: This is about a different issue. This is about the Post Office staging payments to act as an incentive to her, a Sword of Damocles hanging above her head: you don’t get any more money unless you keep quiet. That’s what this is, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that’s what Rodric was setting out and I presume he’d had that conversation with a solicitor.

Mr Beer: No, but he must have had some instructions?

Angela van den Bogerd: He didn’t from me at that time, he’d already had that conversation.

Mr Beer: With who?

Angela van den Bogerd: I presumed with her solicitor because he was dealing directly with her solicitor.

Sir Wyn Williams: So are you saying that Mr Williams thought that including a clause to this effect would be beneficial to the Post Office and, therefore, included it in the draft?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s my understanding.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yeah.

Sir Wyn Williams: Did it remain in the settlement agreement?

Angela van den Bogerd: It did because what he was saying –

Sir Wyn Williams: So that must mean that the Post Office, and from what I gather you said, you, approved that?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. Thanks.

Mr Beer: Did you see anything unsavoury in using money as a way of ensuring Mr Griffiths’ case was hushed up?

Angela van den Bogerd: It wasn’t something that I discussed with Gina and her brother and it didn’t even enter my head that we would be going down that road. This was the first I heard of it from Rodric and the fact that he said it was accepted, then I just allowed it to continue.

Mr Beer: So you agreed with the idea that we should use the drip feeding of money to the widow as a means of ensuring that she keeps it hushed up?

Angela van den Bogerd: I went with what he’d suggested here, yes, I did.

Mr Beer: Did you see anything unsavoury into that?

Angela van den Bogerd: I mean, my concern at the time was facilitating that payment to Gina. That was my – because I’d – I’d had to have lots of conversations to get to this point and I’d structured it, I felt, as best I could, to give her the flexibility to be able to transfer the Post Office, which is what she and her mother-in-law wanted to do, and give her the option to be able to consider the outcome of the scheme investigation before her making a decision going forward.

Sorry, at that time, I felt that I’d done as much as I could to facilitate that and to help the family financially.

Mr Beer: At the point that Mr Griffiths died, there was a live dispute about the cause of the losses in his branch, wasn’t there?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, when you mean a “live dispute”, what do you mean? In terms of the scheme?

Mr Beer: We’ve seen some letters that he had written to the Post Office and his mother had written to the Post Office saying that the cause of those was Horizon?

Angela van den Bogerd: So there was two things in parallel, looking at this, and, as I wasn’t involved prior to the notification of Martin walking in front of the bus was there – the case had been concluded with Glenn Chester and, therefore, that had – he’d been served three months’ notice, and then what we had going in parallel was the scheme, which was the route into for us to look at – at his case.

Mr Beer: In the scheme, it was being said that the losses had been caused by Horizon, not by the late Mr Griffiths?

Angela van den Bogerd: When we got to investigating that, yes.

Mr Beer: Wouldn’t the correct, the respectful, the compassionate course of action to be to provide the family with a discretionary payment and allow the claim under the Mediation Scheme to proceed to its conclusion, so that the rights and wrongs of the cause of the losses in the branch could be established under the scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I was trying to do was to facilitate the payment to Gina and the best route I could do to get the business to agree, was to do that through the Network Transformation Payment because that mechanism was already set up, and that’s what I tried to do. I tried to give Gina the flexibility, so that she had time to consider what the outcomes of the investigation by Post Office and Second Sight were before she needed to agree whether she wanted to pursue the claim through mediation or whether she wanted to accept this discretionary payment.

Mr Beer: Do you recall that the JFSA asked the Post Office not to approach Mrs Griffiths without involving them?

Angela van den Bogerd: I do recall that, yes.

Mr Beer: Did you ignore that request?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, Gina approached me.

Mr Beer: You thought that there was no need to tell the JFSA about that?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, in terms of the confidentiality, that was with Gina. It wasn’t my place to tell JFSA. Gina had approached me via her solicitor, and I respected the fact that she wanted to do that privately and not in the arena of the scheme. So I went with her wishes.

Mr Beer: Would you agree that the JFSA only discovered that you had negotiated this settlement with the family when the Working Group was notified that the case should not come to mediation because it had been settled?

Angela van den Bogerd: So my expectation was that Gina would have spoken – I mean, she had been in touch with Alan Bates and throughout here – throughout this situation and she was having those conversations. It wasn’t for me to tell JFSA of what Gina was considering doing. That was a private matter, and I respected the confidentiality of Gina in doing that, so that wasn’t for me to pass that on.

The formal route was the, you know, signing – there was a draft withdrawal notice for Gina to sign, if she wanted to accept that payment, and that was the – that was the process that was in place. But it wasn’t my place to have that conversation.

Mr Beer: Is the long and the short of it that you procured a settlement on the basis of £140,000 payment, which figure applied to a completely different type of loss; you ensured that there was a non-disclosure agreement attached to that settlement; you agreed to the staging of payments to act as an incentive, using money as a tool to keep the matter hushed up?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it was never to keep the matter hushed up. Any settlement agreement that the Post Office ever entered into was done with a non-disclosure agreement.

Mr Beer: Why?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because that was just the way they operated. That was just always the way –

Mr Beer: Just why? Just take a step back from the answer of an automaton; why does the Post Office always insist on non-disclosure?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because that’s what – how they tied up the agreement and –

Mr Beer: Yes, but why?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, I just accepted that that was the standard approach in all settlement agreements and that was how they’d all operated and still do today, I believe.

Mr Beer: Because it liked secrecy?

Angela van den Bogerd: So they wanted to settle the claims and wanted to draw a line under that engagement – I’m not talking about this engagement, by the way, I’m talking about in general terms – that was how they’d always proceeded. Now, in this case –

Mr Beer: I should say the document can come down.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, can I just – on this case, the £140,000 was the payment for the Network Transformation Payment. I believe that the actual settlement was different but I’m not party to what that looked like because that conversation had happened between Rodric and her solicitor.

Mr Beer: Thank you. I’m going to move on to a separate topic, my second topic of this morning, which is the Lepton Branch and the Helen Rose report. I think you were first told about the Lepton Branch issue in early 2013; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that was when Ron was doing the spot review on the Lepton Branch.

Mr Beer: Let’s just look at some emails to nail it down. POL00141489. Can we start on page 2, please, and can we see an email there from Mr Warmington to you –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – of 23 January 2013, concern reported by John Armstrong, second sentence:

“We have more on this case, which I’ll send you soonest but the following email trail should give you a flavour of it … [John Armstrong] is one of many subpostmasters who have referred to communication-fail-induced automatic (Horizon generated) transaction reversals where they are not advised of those reversals by Horizon and only get to know of (some of) them much later.

“As you all know, Fujitsu have rejected assertions that communication blips can give rise to ‘lost’ transactions. We are seeing many of those assertions and some, like this one, that might just be true.

“… apologies for the fact that in the first … email chain, John Armstrong’s summary of what happened and of the amounts involved was slightly out.

“We are at the stage there we need the Post Office to assign us a point of contact with clear instructions on who to CC to get to the bottom of these quite complicated transactional issues. If we have to wait for the Fujitsu data to be supplied, unravelled and examined for each one, we’ll not be able to clear them before next Christmas.”

So it’s a lost transaction issue, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, it was a reversal.

Mr Beer: Just explain to us what you then understood the issue to be. You’ve described it there as a reversal?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the actual detail of this case or just a reversal?

Mr Beer: The detail of this.

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay, so I understand, you know, what happened here is that a customer came in to pay a BT bill, a phone bill and, in the process of processing that payment, the system lost connectivity.

Mr Beer: So the communication fail?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes. So the screen went blank and the postmaster was unable to process the payment. So what he did in the interests of dealing with the customer, he actually took the money and stamped the customer’s receipt to say that “You’ve paid the bill”, and that the customer had left.

So that was – but when the system came back up – I’m sorry, I’m trying to remember the detail here – the transaction was actually reversed, which meant that, even though the customer had paid the bill, as far as they were concerned, the bill had not been processed through the system and, therefore, it was – as far as BT would have been informed, that bill had not been paid.

Mr Beer: Thank you. If we go forward to page 1, please, at the foot of the page, you reply:

“Sending it on to Andrew Winn.”

Why were you sending it on to Andrew Winn?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because Andrew – sorry, Andy, as I know him – he had dealt with the situation, I think, so he was the Dispute Resolution Manager in Chesterfield and I wanted to talk to him about what he’d seen in this case.

Mr Beer: The idea that transactions could be lost would have been rather important news for the Post Office, wouldn’t it? It’s a significant problem?

Angela van den Bogerd: So understanding what had gone on in this situation, yes, this was the whole point of what Ron was trying to do and I was trying to support the information flow to him, so that we could understand what had happened here.

Mr Beer: The point that Mr Warmington was making was that there was nothing to alert the subpostmaster that the system had reversed the transaction?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s what he was saying at the time, yes. That wasn’t the conclusion but that’s what he thought at the time.

Mr Beer: Can we go on, please, to FUJ00229801. I should have said, if we just scroll to the top of that page, you sent this on to Helen Rose?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Why did you send it on to Helen Rose?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because I wanted Helen’s support in understanding the information from Fujitsu. So Ron, in the email chain, had said he was having problems getting – or he had to wait to get the information from Fujitsu, it would take an age. Having – what Helen had done with Ferndown and pulling that information for me couple of years earlier than that, I went to her to see whether she could do the same, so that we could facilitate that information flow.

Mr Beer: Thank you. FUJ00229801. If we start at page 2, please, you’re emailing Gareth Jenkins directly by this time –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – at the foot of the page. That’s it.

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s right.

Mr Beer: “Thanks for your help. I thought we had already asked for formal help on this case but if this is not the case then I do wish to process such a request – could you advise of the process … I absolutely need to be able to articulate what’s happened here so given that you are probably the person that can help formally I look forward to our future correspondence.”

Were you taking the lead here?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I was trying to get the information from Fujitsu so that we could share that with Second Sight.

Mr Beer: Were you taking the lead here?

Angela van den Bogerd: In essence, yes, because, I mean, I wasn’t aware of what the process was, which you can see from my note, and I wanted to hurry it up.

Mr Beer: Liaising directly with Gareth Jenkins?

Angela van den Bogerd: On the back of I’d seen some correspondence between – I think Helen had copied me into something earlier, so, yes. I reached out to try and push it ahead.

Mr Beer: Can we move on, then, to POL00134139, and, again, start with page 2, please. Sorry, I should have started with page 1. If we go to the top of page 1, you’re forwarded the entire chain here between Helen Rose and Gareth Jenkins about Lepton, the branch in which this had originally occurred –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – with Ms Rose saying to you:

“Email string may be of interest. I’m not really sure where to take this. Happy to try for a change request … I don’t want to tackle one small issue when we may need to challenge deeper issues with the way we see data from Fujitsu/Credence”.

Then, if we look down, please, at the foot of the page, thank you, at the email to Helen Rose from Gareth Jenkins, and then carry on. Then carry on to Helen Rose’s email to Gareth Jenkins:

“I can see where the transaction is and now understand the reason behind it. My main concern is that we use the basic ARQ logs for evidence in court and if we don’t know what extra reports to ask for then in some circumstances we would not be giving a true picture.”

When you read this chain or this part of the chain, would that have sounded alarm bells to you?

Angela van den Bogerd: So not at the time. I mean, I was trying to get to the bottom of what had gone on in Lepton for the spot review. I wasn’t familiar with how Helen and that team worked, other than if there was anything unusual or important or anything else, I expected her to be able to raise that through her reporting line –

Mr Beer: What the person you had asked, within Post Office, the analyst, to do, ie liaise with Fujitsu directly to help you progress the issue –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – had resulted in was a concerning observation by her that the data being provided by Fujitsu for use in court was not disclosing a full picture of transactions, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s what she is saying, yes. She had some concerns about that.

Mr Beer: In her email to you, she said she didn’t know what to do about it.

Angela van den Bogerd: I took that to be about getting the change request sorted, so –

Mr Beer: To get the change request to – sorry to speak over to you – to get more data?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, so that – the change request was in relation to changing the ID on the transaction, so it was obvious that it had not been done by the postmaster or whoever was in branch but that it was a separate ID, so it was easily identified to – that this was a system reversal rather than a reversal that was initiated by the postmaster, in this case.

Mr Beer: Go back to the top of page 1, please. In that second paragraph, she is raising a broader issue there, isn’t she, with you, saying, “I don’t know where to go with this. I have discovered, as a result of this case, that the ARQ logs that we use in court do not show or may not show a true picture. We may not be giving the court a true picture”.

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s not how I read this. I read this as “I’m not sure where to take this, happy to try for a change request”. So that was – is how I read this. Now, I don’t –

Mr Beer: Are you saying that you now recall how you read this?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that’s – so what I’m saying is that, when I’ve – when I’ve read this, then I read that as “I don’t know where to go with this but I can do a change request if you want me to”. I’ve not seen any further email correspondence on this.

Mr Beer: You didn’t do anything, according to the email chains that we’ve been provided with, in response to this.

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think so, unless I had a conversation with Helen, but I don’t remember. I have seen something else in the disclosure that I did – I did initiate or put on an improvement list to get this change facilitated, although I’d forgotten about that –

Mr Beer: To get what changed?

Angela van den Bogerd: The change of the ID to make it obvious that this wasn’t a postmaster reversal; that it was a system generated reversal –

Mr Beer: Because I’m talking about “We may be presenting incomplete and inaccurate evidence but by reason of its incompleteness to the court” issue.

Angela van den Bogerd: I didn’t read that this way. As I say, if I’d had a conversation with Helen, and I don’t remember, then I would have said – because I expected her to take this through her reporting line because this was outside my area of knowledge. I’ve seen subsequent disclosure that she did do that and then she produced a report later, but that report – I don’t remember seeing at the time she did it and I’ve got no evidence that she sent it to me, although I have seen that I requested it at a later date because I became aware of it.

So for me, my view on – my take on what she was saying is, “I’m not sure really where to go with this because – and I’m happy to take you for a change request”. That’s what I took from this, not “I’m not really sure where to take this in terms of relation to the evidence”, because that, clearly, would be through her reporting line, that’s where she would automatically take that.

Mr Beer: Let’s see what you say on your statement about this please, it’s page 45, paragraph 94 onwards, and you say the document, and you give the character string, which is the email we’ve just been looking at:

“… is an email to me on 13 February forwarding correspondence between her and Gareth Jenkins flagging concerns that Horizon based system corrections and adjustment transactions are not clear on Credence or ARQ logs, as shown with the Lepton logs.”

That’s one of the issues, would you agree, that it raises?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, it is one of the issues.

Mr Beer: The other issue is the presentation of evidence in court proceedings?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes. It’s linked, obviously, yes.

Mr Beer: “I cannot recall my response. I have requested a copy of my response to Helen’s email but the Post Office could not locate this which indicates that I did not reply to Helen via email. I may have had a conversation with her to discuss the email but [you can’t remember].

“95. I did not share the report with it or brief others in senior management, Board, subpostmasters or MPs on the report. [You] cannot recall when [you] first became aware of the report. [You] have asked [the Post Office] for a copy of the covering email from Helen Rose to recipients of the report but they are unable to locate it. I seem to remember that it was brought to my attention by the Legal team as they were preparing for the Group Litigation Order.”

We’re going to come to the Helen Rose report in a moment. You think you didn’t see the Helen Rose report until preparation years later for the Group Litigation?

Angela van den Bogerd: I didn’t see the report from Helen at the time she wrote it, it was later, I can’t remember when that was. I have seen some further disclosure, after I put this together, that I’ve asked somebody for a copy of the report and that would be, I think, in 2014, which will be earlier than going into the litigation, but I couldn’t remember at what point I saw it. I definitely saw it but I couldn’t remember when.

Mr Beer: Okay we’ll come to that a little later:

“The Inquiry have asked to what extent, if at all, did the matters concerning the ARQ raised in the Helen Rose emails [let’s restrict it to the emails for a moment] made me or anyone else at the Post Office concerned that past convictions may be unsafe. Whilst I cannot speak for anyone else personally I did not make any connection to the safety of past convictions from the emails from Helen Rose or the Helen Rose report. Whilst I realise this sounds naive, prosecutions were outside my area of responsibility and indeed my knowledge scope. I took no view on how they were put together, other than to be assured that they were all done on line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors”, et cetera.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: So when Helen Rose was raising with Mr Jenkins and then drawing to your attention the fact that basic ARQ logs are used for evidence in court and, therefore, in some circumstances we would not be giving a true picture to the court, that didn’t ring any alarm bells?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not for me at the time. As I said, I expected Helen to take that through her reporting line.

Mr Beer: You would have expected Helen to take that through her reporting line?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Even though she was drawing it to your attention?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, she was only drawing it to my attention because I’d asked her to look into the Lepton case.

Mr Beer: So is it one of those things, it’s just somebody else’s job, Ms van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, it was outside my knowledge scope, as I said, so I wouldn’t have had the knowledge to know what to do with that. Helen did raise it through her line and it was subsequently addressed that way. So, as I say, I don’t remember if I had a conversation with her about it but she certainly did what I expected her to do, was go to her line route to make sure that she expressed her concerns there, and it was dealt with appropriately.

Mr Beer: Are you saying that you need a greater, as you call it, knowledge scope in order to realise that it’s a serious issue to present incomplete and, therefore, inaccurate information to a court?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, this is the first time I started getting involved in this. I wasn’t – didn’t have the broader view or the broader knowledge and now I would obviously look at this very, very differently, but Helen was used to doing this. It was Helen’s expertise and she was there to take that through her reporting line.

Mr Beer: But you were handling the Lepton issue?

Angela van den Bogerd: I was trying to get to understand what had gone on with the Lepton issue, yes, and provide that information to Ron in Second Sight.

Mr Beer: Did you pass on to Mr Warmington of Second Sight the fact that the Post Office may be presenting incomplete and therefore inaccurate ARQ data courts?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t believe I shared that email chain with Ron.

Mr Beer: Or the information in the email chain?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t believe I did. I had numerous conversations with Ron on this particular case, trying to understand what had gone on there but I wouldn’t have discussed the other email chain between Gareth and Helen with him.

Mr Beer: Thank you.

Sir, could we take our morning break please until 11.10.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, certainly.

(10.58 am)

(A short break)

(11.10 am)

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, one advantage of being here, Mr Beer, is that I can start without the latecomers.

Mr Beer: Yes.

Ms van den Bogerd, can we move to later in the year 2013 to see what happened further in relation to the issue that Helen Rose had been asked to investigate, arising from the problem at the Lepton Branch, and look at POL00146928, and go to page 3, please, and scroll down. This chain starts with an email of 19 November 2013 from Ron Warmington to Shirley Hailstones. I think she was a Case Manager; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Case Review Manager, yes.

Mr Beer: Sorry, Case Review Manager, you’re quite right, on the Post Office side –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – of the Mediation Scheme; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s right, she was part of my team, yes.

Mr Beer: How many Case Review Managers were there?

Angela van den Bogerd: Two, so she was the North and there was one in the South.

Mr Beer: Mr Warmington has copied in Lee Castleton, his partner in business Ian Henderson – that’s Mr Warmington’s partner in business, Mr Henderson – and Alan Bates and says to Ms Hailstones:

“Shirley:

“Am looking at Lee’s source documents now [Lee Castleton]. Will scan and send you those that you’ve asked for. In the meantime, here’s spot review 18, I will also locate – in Lee’s documents which I have here – the pages that relate to the transactions that Lee claims were entered at times when neither Lee nor his staff were logged in. My thoughts turn to auto-generated reversals as a possibility here. As we’ve already established, Horizon allocates (to each of its own reversals) the, ID of the staff member who input the transaction that it (the system) is then reversing. My position on that is that the design is incorrect and that such auto reversals should always have had attached to them an ID naming Horizon itself, not asserting that the person who keyed the (about to be reversed) transaction – and who may not even know that his or her transaction is about to be reversed – also processed the reversal. It also seems that in many cases not only did the originator not know that one of his or her transactions was being reversed but also never found out about that reversal at any later time either.”

So what, would you agree, that Mr Warmington is doing here is raising the Lepton Branch issue in the context of the investigation of Lee Castleton’s case.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, he’s making a link there and asking – and letting Shirley know that.

Mr Beer: He’s pointing out that it might have occurred at Lee Castleton’s branch too. The ARQ data showed transactions next to a branch user ID but the people at the branch were certain they hadn’t performed the transactions, is what Mr Castleton was saying.

At Lepton, it appeared, on the face of it, as if this was a branch transaction, that’s what the system showed, rather than a system-generated reversal, so he was saying that it was possible that the disputed transactions at Marine Drive were themselves automated, despite the user ID of a branch user being shown next to them. That’s the point he’s making, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: So the Lepton issue is being raised again in Mr Castleton’s case, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Then, if we scroll up, please, there is some information that’s irrelevant and then if we go to page 2, please, Ms Hailstones replies directly to Mr Warmington, cutting out Lee Castleton, Ian Henderson and Alan Bates from the chain:

“Can you please provide the transaction logs applicable to the transaction … or more detail.”

Then up, please. He, Mr Warmington, says:

“I don’t think I’ve been given these Shirley but will take a fresh look. Lee: if you tells have those, please get them to us.

“Shirley: at this stage of the process, I think you should routinely copy (as I did, and have again here) the applicant and his chosen professional adviser (Emma [Porter]) on correspondence.”

So he, Mr Warmington, was saying that correspondence of this nature should be copied in to the applicant of the scheme, yes –

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s what he was suggesting, yes.

Mr Beer: – rather than being excluded?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s what he’s suggesting in terms of direct copy, yes.

Mr Beer: Bottom of page 1, please. Shirley Hailstones forwards that chain to you. Then up the page, please, you forward it to the lawyer, Andrew Parsons, and the lawyer, Rodric Williams, asking or saying you’d be:

“… interested in your views on Ron’s approach here, ie copying the email correspondence to the applicant, their adviser and Alan Bates. Shirley is investigating [that case] and has legitimately asked Ron for what more information he may have. This interaction should, in my view, not be widely circulated – I’d appreciate your thoughts.”

So it had been pushed up the chain to you, the fact that Mr Castleton should be kept out of the loop. You agreed with that, didn’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: So this was a point of process. So what we’d agreed when we started the scheme is that Ron and Ian, Second Sight, sorry, would be the liaison directly with the applicants and their advisers, and then link into us. It was never – it’s not about keeping them out of the loop; it was just who was meant to be sharing that information at what point. Now, we’d had feedback from JFSA in the process to say that they didn’t want direct contact with the applicants from Post Office because it triggered – it just brought back bad memories and, even later in the scheme, they asked us to remove the Post Office logo from any correspondence that they sent, so it would just be Mediation Scheme kind of logo.

So this was simply a process point around what’s the appropriate way that we should be engaging with Second Sight, and my view was that –

Mr Beer: So, to summarise, you’re saying that you had the wellbeing and health of subpostmasters at the forefront of your mind because, to be copied in on correspondence with the Post Office, might trigger them? That’s what you were thinking, was it?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was part of it. The other part of it is that the communication back to the applicant should have been done – should have only been when the case had been investigated, so they’d get a Post Office investigation report and then they’d get the case review report from Second Sight. So the process was that they shouldn’t, from Post Office’s perspective, be included in all new correspondence in between, because of that was just part of the investigation, but it was for Second Sight to liaise directly with the applicant and the advisers.

Mr Beer: Was it that you wanted the Post Office to appear helpful, whilst actually preventing the subpostmasters from gaining access to information in the course of the investigation of the case?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not at all, because the access they had was to Second Sight, who had all the information.

Mr Beer: So there wouldn’t have been a proposal with Second Sight forwarding this email?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: It was just the fact they were copied in –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, it was just the process –

Mr Beer: – to the chain?

Angela van den Bogerd: It was just a process point.

Mr Beer: You wanted to erect information barriers, didn’t you, to prevent the subpostmasters from finding out the truth from Second Sight, didn’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. Second Sight had the – they had, you know, the ability to liaise directly with them and get the information flow directly, so it was nothing about stopping information at all; it was just purely a process point about who should be doing that.

Mr Beer: Can we move on, please, to 2014. POL00029709. And start with page 2, please. If we go to the foot of the page, please. There’s an email from Mr Darlington – who is a member of Howe+Co solicitors, yes –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – emailing Mr Warmington and then a general “Post Office Group” email. Do you know what that was, on the copy list?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: He says:

“Dear Ron,

“As Priti has stated in her last sentence we are seeking a stay on the time limits on all cases under review due to the implications of [the Post Office’s] non-disclosure of system-generated transactions and Horizon’s integrity issues.

“The ‘Helen Rose Report’ is of critical significance to all cases. The information contained within it is a compelling case for such a stay on its own right. When combined with the Andy Winn-Alan Lusher email in the case of Ward, which explicitly states that Fujitsu can remotely change the figures in the branch without the postmaster’s knowledge or authority, the case for a general stay is overwhelming.”

So here this email is bringing together two strands isn’t it: one that we looked at yesterday, the Winn-Lusher email about remote access –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and, secondly, the issues raised in the Helen Rose Report.

Then if we scroll up, please. We can go past that email on to page 1. Ms Crowe sends that on to you in April about postponement of the Working Group but asked:

“… does anyone know anything about the email being quoted below about remote alteration of figures in branch [that’s the Winn-Lusher email]? I think that’s a new one on me.

“Can we chase [Cartwright King] for a response on the Rose Report point?”

Then further up. You reply to her, you attach an email chain, I think that’s the Winn-Lusher email chain; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, at – that would be right.

Mr Beer: “In terms of transaction corrections/acknowledgements [that’s the Helen Rose issue] we’ve explained these in the fact file so it should be clear that these need the branch to accept the TC/TA on the Horizon system as it doesn’t automatically make any adjustments.”

What did you mean by that?

Angela van den Bogerd: Um … in terms of the transaction corrections and transaction acknowledgement, how they operated, is what I’ve called up there.

Mr Beer: So you’re saying on the transaction/acknowledgements issue, that’s the Helen Rose Report issue, “We’ve explained these in the fact file”?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the transaction correction/transaction acknowledgement wasn’t anything to do with the Helen Rose or Lepton scenario.

Mr Beer: That’s a separate issue again, is it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Okay, my mistake. What happened, then, in relation to the issue that Howe+Co were raising concerning the Helen Rose report?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Belinda picked that up and said, “Where are we with Cartwright King on that one?” What I was bringing to the attention of everybody here was that this was the issue around the Winn and Lusher – I think it was Alan Lusher, that’s the bit that he’s referring to there.

Mr Beer: So there’s three things going on, then, here: one is the Winn-Lusher email, one is the TC/TA issue –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and the third is the issue raised or addressed in the Helen Rose Report concerning the Lepton Branch?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: What happened to the question or the assertion made in Mr Darlington’s email that the Helen Rose report is of critical significance to all cases, what did you do as a result of that?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I didn’t do anything with that, Belinda picked that up – sorry just scroll down – Belinda picked that up directly and said, “Where are we with that?”

Mr Beer: Okay, and why was that Belinda’s responsibility?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Belinda was part of the Project Sparrow team and, as I said yesterday, we didn’t have defined roles, we had never defined each person’s role within what we were doing but mine was predominantly the cases and the investigation and the rest of the team, you know, and the Legal Team and Belinda tended to facilitate a number of those requests and keep an overview on what was going on.

Mr Beer: I’ve already asked you about the remote access issues yesterday, so I’m not going to go back on those again.

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay.

Mr Beer: Last question on the Lepton Branch issue: were you involved in any discussions or decisions about the extent to which it should be disclosed to convicted defendants?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: Were you involved in any discussions or decisions on the extent to which it should be disclosed in ongoing prosecutions?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: Were you involved in any discussions or decisions on the extent to which it should be disclosed to the CCRC?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that was all done by the Legal Team.

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

Can I turn to my third topic, then, which is setting up the Mediation Scheme proper. You tell us in your witness statement that you were a member of the Working Group of the Initial Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, correct.

Mr Beer: You tell us, I think, about your role in paragraph 114 of your witness statement, which we should turn up. It’s on page 60.

You say that:

“[Your] role within the scheme and the Working Group was to, on behalf of POL, lead the team of Case Review Advisers/Investigators who would be carrying out the investigation and drafting of the POIR.”

Is that the Post Office’s Investigation Report –

Angela van den Bogerd: It is, yes.

Mr Beer: – ie it’s the response to what Second Sight produced?

Angela van den Bogerd: It’s the response to the issues that came in from the applicant.

Mr Beer: I see, before Second Sight had produced the first draft?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, so we produced the Post Office Investigation Report, passed that to Second Sight, they reviewed that with all the evidence and whatever other enquiries they undertook, and then they produced their Case Review Report. And both –

Mr Beer: You had a North and South team, as you’ve told us already:

“… (with 10 Case Review Advisers/Investigators in each), each led by a manager …”

We’ve seen the name of one of those two managers for the North area:

“The managers sent each draft case investigation report for my review and my review involved ensuring that each of the issues had been investigated, their findings explained (in an easy to understand language) and that the findings were supported by evidence. My involvement in the scheme was prompted by my involvement in the Ferndown interview but I wanted to take on this role as I had a genuine desire to understand if there was any substance in the complaints.”

What motivated your genuine desire to understand if there was substance in the complaints?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, as we discussed yesterday, I’d had some rumblings over the years and, given that Horizon, essentially, was the backbone in terms of how we operated in our network. I wanted to understand if there was anything in the claims that it was Horizon that was generating the discrepancies.

Mr Beer: Was it your view from the start of the Mediation Scheme, the formal Mediation Scheme, that the idea was to, at best, placate some subpostmasters with token payments and apologies?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it – when we went into the – when I started getting involved, it was about getting to the truth, in terms of what had happened in the branches. There was an expectation, I think, within Post Office, that we weren’t massively exposed in terms of compensation payments, and I’ve seen some advice around what that would look like, if we did need to compensate, which was, I think, in the range of three months’ notice in terms of the remuneration, the contract. But there was never a massive – there was never an expectation that there would be huge liability in terms of compensation, yes.

Mr Beer: That’s the answer to a different set of questions, which would have been what: legal advice did you receive as to the extent of the liability exposure of Post Office? The question I asked was: was it the plan from the beginning of the Mediation Scheme, on Post Office’s part, to only offer token payments and apologies?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. So it would have depended the findings of the reports, so in terms of the investigation. So it was never the – the intention was always about understanding if there was anything in the issues and the complaints that were being raised at the time. So it was a genuine attempt to investigate those claims and to see what the outputs of that were.

Mr Beer: So it was always and throughout a genuine attempt to get to the truth and pay whatever compensation was due, whether that was a small amount or a large amount?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it was always my intention to get to the truth. The compensation element was separate from my consideration at the time.

Mr Beer: Was it always, to your knowledge, Post Office’s intention to get to the truth?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Can we turn, please, to POL00100336. Thank you.

On 24 February 2014 – this is – a meeting took place between Paula Vennells, Chris Aujard, Ron Warmington and Ian Henderson; so the two directors of Second Sight, the CEO and interim General Counsel. This is Mr Aujard’s minute of it. We can see that from the second page, his name at the end of it. If we just go back to page 1, please:

“The meeting was held at Paula Vennells’s request in order to discuss the progress of the Mediation Scheme with Second Sight. Paula Vennells explained that there were a number of areas she wanted to discuss, including the letter of engagement, the pressure from ShEx, [the Shareholder Executive], the Board and timescales. Overall, the meeting was friendly with what appeared to be real engagement by Second Sight.

“It was noted by [Paula Vennells] that the projected level of claims was currently around £100 [I think that’s supposed to be million] in response to which Second Sight noted that their back of the envelope calculation was of the order of £25 to £50 million. [Paula Vennells] observed that this was a long way from the figures that were in mind when the scheme was established, which were much smaller, and much more of the nature of a ‘token’ with an apology. It was the case that neither the Board nor the Shareholder Executive would countenance the payment of large scale amounts by way of compensation.”

So I’ll ask you again: did you know at the beginning, at the establishment of the scheme, that the plan was to make payments which were more of the nature of a token with an apology?

Angela van den Bogerd: So if I go back to the start, so my involvement at the start was before the scheme. So when I got involved, and this was about getting to the truth and understanding it was the initial inquiry, which is the spot review approach, and my early conversations were with – were part of the broader conversation with Alice, Paula, Susan and a few others, and it was – we weren’t talking about compensation at that point; it was about getting to the truth of the claims.

This, as I covered off earlier, came in later into the equation. I wasn’t aware of this note until this morning but there was always a sense – and I don’t know at what point – there was a sense that this wouldn’t be a massive compensation liability for Post Office; it would be further – a lot less money than clearly what was talked about here.

But I wasn’t party to those conversations; it was just that’s what was relayed to me.

Mr Beer: You were the or one of the main leaders on the Post Office side of the Mediation Scheme, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, in the Working Group, yes.

Mr Beer: Were you the most senior of the Post Office representatives on the Post Office side of the Working Group?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that would be General Counsel.

Mr Beer: Were you the next most senior?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it was General Counsel, it was myself, Belinda would have been there as a Secretariat role, and then we had Andrew Parsons as – yes, so I would have been the only other Post Office person, consistently throughout that process.

Mr Beer: You adopted a leading role in the Mediation Scheme on behalf of Post Office, didn’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of the investigations, yes.

Mr Beer: And in engagement in the Working Group?

Angela van den Bogerd: And in the engagement of the Working Group, I did, yes.

Mr Beer: Were you not told that Post Office’s idea of what the scheme should be, how it should end up, was that small payments, more in the nature of token payments, should be the outcome, along with apologies?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think so at the start because –

Mr Beer: So how has it happened that the Chief Executive is disclosing in this private meeting here of what the plan was and you didn’t know about it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I think at the start, then – as I said yesterday, the scheme wasn’t designed entirely when we started it. It was designed through the Working Group. So my – I didn’t have an awareness of what we expected at the start that compensation levels to be.

Mr Beer: So all bets were off, it was an open field?

Angela van den Bogerd: From my –

Mr Beer: The payments could be small, large or gigantic?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, from my understanding, we were generally entering into this with we need to get to the truth and, therefore, if we didn’t know what the truth was, how could we possibly have an outcome in mind? That was my understanding and my involvement. Now, as I said, as it went through, it became quite obvious within Post Office that we didn’t expect the compensation levels to be large, and I don’t remember the date that that happened.

Clearly, by this point, Paula’s concerned about it but, as I say, I wasn’t party to all of those conversations.

Sir Wyn Williams: When do you say the start was in terms of formulating the scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the scheme would have been formulated, I think we opened up for applications in August 2013.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes.

Angela van den Bogerd: Prior to that we’d been doing the spot reviews. So that’s –

Sir Wyn Williams: Were they related to the Interim Report rather than the scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: So, just in general terms, the scheme came after the Interim Report?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. So at the start, the summer of 2013, and this note is February 2014. So within five or six months of the start, clearly this was the view of Ms Vennells, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, because at this point –

Sir Wyn Williams: You didn’t know anything between the start and this point in time that that was her view? That seems to be what you’re telling me?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I’m saying is that, at the start, we didn’t have – part of the application process was that the applicant would actually say what they expected their claim to be and that’s what obviously would have been driving the £100 million that I think that Paula is quoting there. At the start, we didn’t have any knowledge of what that would be it would have just been what people guessed it might be and, clearly, Post Office was in a very different place to where the applicants were.

Sir Wyn Williams: So, in summary, once it became clear by the submission of applications –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: – that some people were looking for very large sums of money –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: – it became the view of the Post Office that that was never going to happen, in truth?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, that’s what they didn’t expect to happen, yes.

Mr Beer: Was that said openly to subpostmasters?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: Was the mediation process instead presented to subpostmasters as a means by which they could achieve compensation for the way in which their contracts were terminated and for losses that arose from contract termination and that compensation was at large?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think it was set out in those terms and I can’t remember how we – what the communication was now, which would have been in the application process itself. But it was set out as a way of understanding the issues and to see whether we could achieve closure. I think there was a difference of – clearly a difference of opinion on what closure looked like for Post Office and what that looked like for the applicants to the scheme.

Mr Beer: Was this plan or belief by the Post Office, that the scheme in operation would only deliver, at best, smaller, token payments with apologies, ever revealed to Sir Anthony Hooper?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t revealed through the Working Group meetings. If it – if he’d had private conversations outside of that, I wasn’t aware at the time.

Mr Beer: If Post Office’s private view as to the nature of the scheme, as expressed here, was revealed neither to subpostmasters nor Sir Anthony Hooper, would you agree that the Post Office acted in bad faith during the Mediation Scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: I think the Post Office view changed throughout that scheme. I think at the start it was genuine and I think when it was obvious where the claim level was from the applicants, that Post Office view changed.

Mr Beer: When that view changed, as you would have it, we see that Ms Vennells said that that was the view from when the scheme was established. But, even if the view changed, as you’ve told us, was that revealed, to your knowledge?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: Do you accept from then on the Post Office was maintaining a charade?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, I think, you know, we still genuinely wanted to go into the Mediation Scheme to try to get some closure on those cases and some cases did get closure thorough that, but there was clearly – and this was evident from the Working Group and the conversations in there – that there was this – there was a big gap there. So I don’t think I’d say a charade but, actually, there was a gap in expectation that was quite obvious.

Mr Beer: Was it, instead, always the case, right from the beginning, that, from the Post Office’s perspective, the purpose of the Mediation Scheme was for the Post Office to put its own position to subpostmasters, to tell them that there was nothing wrong with the Horizon system and that their contracts had been properly terminated?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was never my understanding and, had it been that, I wouldn’t have – I wouldn’t have volunteered to have got involved.

Mr Beer: But was there a document or a written record of the Post Office’s intentions or plans at the outset of the scheme for its operation, ie its tactics?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, are you talking about the actual scheme?

Mr Beer: Yes, the Mediation Scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because my involvement was from the start and, from my understanding, from recollection, is what happened is that we had the Interim Report, so we’d had a year of Second Sight investigating into the spot reviews. We had the Interim Report that I think came out on 8 July 2013 and, in response to that, which is subject to a Board meeting or some kind of meeting, out of that was born the scheme.

And I don’t recall a particular document, although there would have been some discussion in that meeting around what that should look like. But I can’t remember if it was – I don’t recall it being articulated around “We expect it to be this”, although I have seen some correspondence around expectations, although I can’t remember where from.

Mr Beer: Can we move, please, to POL00199572 and, if we go to the second page, please, and just look at the bottom of the first page so we can see – thank you – an email from Mr Bates to Ms Vennells, around the same time, so, in fact, the month before, headed “Concerns”:

“I am quite concerned about what I have been hearing recently about the Post Office trying to change the scope of the scheme in order to restrict the terms of the investigation and stop certain matters being discussed. I should make it clear that the JFSA signed up to the details as were discussed and documented last July/August and alterations to what was agreed will result in JFSA withdrawing from the Working Group and the Scheme. I do not know if you are aware of what is being proposed by the new [Post Office] members of the Working Group, but from what I can glean it seems as if [the Post Office] are trying to hijack the process which is something your Minister assured me would not happen in her letter to me last September.

“I would be grateful if you would look into what is happening at present. The impression I am getting seems to be very different to the discussions we had last year.”

Then up, please. That’s forwarded to Martin and Belinda, copied to you, advising on a response.

Then further up the page, please. We can see that Sophie, the Public Affairs Manager – and just help us with Sophie. The Public Affairs Manager, is that in Media and Communications or –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, yes.

Mr Beer: – is it something different. Okay, so Media and Communications?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Sophie was involved initially and then I think Melanie Corfield came in after, instead of Sophie.

Mr Beer: Was Mr Bates right: by January 2014, was the Post Office trying to hijack the mediation process?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I think it had changed. So, again, Alan would be going back to the start, where we had brought Second Sight in, and when we went from the inquiry, which was a spot review element of it, into the scheme, then it was a much more narrow focus on and it was to do with the applicants’ issues at a branch level, whereas initially Second Sight was looking a bit more holistically around the issues.

Mr Beer: Was Mr Bates right that the Post Office was trying to stop matters from being discussed?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of, you know, the different elements of it, then it had definitely changed – in terms of the scope, had changed from initially, at the start, in 2012 to where we were when we went into the scheme. So this would have been – so the scheme opened in August, it closed in November 2013 for applicants and this would have been a couple of months afterwards. So from Alan’s perspective, he clearly felt that there was a significant change. We’d had a change of membership. He refers to the change of membership in the group.

Mr Beer: Was that Chris Aujard coming on board?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Susan would have left, as she said this week, and I forget exactly what date she said she left, but Chris Aujard came in as her replacement.

Mr Beer: September 2013 onwards. Was there a hardening of the Post Office’s position from Mr Aujard’s arrival.

Angela van den Bogerd: I think so.

Mr Beer: In what respect was that hardening of the Post Office position manifesting itself?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, more focused on the specific cases and getting the investigations concluded in the individual level in a reasonable timeline, whereas, prior to the scheme, we had very little output from those investigations and the timeline drifted. So it was about the focus on getting those – the timeline.

Mr Beer: When you say more focused on individual investigations, do you mean less focused on systemic issues?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think so. It think it was more around we had the – the applicants had come into the scheme, we had 150, that ended up being 136, and that’s the focus. Where I think Second Sight, from Chris’ perspective, were drifting outside the branch issues.

Mr Beer: Can we move on, please, POL00200717. This is a slide deck, dated, as we can see, 13 February 2014, about the Initial Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme, and it’s an update for ExCo, so is that the Executive Team within the Post Office?

Angela van den Bogerd: Executive Committee, yes.

Mr Beer: I’m sorry, Executive Committee. Just help us, I think we’ve heard about a Board and then, underneath it, an Executive Team. What was the Executive Committee?

Angela van den Bogerd: I think it’s the same thing, actually. The name changed several times. I would take that to be the Executive Directors level that reported in to Paula and then Paula reported in to Board.

Mr Beer: So who would be on it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: No, who would be on it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Oh, who would be on it, sorry. It would be all Paula’s direct reports, so – I’m sorry, I’m probably going to get this – in terms of the job roles, there would have been the CFO, there would have been the Chief Operating Officer, there would have been the CIO, Finance Director, the HR Director, so it was that broad level – comms Director.

Mr Beer: Can we go to the next page, please. There is an agenda for a meeting; can you see that?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Over the page, please. It records that the programme, that’s the Mediation Scheme, is at a critical juncture with large potential financial exposure with a very large expectation gap:

“Post Office has no hard power and minimal influence and [is] paying the bills.”

What was “hard power”?

Angela van den Bogerd: I presume control, from this.

Mr Beer: Was that something that the Post Office wanted, hard power?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not that I was aware of at the start.

Mr Beer: Were you responsible or did you contribute to this slide deck?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t believe so.

Mr Beer: You were still, at this time, one of the senior leaders within the Post Office, responsible for the Mediation Scheme, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of the investigations, yes.

Mr Beer: Well, and in terms of sitting on the Working Group, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, in terms of the Working Group, as well, yes.

Mr Beer: Was it your view that the Post Office had no hard power in the Mediation Scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. We never – I mean, when we set it up, it was never intended that we would have hard power or control anyway. I mean, we had an independent process running and that’s –

Mr Beer: This seems to be written as a complaint, doesn’t it, “we have no hard power, we’ve got minimal influence over the way this thing is going, and yet we’re having to pay for it”?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was always the way it was set up. That was the agreement from the start. It would be independent, we would be footing the bill but we would have no influence over the independent forensic accountants firm that we brought in. That’s how it was set up.

Mr Beer: Did you ever gain any information that the ExCo or the Board expected Post Office to have hard power and proper influence on the Mediation Scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: I didn’t at the time. I’ve since seen things disclosed and listened to evidence from other people but I didn’t at the time.

Mr Beer: It continues in the next bullet point:

“Hostile stakeholders including those directly engaged by Post Office.”

In the Mediation Scheme, who were the “hostile stakeholders” directly engaged by the Post Office?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, from this, it can only be Second Sight because we didn’t engage any other stakeholders.

Mr Beer: Were they hostile?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not to my working knowledge. They were challenging.

Mr Beer: They were independent?

Angela van den Bogerd: Exactly, which I expected them to be. They were independent and, therefore, they were challenging and they were looking at things thorough a different lens to what Post Office had traditionally looked at.

Mr Beer: So how has it happened that the third bullet point has been constructed to represent ExCo for this meeting and it doesn’t represent what you believe to be the case, and the fourth bullet point too is saying that hostile stakeholders are Second Sight – or Second Sight are hostile stakeholders, and you didn’t believe that to be the case either?

Angela van den Bogerd: That wasn’t my view. Sorry, who authored this?

Mr Beer: That’s what we’re trying to discover. That’s why I ask you.

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay, because it’s not language I would use.

Mr Beer: Are you trying to distance yourself from this, whereas in fact this was your view? You were rather resenting the fact that Second Sight were independent.

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I wasn’t, actually.

Mr Beer: You thought “We’re Post Office, we’re paying the bills here and, therefore, we ought to be able to dictate the results”?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not at all. That was – as I said earlier, that’s not why I got involved.

Mr Beer: Susan Crichton dropped the ball by getting people who were too independent in?

Angela van den Bogerd: Susan Crichton did her job by getting people who were independent. That was the whole point of the –

Mr Beer: And was forced out of the business.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, but what I’m saying is Susan – when we had the early conversations about what we were trying to do, we wanted it to be independent and that’s why we went down the route of Second Sight and they were doing their job.

Mr Beer: The next bullet point:

“The Working Group was asserting itself and seeking to re-engineer [its] scope”, or the scope of the scheme, presumably.

Is that accurate too?

Angela van den Bogerd: The Working Group, we were looking to get more focus on putting applications through the process. So we did become more focused around timelines and that was it, really. I mean, the Working Group – I mean, it was a developing way of working from the start and, when Sir Anthony Hooper joined, which was about a month after, I think, in October, that’s when we started to get the focus and get some shape to getting the outputs from the applications.

Mr Beer: The author of this document is telling the ExCo that the process design was being driven by vested interests; was that your view?

Angela van den Bogerd: It depends what they meant by “vested interests”. The vested interests from my understanding was we all wanted to get the investigations into the issues done as quickly as we could. That took longer than we all expected because they were very complex issues and we didn’t have all the information readily available to us. So that, I think, was the vested interest, is getting to the production of the reports, the conclusions and then on to the next stage, which would have been the mediation.

Mr Beer: If a person wished to brief the ExCo about the current operation of the Mediation Scheme in mid-February 2014, you would be the obvious person to turn to for information; do you agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: For information on the scheme progress, in terms of the applications, then yes.

Mr Beer: And the way it was working?

Angela van den Bogerd: But this isn’t – this isn’t the language I would have used.

Mr Beer: That’s a different question, Ms van den Bogerd. That would be: is this language that you would use? Then you’d reply to me “That’s not language I would use”. I’m asking you a different question, which is: whether, in mid-February 2014, a person wishing to brief ExCo about the operation of the scheme, would naturally turn to you?

Angela van den Bogerd: I would have expected that to happen, but the content and the language here isn’t my feedback. So I don’t –

Mr Beer: Did somebody turn to you in mid-February ‘14 to ask you “How is the scheme working?”

Angela van den Bogerd: Not that I can remember specifically. I would have been given updates on the scheme, if I’d been asked to go into meetings to do that, and I would also have been given updates on the Branch Support Programme that was running in parallel when I set that up as well, which would have been – I think from memory, that would have been August – it would have been just after the Interim Report, August 2013, so the main focus of my updating was around the Branch Support Programme but I would have been consulted, I should have been consulted on how the scheme was operated from a case perspective.

Mr Beer: If ExCo was to be briefed on the operation of the scheme in mid-February ‘14, whoever was briefing them should have come to you to ask?

Angela van den Bogerd: Unless they thought they already had the information that they needed.

Sir Wyn Williams: Who, apart from you, could have given it to them?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it would have been people on the Working Group, so that would have been Chris Aujard, it would have been Belinda Crowe and myself.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. So there are three possibilities in reality, aren’t there, because whoever was providing this briefing had to come to one or more of you three to have any sense of what was going on?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Sir, I’m going to leave that there. Can we take our second 10-minute break.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, of course.

Mr Beer: It’s a slightly compressed time in between but it’s because of lunch and other things.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, of course.

(12.01 pm)

(A short break)

(12.10 pm)

Mr Beer: Thank you. Can I move to later in 2014, please, Ms van den Bogerd, by looking at POL00021762, and start by looking at page 3, please. Then scroll up, please, to page 2. Yes, sorry, it was on page 3, actually, if we scroll down.

Can you see an email there – if we scroll up a little bit, thank you, and a bit more – from Andrew Parsons to, amongst others, you, in July 2014 on “Suspense account paper Second Sight”? Mr Parsons says:

“Belinda, Angela

“As discussed briefly yesterday, I suspect the information requested by Ian below [Ian Henderson] is highly commercially sensitive.

“It may also be that the figures in question are quite high and …”

Just stopping there, I think he’s there talking about, is this right, the details of month end balances and profit and losses?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I didn’t quite see the earlier – what – is this –

Mr Beer: Yes, I’m trying to do this –

Angela van den Bogerd: This is about the suspense account? Yeah.

Mr Beer: – at some speed.

Angela van den Bogerd: I think –

Mr Beer: Take it from me –

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, the initial request was around the suspense account and I think then Ian started to narrow the request.

Mr Beer: “The figures in question are quite high, this may then be portrayed as if there are significant sums each month that cannot be reconciled with [the Post Office’s] accounts. The inference from this is that [the Post Office’s] processes/accounting systems are flawed given the volume of discrepancies. Whether or not this is correct, it is an easy leap to make.”

So what Second Sight were saying was that they were seeking information of the amounts held in suspense accounts on a monthly basis –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – and also seeking information of where that money went into the Post Office’s profit and loss accounts.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Then, if we can go up, please, and again:

“Second Sight have now come back [you’re copied in to this email as well, from Belinda Crowe] and asked for information on the suspense account. Specifically ‘can we have details of the month end balances for this account for the last 3 years together with details of amounts released to [profit and loss]’.”

Then you can see what’s said in the following paragraphs, no need to read those in detail. Then up to the top of the page – keep going – Rodric Williams says:

“… I’d like to avoid giving anything if at all possible (less is more) … rather than give them the data they’ve asked for, we should provide management information which gives context …

“eg something along these lines”, ie global figures rather than in relation to individual accounts, essentially; is that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: This email chain informed you that significant sums each month were being held in suspense accounts which couldn’t be reconciled with the Post Office’s account. What was done about that?

Angela van den Bogerd: So this was – Al Cameron was the CFO, Charles Colquhoun, part of his Finance Team, and this was being managed with Al in terms of what we should and shouldn’t be disclosing, in terms of commercial sensitivity.

So I think Al we had met with – where are we? 2014, I can’t remember the date. I think Al met with them once maybe twice and did produce some responses to them.

Mr Beer: Is a summary of your answer it was somebody else’s responsibility?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, whilst I was copied into some of this, I wasn’t driving this particular line with Second Sight. This was Belinda taking the lead on coordinating the responses from the Finance Team. I’ve never seen Post Office’s suspense account.

Mr Beer: I’ll move on. Can we look, please, at POL00307313. This is an email chain, again involving you, and also Ron Warmington, Chris Aujard, Belinda Crowe and Andrew Parsons, again regarding Second Sight’s queries about the suspense account issue, and can we go to page 5, please, and just go up can we see at the top of the page and the bottom of page 4. Keeps going, just so we can see it was Mr Warmington’s email. I hadn’t realised it was this long, keep going. Thank you.

Mr Warmington to Chris Aujard, Belinda Crowe, copied to a mediation generic address. This chain was forwarded on to you and then, if we scroll through it, please – I realise there’s a lot of text here and the font is headache inducing. Scroll down, please. He says:

“… our Working Group’s Chairman himself posed a question which we hope we correctly recall as: ‘Could a surplus in one branch be offset by a shortfall in another?’ We are now extending that question to ‘Could a surplus that is booked into a suspense account in Post Office be off set by a past, current or future shortfall in any branch?’”

Then, if we keep scrolling, please, and keep scrolling. Stop there. So there’s a lot of information. I can’t find what I’m looking for. In this email, I’ll read it slowly, Mr Warmington said:

“In the case of those credits to Post Office suspense accounts, the possibility exists that the amount that has been received was money that should have been remitted to a Post Office client or to one of the Post Office branches.”

Understand?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: So what he’s saying is that, in the suspense account, there could be money that has been wrongly processed as a result of errors by branch customers, by branch employees, by the Post Office itself or by a Post Office client, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we go to the top of the page, please, to page 1, and scroll down, there’s a suggested reply. In the third line of the first paragraph, Belinda Crowe says:

“My initial take is that Second Sight still have not understood the points we have made or the way that the Post Office accounting system works. My only comment is as follows …”

Then scroll down a little further:

“I do not think it is appropriate to provide the source data as it is not for Second Sight to trawl through a set of spreadsheets to try to identify what they might think is relevant. We will investigate the cases as and when they arise.”

Why did the Post Office believe it was inappropriate for Second Sight to review data concerning the operation of suspense accounts?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because I think, initially, it was thought that the request was too broad, which is why they met with the CFO to try to narrow it, to get to more specific. So there was a reluctance on behalf of CFO, I think, and Post Office generally, to share the whole suspense account because it was commercially sensitive.

Mr Beer: The information that Second Sight were putting to the Post Office disclosed a potentially serious accounting issue, didn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was the inference from Second Sight, yes.

Mr Beer: Were the issues raised by Mr Warmington, in fact, investigated by the Post Office?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not to my knowledge.

Mr Beer: Do you know why not?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Beer: Would it concern you if there were credit entries from the suspense accounts that were eventually written off to the credit of the Post Office, ie its profit and loss account?

Angela van den Bogerd: So my understanding was, I’ve not seen the suspense account, and that’s not my area – my understanding how they work in Chesterfield is that, before they take anything to profit, that they would have investigated those particular areas to make sure that it wasn’t appropriate – you know, applicable to somebody else, but this is outside of anything I ever did within the Post Office.

Mr Beer: Even a non-accountant would realise that, if money in suspense accounts was being attributed to the Post Office profit account wrongly –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: – that’s a very serious issue?

Angela van den Bogerd: Absolutely, yeah.

Mr Beer: Disputed money –

Angela van den Bogerd: Mm-hm.

Mr Beer: – being added to Post Office’s bottom line?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, agreed.

Mr Beer: That’s what Second Sight were saying, weren’t they?

Angela van den Bogerd: Their line of inquiry was: is it possible that money that should have been returned to postmasters was being taken to profit, I think, and that’s my lay interpretation of what they were asking.

Mr Beer: Thank you. Last set of questions from me and it concerns briefing Ms Vennells in the course of the Mediation Scheme. Can we look, please, at SSL0000116.

This a transcript of a telephone call or recording of telephone call between Ron Warmington and you about Carl Page on the 5 January 2015.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: I presume you didn’t know you were being recorded at the time?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I didn’t.

Mr Beer: We have already heard a lot of evidence about the trials of Carl Page – his trial and his retrial – in Phase 4. I think you’ve read this document and, in summary, Mr Warmington was expressing his concern over the prosecution of Carl Page to you, wasn’t he?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: If we turn up, please, page 7. You say at the top:

“And what he did [that’s Mr Page] is plea bargained it down to £90,000-odd.”

Mr Warmington: “I know that. I know all that. I know the whole case in intimately. I’ve studied it in minute detail. What I’m saying is I still think – here’s what I think. I think that the Post Office got this wrong right upfront. I think there was no theft of £282,000. The plea bargain down to 94 was because –”

You say: “Before you go on, how do you arrive at that conclusion then?”

Mr Warmington says: “I haven’t. I’ve not concluded yet. I’m saying this is my hypothesis at the moment which I’m trying to disprove. The problem I’m having is that everything I’m looking at in terms of the evidence is proving that my hypothesis is right, not that it’s wrong. Okay?

“What I’m seeing – even if you disregard the 650,000 and just talk about the 282,000 – it looks as though Post Office concluded that there ought to have been £282,000 more in sterling or currency in that branch than there was, and that’s correct.”

You: “Because that’s what the printout from both machines told us.”

Him: “Yes. Yes. Well, here’s my problem. When a bank does foreign currency dealing – bear in mind I’m intimately familiar with that because I used to be a foreign exchange dealer, both in business and for my own account, and I worked for many years in banks. Banks have multi-currency accounting systems, it’s like the Forde Moneychanger on steroids. So if you have, in a sterling-based bank, loans and – which are assets – and borrowings in different currencies, which virtually all banks have, each of those foreign currency assets and liabilities is marked to market based on the spot rate at the end of each day, and the balance at the variation is processed into a foreign exchange profit and loss …

“Horizon is not a foreign currency system, a multi-currency system; it only has sterling. The Forde Moneychanger has multi-currency accounts, but the evidence in the documentation shows that the totals in the Forde Moneychanger system are cleared every time a command 10, I think – or every time a weekly report is produced. I strongly suspect that Horizon was maintaining a local currency equivalent of the foreign currency balances meant to be held and, by reason of doing that, it had basically come to the conclusion that there was more currency left in that branch than there really was. Why? Because he’d handed it all over to Whitehouse.

“Whitehouse – Whitehouse’s bank account. It’s all in that stuff. You can see he was running a balance in his current account of the best part of £400,000 at one point”, so he carries on.

“Now, he was – you know, police and the subsequent – the first trial for conspiracy to defraud found no evidence of conspiracy between the two parties. It looks, on the face of it, that this ex-professional footballer, Page, was a complete and utter dope and had – was getting no particular benefit out of this. He was just handing it over.”

You say: “He was getting benefit out of it. He was getting – so we pay him a remuneration based on the value of the sales.

“No, you don’t, you pay him £1.16 per transaction regardless of size, that’s in the evidence.

“But he would have been increasing his remuneration as a result of selling more.

Him: “Bugger all. He gets £1.16 – it was shown as £1.12 and then corrected to £1.16 …

Question: “Why was he doing it then?

“I’m coming to that. I cannot see why he was moronic enough to be doing that. What I’m getting at is, it is entirely possible in my mind that he was getting some benefit that hasn’t been disclosed by the court. However, the key issue is that I do not see any evidence in any of the trials that any money at all was stolen … There is no evidence I’ve seen yet – I’ve still got about 1,000 pages to go through – I’ve seen nothing in the evidence or in the [investigation report] or anything else that convinces me that there was any money stolen.”

Then reading on, if we just scroll, please. Keep scrolling, the discussion continues. Keep scrolling. Thank you. Discussion continues, keep going.

You carry on discussing it, keep going.

You’re continuing to argue it through with him – keep going – and so it continues, okay.

Mr Warmington expressed a view to you, didn’t he, that this was a case of a miscarriage of justice?

Angela van den Bogerd: What he was saying to me was that he had information that we didn’t have that was leading him into that conclusion but he hadn’t concluded his investigation. And I’d asked him, through – through the conclusion of this exchange, was “Well, if you have further information, can you give it to us and we will re-investigate?” Because at this point we had done the investigation and produced the POIR, which is then – and then Ron has gone on to looking at all that information, and he said he had further information that he was considering that hadn’t been disclosed to us.

So the conclusion at the end of this conversation was “Well, give me the information and I’ll pass it on to the Investigation Team, and they’ll do another investigation into this case”.

Mr Beer: That can come down. Thank you.

He was expressing his view very strongly that there had been a miscarriage of justice here and that the Post Office may have misled the court.

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s what he was saying, although he was saying he hadn’t concluded his investigation. So that’s why I said, “Well, give us the information, and we will re-investigate”, and then that went back to Ron.

Mr Beer: You were disagreeing with him and saying, “We need to go back and investigate further”, and he said, “My draft report on this case is going to be damning for the Post Office”, didn’t he?

Angela van den Bogerd: I think – well, I mean, that’s neither here nor there for my perspective. The point was, if Ron had information that we had not taken into account when we did our investigation, then we should have that and we basically were pushing the process back, I think I said four to six weeks, for us to look at that information and to see whether that affected our findings, and then pass that back to Ron for him to do his piece at the second stage.

Mr Beer: He said that he had strong evidence of a miscarriage of justice, didn’t he?

Angela van den Bogerd: He was intimating that but he hadn’t concluded.

Mr Beer: A few weeks later, on 2 February 2015, you were sitting next to Paula Vennells in Parliament giving evidence, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, at the Select Committee, yes.

Mr Beer: I’m not going to ask you about the evidence given by each of you because Parliamentary privilege prevents me from doing so but Ms Vennells has subsequently stated, in her second witness statement to the Inquiry, that, as that date, 2 February 2015, she had seen no evidence of any miscarriages of justice.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Beer: Did you brief Ms Vennells, before 2 February 2015, about what Mr Warmington had said to you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, because, at that point, we didn’t have evidence. So Ron had a hypothesis and he was working through to conclusion, so, at that point, there was none. And the process that we were adopting as part of the scheme is that we would do the investigations and then our Legal Team would actually look to see whether there was any – anything in those reports that questioned the safety of the conviction and that was something that Chris Aujard was managing through and updated, I think it was around September, and the Working Group, that that was happening, that would be 2014.

So there was that safety net into the scheme process that we were adopting.

Mr Beer: Thank you very much, Ms van den Bogerd, they’re the only questions I have.

Sir, before, I think we proceed to the Core Participants, there’s an issue of the self-incrimination warning.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes. So let me just get this straight: it’s Mr Henry or Ms Page first?

Mr Beer: Yes, it’s the HJA team first, it is Mr Henry.

Sir Wyn Williams: Can I just be clear, before we embark on questions, are there questions likely to be put by any Core Participant which makes it either necessary or just desirable for me to give a warning about self-incrimination?

Mr Henry: Desirable, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Desirable. Well, that’s enough for me.

Ms van den Bogerd, you may have heard of the expression “a warning against self-incrimination”, indeed I’ve given it on occasions at this Inquiry, but if I can now give a formal direction about it.

Under our law, a witness at a Public Inquiry has the right to decline to answer a question put to her by any lawyer if there is a risk that the answer to that question would incriminate that witness, and we know this legal principle in shorthand form as the privilege against self-incrimination. I regard it as at least desirable but, more importantly, fair that I remind you of that principle before you answer any further questions to this Inquiry.

However, I should tell you that it is for you to make it clear to me that, in respect of any question put to you, it is your wish to rely upon the privilege against self-incrimination.

If, therefore, any of the lawyers who are now going to ask you questions put questions to you which you do not wish to answer, on the grounds that to answer might incriminate you, you must tell me immediately after such a question is put and, at that point, I will consider your objection and, thereafter, rule upon whether your objection to answering the question should be upheld.

Do you understand what I’ve said so far?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, I do, sir. Thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Are you represented today in the sense that there is a lawyer in the room who can assist?

Angela van den Bogerd: I do, yes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, that being the case, if this issue arises and if you wish to consult your lawyer before going any further in the process, then please tell me that and I will consider whether that’s appropriate.

All right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay, thank you.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right. I’m sorry to sound like a timekeeper but you have 30 minutes, Mr Henry, and since we are already past 12.30, I propose to take lunch at 1.10 –

Mr Henry: Thank you, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: – which gives you a slight margin of error, if I can put it in that way, which will be rigorously enforced.

Mr Henry: Thank you, sir.

Questioned by Mr Henry

Mr Henry: From 2010 onwards, as you rose higher and higher in the Post Office, did you ever ask this question: that people had gone to prison and it was totally wrong?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Henry: Did it ever occur to you, from 2010 onwards, that the ghastly prospect of miscarriages of justice was occurring on your watch?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, when you say “on my watch”, what do you mean?

Mr Henry: Well, as you rose higher and higher in the organisation and as you were given more and more responsibility, did it ever occur to you that the prosecutorial policy of the Post Office was sending innocent people to prison?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I trusted that they were following –

Mr Henry: Keep your voice up, please.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry. No, I trusted that that function were following due process.

Mr Henry: I’m going to suggest to you that there are a number of compelling reasons, aren’t there, why the answer you’ve just given and, in fact, the evidence you have given already to this Inquiry oughtn’t necessarily to be believed?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t think so.

Mr Henry: The High Court litigation has left you with the a credibility problem, hasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of Justice Fraser’s comments about me in the first trial.

Mr Henry: It’s not just because of what the judge said about your evidence but because of what you said on oath; can you not see that?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.

Mr Henry: Well, you’re now tied to that account, aren’t you, what said in those two trials you are now tied to, aren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: At the time, when I made the statement, I believed them to be correct. I was cross-examined on both and made some corrections thorough that process as well but, yes, that was my evidence.

Mr Henry: You are now tied to what you said on those trials, for example, in relation to remote access?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, at the time, I believed that to be correct.

Mr Henry: You are worried, aren’t you, that if you now admit that you knew about remote access way back in 2010 you’ll be liable for perjury; isn’t that the truth?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Henry: Let’s revisit, very briefly, the remote access timeline. John Breeden’s email to you on 5 December 2010, and it’s POL00088956, but you remember it, don’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t remember receiving it or reading it at the time, which I’ve said several times yesterday.

Mr Henry: When we get it up on screen, we can see:

“Further to my voicemail message on Friday, please find below the email I have received from Lynn Hobbs.”

Then omit the next paragraph and go to the last two lines:

“I have two further emails from Lynn will I will forward on one relating to Horizon integrity which Sue and Mike have already received and the third providing a brief ahead of the meeting with BIS.”

We can see further down, of course, there is the email that has been cut and pasted in, which you’re familiar with because you were taken to it.

Now, the information from John Breeden and Lynn Hobbs should have put you on notice of potential miscarriages of justice, ought it not?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not to my understanding at the time, no.

Mr Henry: The whole remote access to Horizon issue referred to by Lynn Hobbs in her email of 3 December 2010, which John Breeden forwarded to you, alerted you to a backdoor in the system, didn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it alerted me that Lynn had raised her concerns to the IT Team and that she was waiting – sorry, she was awaiting a further update.

Mr Henry: So, when you said that, “So it alerted me that Lynn had raised her concerns to the IT Team”, et cetera, et cetera, are you now accepting that you must have read that email at the time?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I’m not. I’ve said that numerous times. This is from reading this email, as part of this disclosure pack.

Mr Henry: Right. I see. So your account is that you had a voicemail from Mr Breeden about remote access, about the Lynn Hobbs email, but that didn’t register, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that’s not my account, it’s what’s –

Mr Henry: Well, it must because we can see, from the document that I have just put to you “Angela, further to my voicemail message on Friday, please find below the email I have received from Lynn Hobbs”, so it follows, mustn’t it, in order for your account to be consistent, that he’d sent you a voicemail, left a voicemail, and that didn’t register with you, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I’ve said is I didn’t read this. I don’t remember seeing this at all. I haven’t received it –

Mr Henry: I’m asking you about the voicemail.

Angela van den Bogerd: So if he left me a voicemail, I don’t know what that would have said at the time because I can’t remember that far back. All I’m saying is I genuinely do not remember reading any of this context back in 2010.

Mr Henry: “Genuine” is doing some pretty heavy lifting in there, isn’t it, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s my recollection.

Mr Henry: Are you being dishonest about this now or were you inexcusably negligent at the time?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m not being dishonest about it and had I – this registered with me at the time, if I’d seen it, it would have – I would have had a different outlook on what’s come next but I clearly didn’t because I hadn’t read it at the time.

Mr Henry: Right. So let us carry on, please. Are you accepting now, then, that you are grossly incompetent to have failed to have either read it or failed to appreciate its significance at the time?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m saying I’ve missed things over my time but, in this, I didn’t see this and, therefore, I can’t be incompetent, if I didn’t read it, because I wasn’t aware of the contents of it.

Mr Henry: So it was obviously on a matter of central importance that we see again, and again, and again, in fact, very briefly a month later, but you don’t register its importance, either because you haven’t read the email or because, if you had read the email, you just didn’t appreciate its significance, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, when you say a month later, are you talking about the Tracy Marshall email?

Mr Henry: Let’s go, then, to 5 January 2011, Tracy Marshall.

Tracy Marshall, POL00294728. We can see there that Helen Rose is copied in, so it’s to Kevin Gilliland, to you and to Helen Rose, and it’s entitled “Horizon system issues”.

Helen Rose, of course, was dealing with the Lepton Post Office system reversal.

Angela van den Bogerd: That was two years later than this.

Mr Henry: Yes, but she was also copied into this, wasn’t she?

Angela van den Bogerd: She was because she was looking at the data in advance of this meeting.

Mr Henry: I see. You’re saying now, here in 2011, that you were not able to discern the significance of this email when you received it; you didn’t appreciate its significance?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I’ve said – no, I didn’t, and the reason that I didn’t was because I had some assurance from what Tracy had said, and the messaging on remote access changed continuously across my time with Post Office. So I didn’t, in terms of this one – the significance on anything to do with criminal convictions, I didn’t understand the significance of any of that.

Mr Henry: You didn’t appreciate its significance –

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Henry: – that’s your evidence?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: Again, I ask you this: are you being dishonest now or grossly incompetent then?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m certainly not being dishonest but that is my evidence. I’m not being dishonest.

Mr Henry: Interesting, isn’t it, that the very next day you’re in the Ferndown interview, again with Mr Gilliland, and I suggest that Ferndown interview of 6 January tells us all we need to know: that this was a deliberate cover-up of remote access. What do you have to say about that?

Angela van den Bogerd: It wasn’t.

Mr Henry: In fact, Mr Baker, of the NFSP actually uses the term “remote access software” in that interview and you deny, don’t you, you say, “We can’t, we cannot go in and amend”. You knew that wasn’t true, didn’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I was talking about Post Office and that is true and, to the best of my knowledge that is still true, and the subsequent conversation about Fujitsu is that it would leave a footprint.

Mr Henry: You didn’t mention the material or rather you say you didn’t volunteer the information you were aware of which you’ve received from Tracy Marshall because you didn’t have the technical knowledge and you said yesterday that you hadn’t seen the John Breeden email. Do you still stand by that evidence?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: Again, I suggest that that’s a lie.

Angela van den Bogerd: I disagree.

Mr Henry: Let’s move on, please, to the Winn-Lusher email and the Winn-Lusher email is POL00304439. That’s dated 9 May 2014 but, if we scroll up, we can see that you in fact called for the Winn-Lusher email on 14 April 2014 but, again, your evidence is that you didn’t – a little bit further up – your evidence to the Inquiry is that you didn’t appreciate the Winn-Lusher email exchange as being significant either; is that correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I forwarded that to others for review on that and this was in respect of a case in the scheme. So I’d asked for further information on the basis of this.

Mr Henry: I’m not asking about you pushing paper or forwarding emails; I’m asking about whether you are maintaining, before this Inquiry, that you didn’t appreciate its significance: yes or no?

Angela van den Bogerd: I hadn’t seen this – in terms of this particular one – in terms of its significance, sorry, I don’t remember. I know when I had it I wanted to understand what was involved and I’d asked for the information from Alan Lusher, which I got. I then forwarded it for further information and forwarded it into the Investigation Team for them to take that into account when they did their report.

Mr Henry: I’m sure you did want to understand what it was all about but you remember that you said to Mr Beer, earlier on today, that by February 2013 you didn’t have the knowledge base about the issue and so, by this time, in 2014, had you acquired that knowledge base?

Angela van den Bogerd: So anything I had of a knowledge base from the Horizon system and the IT, I got from the IT experts. I never had that knowledge of my own. I always relied on information from Fujitsu, whether it was via our internal team.

Mr Henry: But you had to acquire it, didn’t you? I mean, you’re in a managerial role. You had to acquire it. What I’m going to suggest to you is that you are minimising your level of understanding before this Inquiry, aren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Henry: Can we go, please, to POL00116957, and can we go to page 6 of this document, please. We’re now in December 2014 and we can see there Avene O’Farrell, who is the Executive Assistant to Paula Vennells, the Chief Executive, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: It’s dated 9 December 2014 at 7.15 in the evening. It’s received from Donna, so Donna sends it to Avene:

“Angela V and Belinda Crowe are currently dealing with all Horizon integrity issues …”

This had been given to you. This was your responsibility, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, this was very loose wording from Donna. I mean, this is all to do with what they saw as Project Sparrow and everything came mine and Belinda’s way.

Mr Henry: That’s another lie. Let’s go down there. Let’s go down to Avene O’Farrell, 9 December 2014, 15.28. She’s the Executive Assistant, you’ve already accepted that, to Paula Vennells:

“Please see below. Is this something you would deal with or would Angela [van den Bogerd]? Paula mentioned earlier that any mention of missing money/IT fault is/should be dealt with by Angela.”

You had carriage of this. You were sitting in the driving seat, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not for IT matters, no. Paula, as we’ve seen, will forward emails to me, for some elements, but to the IT Team for others. So that was not my area of responsibility in terms of IT.

Mr Henry: “… any mention of missing money/IT fault is/should be dealt with by Angela.”

Nobody is suggesting that you’ve got a doctorate in information technology but you had been given the managerial role, you were here to field it, to deal with it, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of facilitating things, I would have, but I’d never been IT qualified and everybody would know that within the Post Office and anything that, in terms of IT-specific, I would get from the experts.

Mr Henry: This all followed, I suggest, this responsibility imposed upon you by the Chief Executive Officer, Paula Vennells, all followed on from the way in which you dealt with the Lynn Hobbs email of 2010, the Ferndown interview of 2011 and everything subsequently, didn’t it? She knew that you were a safe pair of hands?

Angela van den Bogerd: I can’t speak for Paula.

Mr Henry: Don’t admit remote access; don’t put things in writing; keep on message; spin the company lines. That’s what she knew about you and that’s what you revealed to her: you would do anything to protect the Post Office.

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that’s not right.

Mr Henry: Let’s go to POL00139181. This is, again, to do with Panorama and let’s just have a quick look at your – yes, here we are. You to Mark Underwood.

Mark Underwood’s role, it encompassed various things. He was also liaising with the CCRC; wasn’t he?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m not sure.

Mr Henry: I see. Well, what was his role in this, please?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Mark was part of Project Sparrow, he was working with Belinda and Mark here was coordinating. So I’d asked him for some information and Mark coordinated that, so he did reach out to Fujitsu on occasions to get the information – what was the relevant information for whatever query we had.

Mr Henry: You knew, by this time in 2015 – and I suggest it is absolutely clear – you knew about Helen Rose and Lepton and you’d even liaised with Gareth Jenkins about that, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: On the Lepton, yes.

Mr Henry: Yes, and you liaised with him, no doubt, about automatic system reversals, which looked like they were being perpetrated by the subpostmaster but, in fact, they had absolutely nothing to do with the subpostmaster at all; correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: It was auto generated by the system, yes.

Mr Henry: You knew about Lynn Hobbs by then; you knew about Tracy Marshall; you knew about Winn-Lusher. Can we turn, please, to page 3 of this document.

Again, you’re asking Mark Underwood:

“Would you also provide Post Office response to what Richard Roll said on the programme? Key discussion point on Monday. I’d like a robust response/explanation of the mention of going in by the back door and altering the coding. I need a layperson’s explanation on what all this actually means.”

Nothing to do about admitting it there, is there? You had all of the information at your disposal to show that what Richard Roll was saying was correct.

Angela van den Bogerd: Not from my understanding, which is why I asked the question of Mark, to reach out to Fujitsu to get the response –

Mr Henry: Let’s have a little closer look at your understanding by going back to page 1. Do you know the difference between right and wrong?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: “Mark,

“There is another part of [Richard Roll] and JS discussion that is relevant.

“JS: Some people have been ruined financially. People have gone to prison. Is it possible that suffering could have been caused because there are problems in the Horizon system?

“Yes, it is possible.”

What’s your response, Mrs van den Bogerd, “Oh my God, could this be true? What are we going to do about it”? No, it’s:

“Any further comments/positioning on the above please?”

What did you mean by “positioning”?

Angela van den Bogerd: I just wanted to understand, from what he said, what the implications were and I wanted an update, so I was fully informed, I think this was gong into a mediation the following week.

Mr Henry: You see you knew, didn’t you – and I suggest you knew from 2010 – that remote access to subpostmasters’ accounts and the covert insertion of data was feasible and that that would have brought down the entire prosecution edifice, wouldn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: As I’ve said, my understanding was that it changed over the years and I didn’t make any link to prosecutions on the basis of my knowledge. That was information I was relying on the Legal Team to deal with.

Mr Henry: You were deliberately suppressing the truth. You were allowing decent people to be prosecuted on the back of a flawed IT system, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I would never do that.

Mr Henry: You were letting wrongful convictions stand in the full knowledge that the IT system and the accounts could be manipulated behind the subpostmasters’ backs?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. As I’ve said, I didn’t have the knowledge to be able to make that distinction.

Mr Henry: In fact, the subpostmasters’ ignorance of all this was the Post Office’s strength, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Henry: I’m sitting next to Mr Parmod Kalia, the subpostmaster of Chipperfield Road Post Office in Orpington in Kent. He’d previously worked for NatWest before taking on the branch in 1990. All went well for 10 years until Horizon was installed in 2000. Shortfalls started and he borrowed well over £20,000 from his elderly mother to cover them. Then, in July 2001, an audit was conducted at his branch and a shortfall of £22,000-odd was found. Mr Kalia paid back the money but he was still prosecuted, pleaded guilty at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on 17 December 2001, and he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at Croydon Crown Court on 8 March 2002.

It totally devastated his life, blew apart his family, had a severe and profound impact on his mental health with effects too harrowing – even though he would allow me to tell you – but really too harrowing to disclose in public, and he now lives alone in a community centre. He wrote to your boss, Paula Vennells, on 21 August 2015. Could we please put that up on the screen, please, POL00141757.

I’ll just read a little bit out because I’m pressed for time. He wrote to Mrs Vennells as follows:

“Knowing what you know about the Horizon system and especially as it was a new novelty in 2001, surely you would agree that there were/are problems, bugs with the system that made cash disappear? I understand there’s a team dealing with errors creating false losses and financial records were changed remotely without the postmasters’ knowledge or knowing. I should be grateful if you could reopen my file and investigate the handling of my case.”

Can we go now, please, to POL00119518. This is your response. Can we scroll up, please, because you signed this on behalf of your boss – scroll down, please. Yes, there we are:

“All of the allegations that were presented on the Panorama programme have been exhaustively investigated and tested by the Post Office and various specialists over the past three years or more. The investigations have not identified any transaction caused by a technical fault with Horizon which resulted in a postmaster wrongly being held responsible for a loss of money”.

What about Lepton?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, what do you mean about Lepton?

Mr Henry: Oh, well, if you don understand the question I’m going to move on. It’s a blatant lie, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: What is?

Mr Henry: Let’s go on to the next paragraph:

“There is also no evidence of transactions recorded by branches being altered through ‘remote access’ to the system. Horizon does not have functionality that allows the Post Office or Fujitsu to edit or delete the transactions recorded by branches.”

It is a blatant lie, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was my understanding of what I’d been provided with at the time.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, hang on a second. What’s the date of this letter, 9 September –

Mr Henry: 2015.

Sir Wyn Williams: – 2015. From memory, and I it may be that I’ve got it wrong but, in the answering questions of Mr Beer yesterday, was it not before 9 September 2015 that a Fujitsu employee had confirmed that remote access was possible? I may have got the dates wrong but it was certainly 2015. You accepted that, as from that date – or at least this is my take on what you accepted – that having been told officially by Fujitsu in 2015 that this was possible, that you accepted that information or should have accepted that information?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct and it’s actually in the next paragraph down –

Sir Wyn Williams: Right.

Angela van den Bogerd: – which is referring to the balancing transaction.

Sir Wyn Williams: So it’s the balancing transaction point, all right?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: I see, it’s the euphemism point, it’s the Orwellian point: truth is lies; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength; we’ll call it a balancing transaction so that we can get around remote access. Isn’t that right?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, that’s not. That was the balancing transaction, which is what Sir Wyn was referring to, which is the email from, I think, James Davidson from Fujitsu.

Mr Henry: Well, I got –

Sir Wyn Williams: That’s what I had in mind yes.

Mr Henry: I’ve got one more topic and I think I can squeeze it in in five minutes.

Sir Wyn Williams: Four minutes, Mr Henry.

Mr Henry: Four minutes. POL00027684. While that’s being brought up, twice yesterday you denied any knowledge of a plan to eject Second Sight, correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: I said I hadn’t been involved in all the discussions, yes.

Mr Henry: Do you accept that – confirm, please, so it’s completely unambiguous: you had no inkling, no knowledge at all of a plan to exit them from the Mediation Scheme?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. I mean, I said I knew we were a business and not happy with the progress and the cost but this is referring to me getting resource to be able to investigate the cases in the scheme.

Mr Henry: Can we go to page 3, please, and, again, I suggest that you are now wriggling on this issue but I’ll deal with it in this way. 13 November 2013, 22.06:

“Hi Kevin”, et cetera, et cetera.

Go to the next paragraph. This is about the suggestion that the Security Team should be involved in the mediation, like putting foxes in charge of a chicken coop, I suppose, but anyway:

“These individuals have the experience and skillset required to investigate the cases and will be highly credible with Second Sight as we start to initiate their exit from the scheme.”

That would have been news to Second Sight, wouldn’t it, that we’re going to exit them from the scheme 13 November 2013?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Henry: You were lying yesterday, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I wasn’t.

Mr Henry: In fact, you’re lying again today?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I’m not.

Mr Henry: As you have done throughout, I suggest.

My final question is: do you have any idea of the suffering you have caused, the many lives that have been blighted with you contributing to that pain and that cruelty; have you any idea?

Angela van den Bogerd: I appreciate the level of suffering that would have inevitably happened as a result of prosecutions. I was never involved in the prosecutions and my work has been trying to understand whether there was any issues with the Horizon system through the scheme.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Mr Henry. We’ll adjourn now until what time, Mr Beer?

Mr Beer: 2.00, please.

Sir Wyn Williams: 2.00, Mr Beer. Very well.

(1.09 pm)

(The Short Adjournment)

(2.00 pm)

Sir Wyn Williams: Mr Beer, I think this afternoon we’ve got four questioners, one on the longer side, one on the shorter side, so can we have a longer one and a shorter one and then a break and then a longer one and a shorter one and conclude.

Mr Beer: Yes, we can do that, sir. I think it’s Mr Moloney first for 45 minutes, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Fine.

Questioned by Mr Moloney

Mr Moloney: Ms van den Bogerd, I’d like to ask you about two topics, if I may.

The first is the briefing of MPs on 18 June 2012 and, in particular, the briefing in respect of Jo Hamilton, who sits here.

Then the second topic I’d like to ask you about is the Lepton issue, the Helen Rose Report or Helen Rose investigations.

So, firstly, the briefing of MPs on 18 June 2012. This meeting came about because of concerns expressed about the integrity of Horizon, didn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes, that people were perhaps being wrongly convicted?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: It was meant to be an open and transparent engagement with MPs, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Can we look at the briefing pack, the Post Office briefing pack, for this meeting, which is POL00027722. If we could please go to page 3 of that. Thank you.

We see there that Alice Perkins, who was the Chair at that time, was due to say that:

“We appreciate taking the time to meet us today.

“We take this issue very seriously. This impacts the lives of individuals, public money is at stake and so is our reputation.”

Then, importantly:

“We are open to feedback and we will provide you the information we have available. We want to work with you to address all of your concerns and we would rather be talking to you about the amazing things we are doing at the Post Office but we need to address this concern, so today we will just focus on this.”

Now, your role at this briefing as Mr Beer established yesterday, was to deal with the case studies – yes –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: – two of them, and one of them was Jo Hamilton who is James Arbuthnot’s constituent?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Moloney: You were aware that he had formed the view that she wasn’t guilty of any crime and he had real concerns about it?

Angela van den Bogerd: I can’t remember exactly what was said because there was the first meeting –

Mr Moloney: Just the general line, no need to expand. That was the general line of things, wasn’t it –

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay.

Mr Moloney: – that he was concerned that she wasn’t guilty?

Angela van den Bogerd: Mm-hm, yeah.

Mr Moloney: He sought throughout this meeting to have his concerns addressed, as was focused upon in the briefing pack by Ms Perkins. Now, he had to have the full picture in order to have his concerns addressed; “all the information you have available” as Ms Perkins described it?

So, presumably, with the responsibility of the case studies, you researched the Jo Hamilton case as fully as you possibly could?

Angela van den Bogerd: At that time I extracted the information from what had been done before. So I didn’t do a new investigation into the case, it was just what we had from the records is what I pulled together with the key facts.

Mr Moloney: So that –

Sir Wyn Williams: You’re dropping your voice again.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry.

Mr Moloney: It helps to get quite close to the microphone. I think my voice would be very much dropped, if I was away from the microphone, as well.

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay.

Mr Moloney: So you looked at the available documentation –

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Moloney: – in order to prepare your briefing and so that’s the investigation report the prosecution file, and so on?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes. Now, what you had, as perhaps the full picture or the basis for the full picture, begins at page 13 of this same document, if we could turn that up please. You don’t need to go through all of this page but this is Example Case 1, and this Josephine Hamilton begins working at the South Warnborough SPSO, and so on. We go down this page and it shows us all the different incidents in terms of unidentified losses, with Ms Hamilton on 24 February 2005 just, for example, requesting hardship payments to be set up to clear the loss, and so on.

If we could come on to the second page please we come on to the audit and investigation. We see Ms Hamilton signed off on 7 March 2006 and we see on 9 March 2006 there’s an audit undertaken with the deficiency of £36,644.89, and the cash figure on Horizon stated to be £37,360.06. The subpostmaster was precautionary suspended as a result of the shortfall and she was requested to attend an interview under caution.

We then see how that progressed and, so, on 5 May 2006, we have the provision of the pre-prepared written statement, which sets out what Mrs Hamilton has to say about all of this. On 11 October 2006, the decision to prosecute, and 30 October 2006 the summons is issued.

Then, just over to the final page, please, we see the defence offered pleas to false accounting by way of mitigation. There was a hearing before Winchester Crown Court and the subpostmaster pleaded guilty to 14 separate counts of false accounting. This was accepted by POL on the basis that the losses are repaid in full by 25 January 2008 and the count of theft to remain on the file until the payment is made in full and then we see the sentence and then we see the payment of the outstanding matters.

So this was your aide memoire for the summary that you were to provide to Mr Arbuthnot, as he then was, Member of Parliament?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes. Can we just look at the investigation report of Mr Brander, which is POL00044389. Thank you very much. If we could go to – this is the investigation report just to introduce it, it’s Josephine Hamilton when she started, and so on. If we could go to the second page, please. Could we scroll down towards the bottom because it deals with the audit yes.

So, thank you very much. So Mr Stuart completed a full audit of the cash and stock and identified that deficit, and then, at the bottom, Mr Stuart also identified an additional £61.77 shortage on Horizon which couldn’t be accounted for and thus the figure posted to late accounts was – and if you could go to the next page please – £36,644.89, this being the loss to Post Office Limited.

Now, that was an extra shortfall that had developed overnight, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m sorry, I don’t know.

Mr Moloney: The £61-odd –

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay.

Mr Moloney: – that was a shortfall that developed overnight.

Then, if we could go the bottom of this page, we see there that Mr Brander says that:

“Having analysed the Horizon printouts and accounting documentation I was unable to find any evidence of theft or that the cash figures had been deliberately inflated.”

Then if we could go to page 7, please, and down to the bottom of page 7, please, we see, in the penultimate paragraph:

“The only evidence appears to be the fact that the audit identified the money as missing. Concerns only came to light following a request to return excess cash and instead doing so Mrs Hamilton was signed off as sick.”

None of those details were mentioned in your explanation of Mrs Hamilton’s case to Mr Arbuthnot MP, were they?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Moloney: He wanted to know all about this case, he wanted to be able to be reassured and those things weren’t in there, were they?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, because it was a snapshot of what had gone, I don’t know exactly what I reviewed but, that information isn’t in what I presented.

Mr Moloney: No. I took you, just before, to your description of what happened, so far as the prosecution was concerned, and you said the theft matter would lie on the file until a particular date?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yeah, but what actually happened was that Post Office Limited only agreed not to proceed with the theft charge on the basis that the outstanding shortage was paid by the time of sentence. If she hadn’t paid by the time of sentence then she would face a trial on theft. It was made clear to her that there must be some recognition that the defendant had the money short of theft and that a plea on the basis that the loss was due to the computer not working properly will not be accepted.

Now, those words are taken directly from the Court of Appeal Criminal Division judgment in Hamilton but the additional fact that she had to accept the basis of plea that the money – and there was also the additional fact that she had to accept that, in her basis of plea, that she couldn’t blame Horizon. None of that was in your summary either, was it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I’ve – that wasn’t in what I reviewed, I don’t believe, because I –

Mr Moloney: You didn’t see that in the prosecution file?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Moloney: Right. I won’t press that but all of that detail, that there was no evidence of theft, that the audit showed that there had been an additional shortfall overnight, that the only evidence was the shortfall, and then surely you must have seen that she was told that, if she didn’t pay on time, she’d have been proceeded against with theft; that was so important to that decent MP trying to find out what had happened to his constituent, wasn’t it? That detail should have been included, shouldn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the detail that you’ve just gone through is not the detail that I had – that was made available to me. So I’ve taken what I understood to be the key points out of the information that was provided to be able to provide that synopsis of what had happened. But as I say, didn’t do an investigation at that point into the case, it was lifting information from what had already been pulled together.

Mr Moloney: You didn’t need to do an investigation to include those details, Mrs van den Bogerd. The fact that there was no evidence of theft, says Mr Brander, and yet she was still charged with theft, doesn’t that have to go into your summary so that this MP actually knows what went on with his constituent’s case?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I’m saying is I don’t know if I’d actually seen that in the information that was made available to me at the time because a lot of –

Mr Moloney: It was in the investigation report, Mrs van den Bogerd. You said you read that?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I read whatever files that we had available, and I don’t remember exactly what files they were but that’s the information I pulled from there.

Mr Moloney: So when I asked you if you read the investigation report and you said, “Yes”, that might be wrong?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t remember, in terms of what – so I was given some files and asked to pull a synopsis together for two cases. As I said, I didn’t do any investigations at that point, it was on the basis that the investigation has already been done and I pulled the information and I can’t recall exactly what files I looked at.

Mr Moloney: Where might you have got that information from then, just to test that? From what documents might you have got your information from?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, can we go back to the synopsis, so I can just have a look at that please?

Mr Moloney: No, please just answer that. You’ve said you’re not sure about whether or not you saw the investigation report. First of all, you said you had seen it, then you said that you’re not sure if you saw it. So I’d like to know what type of documents in the file that you received might have provided you with the information that you used in order to compile that summary for Mr James Arbuthnot MP?

Angela van den Bogerd: So from recollection, it would have been the audit, I presume, to get the information. There would have been some summary of what had happened but, without having actually the files, I can’t remember exactly what I referred to. But I didn’t – I mean, what I did, I traditional to lift the key points and put them into that synopsis so I could share that with two MPs and I did that for both cases.

Mr Moloney: I’ll cut to the chase. Did you not tell James Arbuthnot about the view of Mr Brander and what happened at the audit because, to use a phrase we heard in a different context yesterday from Mr Parsons, it distracted from what was otherwise a very clear picture, so far as you were concerned?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I didn’t. When I asked – when I was asked to pull it together, this was at the start of me getting involved in the investigations and I just wanted to present the picture as I saw it from the information I had available.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, it comes to this, really, doesn’t it: that the picture that you painted for Mr Arbuthnot effectively summarises the points that supported the Post Office case and then you went on to give information about sentence, et cetera? What you didn’t do was to reveal that, in the Investigator’s report, so one of the first documents to come into existence – these are my words – some doubt had been cast upon the charge of theft?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I don’t recall that I was aware of any doubt at that point and, had I been aware of it, I would have raised it at the time. But that’s my recollection and I can’t remember exactly what documents I was presented with to pull that together.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, without wishing to repeat a Mr Henry-ism, if you weren’t provided with such a basic document as the Investigator’s report, doesn’t that amount to negligence on someone’s part?

Angela van den Bogerd: I mean, I would have expected to have had all the information provided to me at the time and I don’t even remember who gave me the information.

Sir Wyn Williams: All right.

Sorry for interrupting, Mr Moloney.

Mr Moloney: Not at all, sir.

I was just going to conclude this by saying: did you give the details that were designed to support your company; is that what you gave?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not knowingly. I mean, as I said, I just pulled the information from what I had available to put that case forward as an example of what had happened. I didn’t knowingly do anything else other than that, present the facts as I saw them.

Mr Moloney: Second topic is Lepton. Now, Mr Beer has asked you about Lepton this morning and indeed, he asked you briefly about it yesterday and you described having many conversations on the Lepton issue.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes.

Today you were asked by Mr Beer:

“So when Helen Rose was raising with Mr Jenkins and then drawing to your attention the fact that basic ARQ logs are used for evidence in court and, therefore, in some circumstances, we would not be giving a true picture to the court, that didn’t ring any alarm bells?”

You said:

“Not for me at the time.”

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Moloney: Could we go back to POL00097481. Thank you.

This email chain was sent to you. Could we please go down the page. Towards the bottom, we see there that Helen Rose has sent that to you on 13 February 2013, Angela and Elaine. If we could keep going down to an email from Gareth Jenkins, keep going please. Keep going. Yes, and just one more, please. Right.

Now, this is an email from Mr Jenkins to Helen Rose and we see on this that, at the bottom of that page, this is really the nub of it, isn’t it, when he says:

“However what I was able to confirm from my look at the live data a couple of weeks ago and is also held in the underlying raw logs is confirmation that the reversal was generated by the system (and not manually by the user).”

Yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: He was able to do that by looking at the raw data, the live data and the underlying raw logs, which couldn’t be ascertained from the ARQ logs; that’s the nub of it, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Now, could we please just then go up to the email in response from Helen Rose. She says:

“Hi Gareth

“Thanks for the response. I can see where this transaction is and now understand the reason behind it. My main concern is that we use the basic ARQ logs for evidence in court and if we don’t know what extra reports to ask for then in some circumstances we would not be giving a true picture.

“I know you are aware of all the Horizon integrity issues and I want to ensure that the ARQ logs are used and understood fully by our operational staff that have to work with this data both in interviews and in court.”

Now, what was it about those words that did not ring alarm bells for you, Mrs van den Bogerd, about the use of ARQ data in court?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I was looking at this from understanding what had happened in the Lepton case. Anything that Helen was raising in respect of what they did in the Security Team, I expected her to raise within her line, which I think is what she did do with this, anyway. But that didn’t – I didn’t – it didn’t have alarm bells for me at that point because I thought that was within Helen’s space and she would do that with her direct line.

Mr Moloney: The alarm bells, whether it’s her responsibility or your responsibility, surely the alarm bells ring and say: actually, what we’re putting out there in court may not be accurate? Isn’t that what she’s saying to you? Isn’t that whether it’s her responsibility, your responsibility? What does that matter? You’re somebody very senior in Post Office who, if the email that Mr Henry showed shortly before lunch is accurate, had at least some involvement in Horizon integrity issues. Does this not ring any alarm bells, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: As I said, it didn’t.

Mr Moloney: Should it have done, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, with what I know now, then I would look at this very, very differently. At the time, it just didn’t ring any alarm bells with me.

Mr Moloney: Right. Well, let’s just go further up and see what else might not ring alarm bells. Penny Thomas responds, saying, “yes, Gareth it is”. That’s about the change request. If we could just go a little bit further up.

In fact, that’s when Mr Jenkins has said that he understand Helen Rose’s concerns, “I understand your concerns”, and then it’s the change request. If we could just go a bit further up from there. Helen Rose says:

“Angela/Elaine

“For information

“Email string may be of interest. I’m not really sure where to take this. Happy to try for a change request if you would like me to but at this moment in time don’t want to tackle one small issue when we may need to challenge deeper issues with the way we see data from Fujitsu/Credence.”

No alarm bells for you there about deeper issues on the way we see data from Fujitsu/Credence when you were tasked with Horizon integrity issues, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, at this time, I was tasked with getting under the skin of what had happened in Lepton. As I’ve said, Helen was in the Security line and that was something that I expected her to do through her line. That wasn’t for me to do and, therefore, it didn’t register with me.

Mr Moloney: Were you just wilfully blind to this, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I wasn’t and, you know, I wish that I had the insight then that I have now to read that very differently. But, for me, it was about understanding what had happened in the Lepton case and the change request would have triggered the ID being changed on the automatic – sorry, the system generated reversal, so that would have been evident going forward.

Mr Moloney: Okay, so just in terms of this, then, what you took from this, would it be fair to say, is that reversals could be performed by the system, independent of the manual operator?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, as part – it was part of that transaction, in terms of the recovery, yes, and it would have – it wouldn’t have – yes.

Mr Moloney: Is that yes? Is the answer yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: It is, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: System generated, yes.

Mr Moloney: That standard ARQ data and Credence data didn’t show whether or not the reversal had been made by the operator or the system?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes, and it was only looking at the raw data that it was possible to see if the reversal had been made by the operator or the system?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes. Now, I can take you to it if you need me to but you told the Horizon Issues Trial that you thought that the change request had not occurred, yes, hadn’t taken –

Angela van den Bogerd: I said I didn’t think it – it hadn’t taken – yes.

Mr Moloney: Yes. Can we please look at POL00140211.

So I’ll repeat that: POL00140211. You were taken to this yesterday by Mr Beer, it’s the meeting with Panorama. If we could go to page 22, please, and to the bottom of that page.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, did we go to this yesterday? I don’t think so.

Mr Moloney: Okay, well, it’s here anyway and you have seen it, haven’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: I have seen it previously, yes.

Mr Moloney: Okay, and it’s the final thing on the page:

“We do have a service level agreement, yes. We get a number of archive pulls from the system as part of that and if we exceed that then it is a cost. I think the important thing here is for all the cases in the scheme who have actually pulled those archives and I referred to the, we call it ARQ information and we provide that which beefs up the supporting evidence and that is about every keystroke. It leaves a footprint of what happened over that period of time and that would have been done in the court case.”

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Moloney: “If we are, and I’m talking generically here, if we’re bringing a case against someone in terms of prosecution every piece of information, all the evidence that we will draw on to bring that case will be presented and will be presented to the defence team as well. So that information, I don’t know the ins and outs of the case anyway, but that information would have been provided by us and it cost us, it cost us. That’s part of the cost of, you know, there are legal costs and there are other costs involved in bringing the case, so that information not have been used of that was the case.”

Over to the next page, please. Mr Bardo says:

“And so for everybody on the Mediation Scheme that ARQ data has been pulled which means there is … so what kind of a picture do you have then of everything going on in the system for all of the cases in the Mediation Scheme? Complete?

“Complete.”

Matt Bardo says: “Every single keystroke.”

You say: “Absolutely.”

Why didn’t you tell them about Lepton at that point?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, what do you mean? Tell them about what?

Mr Moloney: Well, the system could reverse it and you wouldn’t know from ARQ data whether or not the postmaster had done it, and so not every keystroke, not everything, was able to be discerned from ARQ data?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, we would have seen that it had been reversed and the postmaster themselves would have known that it had been reversed, it just wouldn’t have pointed to the auto reversal at that point but he would have had and he did have disconnected receipts and reversal receipts printed in that case.

Mr Moloney: He wouldn’t know – the whole thing about Lepton was somebody had paid their phone bill and actually they hadn’t, and you didn’t know whether or not that reversal was made by the system or by the operator from the ARQ data. That’s the reality of the Lepton issue, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: In terms of the ID, yes, but the reversal had been done and that’s why the bill wasn’t paid.

Mr Moloney: You then maintained that every keystroke was seen from the ARQ data in the Horizon issues trial, and Mr Justice Fraser found against you on that, didn’t he? Indeed, there was other evidence that said you were wrong about that.

Angela van den Bogerd: I think it was around – I got confused with what Credence did, from memory, I think, as opposed to ARQ information.

Mr Moloney: Yeah.

Angela van den Bogerd: And –

Mr Moloney: Well, you were wrong about ARQ and Credence, weren’t you? They just didn’t record every keystroke.

Angela van den Bogerd: So Credence didn’t, and that’s what I – from memory, that’s what I was asked about and I agreed with Patrick Green that it was Credence and then corrected that later in the trial that I’d been mistaken on Credence and it was actually ARQ that I was talking about.

Mr Moloney: You didn’t give the full picture, again, about what you knew about Lepton, did you, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: In the trial or for this, sorry?

Mr Moloney: In Panorama and in the trial.

Angela van den Bogerd: So, in the trial, it was – I gave what I believed were the facts, and the facts were that the reversal had been generated by the system and I think the question for me was whether the postmaster knew that it had been reversed and he did, albeit later, because he did have the receipts. I think that was the point around there. I understood from the Panorama that I was giving the facts as I understood them to be when I gave that interview.

Mr Moloney: Why didn’t you mention Lepton to Panorama?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because we weren’t talking about specific cases.

Mr Moloney: Were you not talking about the overall picture, about how basically you could support everything that happened?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I didn’t hear that.

Mr Moloney: Were you not talking about the overall picture about you could support basically everything that happened because of the data you had that covered everything off?

Angela van den Bogerd: I was given a general picture of what were able to do and had been doing, yes.

Mr Moloney: Why not tell them about Lepton?

Angela van den Bogerd: Because, as I said, we weren’t talking about specific cases.

Mr Moloney: Did it detract from what was otherwise a very clear picture for you, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: What, the Lepton case?

Mr Moloney: Lepton?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, what it did is it highlighted that the – you know, it wasn’t obvious that the – that the system had generated the reversal at the time. So I think that, for me, was important, that we understood that at the time, so that the postmaster knew what that ID was against and what it wasn’t.

Mr Moloney: Thank you very much, Mrs van den Bogerd.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you, Mr Moloney.

Who is taking the 10-minute slot, first, Mr Beer?

Mr Beer: It’s Ms Watt on behalf of the Federation.

Questioned by Ms Watt

Ms Watt: Thank you, sir.

Good afternoon, Ms van den Bogerd. I appear for the National Federation of SubPostmasters at this Inquiry.

I just wanted to look first at your career at the Post Office. You set out at paragraph 9 of your witness statement what that was and some of it involved operational responsibility for post offices and interviewing and appointing subpostmasters; is that correct?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, yes. Can you tell me what year that was, so I understand the role?

Ms Watt: Would it be fair to say that, over the period 1996 to 2006, that you had direct experience of the subpostmaster network, how it operated and how subpostmasters operated?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Ms Watt: In particular, between 1996 and 2001, you were interviewing and appointing subpostmasters, so it would be correct to say that this involved you in a direct assessment of the suitability to of an individual to be appointed by the Post Office as a subpostmaster?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Ms Watt: It would be important that those people were of good character, reliable, personable, honest, wouldn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Ms Watt: So you would likely agree with Sir Anthony Hooper of the Working Group when he said in evidence to the Inquiry recently that:

“I felt throughout the Post Office cases that it didn’t make sense that reputable postmasters appointed by the Post Office after examination of their characters, that they were stealing these sums of money.”

Would you agree with that assessment?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I remember him saying that, yes.

Ms Watt: Would you agree it didn’t make sense that those otherwise honest and reliable postmasters were doing so?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I wouldn’t agree entirely with that and my reason for that is I had direct experience of reputable postmasters, actually, where I would call being a victim of circumstances and actually stealing from Post Office, and prior – and that would be prior to Horizon.

So that was my personal experience and, as I said yesterday, my view was that postmasters did not come into the Post Office to steal money or defraud. However, unfortunately, on some situations, that was true, it did happen.

Ms Watt: The evidence here yesterday and today concerning your involvement shows that there were many, many occasions on which you were made aware of issues, including bugs, remote access, Gareth Jenkins, Ferndown post office, the case of Martin Griffiths, to name just a few, but you let prosecutions and financial recoveries carry on regardless, didn’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Prosecutions – when I became aware of some of those cases, prosecutions weren’t happening very often then, but I wasn’t involved in prosecutions. Recovery of monies did continue and I’m not sure at what point. I mean, we did stop recovering when we were investigating some cases, I think, but, in general, the recovery of monies did continue, yes.

Ms Watt: It might be said, Ms van den Bogerd, that your evidence here is an example of there are none so blind as though who will not see, as the biblical reference puts it:

“Those who have eyes and see not, those who have ears and hear not.”

You would not see, you would not hear, would you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not intentionally. I mean, I would never have done that intentionally but I do accept that there are things that I have missed over that length of period and things that I would look at differently now, knowing what I know now.

Ms Watt: Well, the truth is, Ms van den Bogerd, that approach by you was just simply wilful, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Ms Watt: Because the truth also is, is it not, as articulated by Lord Arbuthnot at the Inquiry:

“They [the Post Office] were worried Second Sight was actual uncovering something really crucial about Horizon and, if they allowed it to carry on uncovering these things, it posed an existential threat to Horizon and, in turn, in the Post Office.”

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s not the case.

Ms Watt: That is why you gave the much-criticised evidence at the Common Issues Trial before Mr Justice Fraser, to protect the Post Office against that existential threat, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that wasn’t my intention.

Ms Watt: That is why the truth is, over many years, Ms van den Bogerd, you were actually responsible for or complicit in ensuring that everyone who you and the Post Office needed to keep on side was lied to consistently, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Ms Watt: That you were responsible for, or complicit in, the lie, that there was nothing wrong with Horizon, being fed, on every possible occasion, to MPs, government ministers, civil servants, the NFSP, unions such as the CWU, the courts, Second Sight, the Working Group, and media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4, Computer Weekly, Nick Wallis, and anyone else who ever asked, weren’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Ms Watt: The truth is, Ms van den Bogerd, isn’t it, that it was absolutely necessary that all those people and organisations believed that lie in order to keep them on side. Nothing to see here, as Mr Beer put it, to avoid the existential crisis Lord Arbuthnot referred to, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Ms Watt: Thank you. That’s me, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you.

Mr Beer: Sir, in fact, I think we can fit in Ms Oliver.

Sir Wyn Williams: Ms Oliver, as well, if she’s prepared to jump to her feet.

Mr Beer: She indicated that she is.

Sir Wyn Williams: I don’t mean literally, I hasten to add.

Questioned by Ms Oliver

Sir Wyn Williams: You can see each other properly, can you?

Ms Oliver: We can broadly.

Ms van den Bogerd, I ask questions on behalf of Gareth Jenkins.

I just want to pick up a point that Mr Beer and Mr Moloney have already asked you about which means that I can happily be very quick in the question that I want to ask you. It concerns the Lepton issue and the issue that was raised by Helen Rose with you in email correspondence that we’ve seen from 2013.

If we can please go to that email correspondence, it’s POL00097480, please. Thank you. If we can go to page 5 of that string, please.

Just to orientate ourselves, this is the conversation about whether the fact that a reversal of a transaction was system generated or user generated is clear in either the Credence data or on the ARQ spreadsheets that could be extracted from the Horizon system.

So here we have an email from Helen Rose to Gareth Jenkins on 7 February 2013:

“Hi Gareth

“I have received the ARQ logs today and I can see clearly the recovery session. Could you tell me if this would always be available on all ARQ logs requested or is it something you requested especially for me after being aware of the issue at this office?”

If we can then scroll up, please, to page 3, Gareth says that he is going to look at the logs from Penny Thomas. He provides some explanation that you’ve already been taken to. If we can then, please, go up a little bit further.

Thank you. Just pausing there. This is the email you looked at earlier this afternoon where she thanks him for his response and expresses the concern that the ARQ logs used in evidence may not contain this information. Do you agree that’s the concern being expressed here?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, I do.

Ms Oliver: Thank you. Then, just the final paragraph of this email:

“My feelings at the moment are not questioning what Horizon does as I fully believe that it is working as it should, it is just that I don’t think that some of the system-based correction and adjustment transactions are clear to us on either Credence or ARQ logs.”

Then if we can please go up to Mr Jenkins’ response just above this. He responds to that email:

“Helen,

“I understand your concerns.

“It would be relatively simple to add an extra column into the existing ARQ report spreadsheet. That would make it clear whether the reversal basket was generated by recovery or not. I think this would address your concern.

“I’m not sure what the formal process is for changing the report layout.

“Penny [that’s Penny Thomas] can you advise as to the process: is this done through CR?”

Do you understand “CR” to mean change request?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, I do.

Ms Oliver: We don’t need to go to it but Penny Thomas confirms that that is the process.

So is it right that what we’re seeing here is Mr Jenkins telling Helen Rose, and then that information being relayed to you, that there is a process by which the ARQ spreadsheet could be amended and that that process is relatively simple?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Ms Oliver: Is your evidence that, notwithstanding the availability of that process and its relative simplicity, that that process was never undertaken?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t know whether it was. When I was asked in court by Justice Fraser I said I didn’t know, I didn’t think it had been implemented. I have, through this disclosure process, seen something, and I can’t recall exactly what, where that was listed as an improvement but I don’t know whether it’s actually ever been implemented or not.

Ms Watt: Thank you very much, those are my questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: Right, well we’ll have our afternoon break now.

What’s the time now?

Mr Beer: It’s 2.45, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: So we’ll begin again at 2.55, and Mr Stein will draw us to a conclusion by 3.40. Thank you.

Mr Beer: Thank you, sir.

(2.45 pm)

(A short break)

(2.54 pm)

Questioned by Mr Stein

Mr Stein: Sir, thank you.

Good afternoon Mrs van den Bogerd. My name is Sam Stein, I represent a large number of subpostmasters/mistresses and employed people working within branches.

Subpostmasters and mistresses were repeatedly told, when contacted in the helpline, that they had to make good the shortfalls. They were told that, despite the fact that the subpostmasters and mistresses were saying, “We don’t know what’s wrong, it’s not our fault, we didn’t do this, this isn’t down to me”.

Who told the helpline staff that that’s what they must say to subpostmasters?

Angela van den Bogerd: That would have come through their knowledge –

Mr Stein: Keep your voice nice and loud, please.

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry.

Mr Stein: It’s towards the end of the afternoon. I think in the High Court trial you were asked by the learned judge there to keep your voice up at the end of day. So let’s try that, please?

Angela van den Bogerd: Okay, so it would be whatever would be in their Knowledge Base, so that would be what they would have in terms of advice to be given.

They would also have in there, if the postmaster needed assistance, they could refer that as well, so it depended on what the detail of that conversation would have been.

Mr Stein: In the Knowledge Base. Put that into language that we understand. What do you mean by the mean by the Knowledge Base?

Angela van den Bogerd: So Knowledge Base is a library of information from which they draw on in relation to particular queries. So it would be the source information that they would need to use.

Mr Stein: Would these be the scripts that they would use in order to answer questions being raised at the helpline?

Angela van den Bogerd: Some people refer to them as scripts. That’s not what they’re intended to be but it is where the knowledge source is.

Mr Stein: Right, other terms we’ve heard or a similar one to the one you’re using is “knowledge article”?

Angela van den Bogerd: That would be the same thing, yes.

Mr Stein: All right. Now, subpostmasters were also told by the helpline that they were the only one, in other words that they were the only subpostmaster or mistress that was saying there’s a problem with the system. Would that also be in the Knowledge Base?

Angela van den Bogerd: No. I’ve heard that over the years being made but I’ve never seen that anywhere.

Mr Stein: Well, of 102 Core Participants represented by Howe+Co, 43 per cent of those Core Participants have been told by the helpline that they’ve just got to pay up, “It’s your shortfall, you know us the money”, and 48 per cent were told that, “You are only the one.” That’s very high numbers of people contacting the helpline, being told, “You’ve got to pay up for a shortfall, it’s down to you”, and, secondly, “You’re the only one saying there’s a problem within the system”.

That’s a lot of people, isn’t it? High percentage, isn’t it, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Off the numbers you just quoted, yes.

Mr Stein: Now, what’s going on here is fraud, isn’t it? The Post Office is saying to people who are saying to them there’s a problem, there’s a shortfall, trying to get help from the helpline, they are being told by the helpline “Pay up, it doesn’t matter that you’re saying it’s someone else’s fault”; that’s fraud, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: So, as I said, it depends on what the detail of that conversation would be and, depending on that, it might be that the helpline had asked for somebody to go out and visit them and help them but I don’t know, in terms of specific cases that you’re talking about.

Mr Stein: What do you mean “it depends”, Mrs van den Bogerd? Sometimes it’s fraud and sometimes it isn’t; is that what you’re trying to say, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m not saying it’s fraud at all.

Mr Stein: All right. Well, let’s test what you appear to be saying. The evidence you’ve given in answers to Mr Beer yesterday was that it was understood within the Post Office that shortfalls were down to the subpostmaster or mistress, that they had to pay. Let’s see if we can test that.

So you get a subpostmaster or mistress in a small local branch office with a shortfall of 50 grand, £50,000, and there’s no proof, absolutely no proof that they’re responsible for that £50,000 shortfall. Yet they’re being blamed by the Post Office and told “You’ve got to pay up nevertheless”; is that fair in any way, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: I would expect to be able to investigate that to see if we could get to the bottom of what had happened to that money but, over the years, that facility wasn’t there.

Mr Stein: Right. Let’s just talk about it right now. Do you regard that situation, where subpostmasters and mistresses were being told to pay up for very large sums of money, something of the order of 50,000, it could be tens of thousands or it could be more. Do you, sitting there today, regard that as being fair?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I haven’t worked in the Post Office for over four years. My expectation would be that they would get some help to see if they could understand where that shortage had come from.

Mr Stein: Now, this entire area, which is people evening told to pay up for shortfalls regardless of fault, you said in your evidence yesterday that this had been checked with Legal, it had been approved with people at Legal. Now, you seemed to be explaining that that was something that you were aware of in 2011, about the time of the Shoosmiths case. You went on to say yesterday, in relation to who it might be at Legal, you named these names: Mandy Talbot, Rebekah Mantle and probably Rob Wilson.

Angela van den Bogerd: Mm-hm.

Mr Stein: So let’s try and understand a bit more about what you’re saying about this. Are you saying in 2011 that the Legal Team people told you that it’s okay, you can blame postmasters for anything because they have to pay; is that what you’re trying to tell us?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: Right. So what was the advice from the legals?

Angela van den Bogerd: So what I’m saying is that the policy approach was approved by the Legal Team, which was that postmasters were liable under the terms of their contract for errors due to their negligence – and I forget – I mean, it’s been quite some time now but it was set out in the contract. Any dispute around whether a contract should be terminated on the basis of that or not would be done with the policy advice from Legal Team. That’s how the policy was set out. And not just in 2011, that’s my understanding of how things operated over the years.

Mr Stein: Right. Well, the term of the contract, that you referred to yesterday, was this: that the subpostmaster is responsible for all losses caused through his on negligence, carelessness or error.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: Okay? Right. So I’ve helped you with the wording. That wasn’t what was happening at the Post Office, was it? You know that subpostmasters were being told to pay up, irrespective of fault. You know that, don’t you Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: So it would have been in line with the contract, that was my expectation. The helpline were telling them that they were liable for losses but that would have been, at that point, referred to their Contracts Adviser if that needed a further conversation.

Mr Stein: Now, in your statement, you say this: that in relation to your time at the Post Office, that from January 2015 to December 2016 – this is your statement, paragraph 9(k) at page 6 – you were responsible for the NBSC, the postmaster helpline, as you were the director of POL’s support services. Okay?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s correct.

Mr Stein: All right. Now, I’ve asked you a number of questions about knowledge articles, you’ve helped us by calling them – referring to a Knowledge Base. Where are those knowledge articles, these scripts, saved? Where are they, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Within NBSC.

Mr Stein: Right. Are they saved on a particular system?

Angela van den Bogerd: I don’t know.

Mr Stein: Well, you were in charge of the helpline, so I’m hoping that you do know something about these?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I don’t know what system they were stored on. They are stored and they – that would have changed. It would have been with Royal Mail up until 2012 and then it transferred into Post Office but I don’t know what system they were stored on.

Mr Stein: Now, on 25 May 2010, Jennifer O’Dell, who had been a subpostmistress at Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire, since November 2000, was interviewed by Jonathan Longman. Now, Mrs O’Dell is watching these proceedings from her bed. She’s watching it on tablet because she is suffering from gastroenteritis, so she is very much paying attention to these proceedings.

Now, in her discussions that she had in her interview with Mr Longman, the Investigator, she made it very clear that he had been ringing up the helpline asking for help, she wanted somebody to come out and see or somebody to start taking action, and she was told, only by the helpline, that she’d got to make it good, in other words she’d got to make the shortfall good. Now, do you understand what I’ve just said?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: That’s what Mrs O’Dell was going through. Do you think she wasn’t telling the truth about that?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: Right. Can we have up on screen, please, the document which is POL00143567. Now, that’s the interview with Mrs O’Dell, Mr Longman, where she sets that out, and she sets out in that interview repeatedly what’s going on. I’m now going to take you to the investigation report, which is POL00189165. Can you go to page 3 of that document, please.

You’ll see there, at the bottom part on the screen, it says, and I’ll paraphrase: In relation to 4 August 2009, Mrs O’Dell said that she’d contacted the Post Office helpline and reported she had ongoing discrepancies and wanted assistance.

Okay?

Now, further down the page, to the second half of page 3, please. Okay. You’ll see there, I think it’s the fourth paragraph down from the top:

“Mrs O’Dell continued to make further calls to the helpline with regards to the shortage at they are recorded as follows …”

All right?

It says this:

“23 October 2009 – could someone ring PM as she needs to discuss the PIN pad with them as she’s been having a few problems with this and thinks it’s causing the office a discrepancy. Needs to discuss this in private.

“4 November 2009 – office has a loss of £7,000 she’s been carrying this since May, refused to make it good as she said it’s not her loss. Emailed NSA but PM wants a callback from Tier 2.

“5 November – spoke to Mrs O’Dell today, office has a loss of £7,000. She’s been carrying this loss since May. Explained to PM that this loss should have been made good when she has been rolling her TP but she refuses to make it good as she said the loss is not hers.

“5 November 2009 – subpostmaster reports having £1,000 loss a month since May now totalling £7,000 … she refuses to make good as she blames the system for the losses.

“She has done many checks and cannot find anything and not had corrections. Subpostmaster insisting on escalating.”

Now, how many people, roughly, were employed at the helpline?

Angela van den Bogerd: In 2009, probably, I’d guess, about 50.

Mr Stein: So Mrs O’Dell has phoned up and probably spoken to different helpline people at the time. She’d have been lucky to have spoken to the same person twice, okay? This is an investigation report written by Jon Longman, the Investigator, setting out what he has found as regards what she has been told by the helpline. Okay?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: Right. Now, do you see anything wrong with what the helpline is repeatedly telling Mrs O’Dell?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, and it should have been escalated.

Mr Stein: Right. Instead, what was happening was that she was being told basically to shut up, pay the money. That’s roughly what was being said, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: She was being told it was her liability to make it good.

Mr Stein: Say it a bit louder, would you, please, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, she was being told it was her liability and she should be making it good, yes.

Mr Stein: But that’s wrong, isn’t it, as against the contract?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, well – what I would have expected here is, even at the first call, she should have had a callback and it should have been escalated to – and I think it was still in place then – the Tier 2, so they had your basic helpline and then they should have escalated it to Tier 2. Every time she’s called in, they should have been able to see what had been said to her previously and it should have been escalated.

Mr Stein: Now, you were present at the High Court action. You were there, I think, on virtually every day of the High Court action. That’s what people recall.

Angela van den Bogerd: Yeah.

Mr Stein: You were there on every day of the action with an iPad that had been given to you by the POL Legal Team, and you were there and observed watching and taking part in the proceedings very closely; is that fair?

Angela van den Bogerd: When you say the iPad, do you mean to be able to watch the screen.

Mr Stein: What was going on, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: You recall there was other evidence being given in the High Court about people that were sent letters saying basically the same as the helpline, in other words pay up for the shortfall; you recall that, don’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not specifically.

Mr Stein: Now, when you think about it, Mrs van den Bogerd, what we’ve got here is a helpline that is being pushed by the scripts to tell the people in the branch offices that they need to pay up for shortfalls. That’s being orchestrated by the Post Office, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: It would have been part of the scripts to say that the postmaster was liable for the losses, yes, it would have been.

Mr Stein: You see, Mrs O’Dell has lived in Great Staughton for over 50 years. What happened to her was that people would cross the road and avoid her once publicity got out from the Post Office in relation to her. She suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, she can’t sleep, she has night terrors. That’s what’s happened.

Now, you refer to her in your statement, don’t you?

Angela van den Bogerd: I do, yes.

Mr Stein: You know that she says and has said in her Human Impact statement that, when you engaged with her on one occasion, she says that you were intimidating and bullying towards her, telling her that she had stolen the money and, if she didn’t, Post Office would take her home away. Now, you say in your statement that you didn’t behave that way?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes, that’s true. I didn’t.

Mr Stein: Let’s think about this, Mrs van den Bogerd. You were Post Office through and through, like a bad stick of rock with “POL” in the middle of it, weren’t you, Mrs van den Bogerd? You carried the Post Office line, the Post Office line was that subpostmasters and subpostmistresses had to pay up for shortfalls. That’s what you were saying to her, that’s why she felt intimidated; isn’t that true, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, I never said that to Mrs O’Dell. I met Mrs O’Dell on two occasions, one in London in – I think it was Portcullis House, with her MP in the room, and myself and a few other people. That conversation did not take place then. And the second time I met Mrs O’Dell was in the Mediation Scheme when I was mediating her case and, again, there were five of us in the room, including her legal representative from Howe+Co, and that conversation did not happen, and what I’m saying is I believe she’s mistaken. If she did have that conversation, it wasn’t with me.

Mr Stein: Well, let’s give this a little bit more thought. Mr Justice Fraser, now Lord Justice Fraser, stated, as regards you – and I’ll read out the quote that relates to you:

“Unless I state to the contrary, I would only accept the evidence of Mrs van den Bogerd and Mr Beal in controversial errors of fact in issue in this Common Issue trial, if these are clearly and incontrovertibly corroborated by contemporaneous documents.”

Now, that’s a High Court Judge version of saying, if you told him it was a sunny day, he’d go outside and check for himself. Now, does that help us understand that, where there’s a clash of evidence between you, Mrs van den Bogerd, and Mrs O’Dell as to what’s happened, we might just think that Mrs O’Dell should be believed?

Angela van den Bogerd: You might do but it’s not true; I know that didn’t happen and there were other people in the room on both of those occasions and, had anything like that happened, they would have raised it at the time.

Mr Stein: Now, what was said about you by Mr Justice Fraser was pretty serious, isn’t it? It’s condemning you, absolutely out of hand, as being someone that simply he can’t trust and he is someone that’s evaluated your evidence over quite some time in the witness box; it’s pretty serious thing to hear about yourself, isn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: Okay. The Post Office obviously was aware of what was being said about you, yes?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: Yes, okay, fine. What did the Post Office do by way of an investigation into this? They must have looked into this, did they?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: No? There was no discussion with you about “Well, hang on, that High Court Judge, you know, said some pretty rum things about you, surely we should take this seriously?” Nothing like that, nothing ever done?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: All right. Did you get your bonus that year in 2019, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: I see. So, despite a finding in the High Court that, basically, you lied to the High Court, you got your bonus?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: Now, how were the people on the helpline trained so that they were so consistently pressing the subpostmasters for payments? How was that done? How did you and others manage to persuade them that you’ve really got to do this? Did you have away days, training sessions, evening sessions, things like that?

Angela van den Bogerd: No, they had their training when they came into the role and they had ongoing training throughout.

Mr Stein: What do you think was going on domestically with the subpostmasters and mistresses and their situation? Do you think that when they were being told to find large sums of money like that, that they rested well?

Angela van den Bogerd: Clearly not.

Mr Stein: No. You understand from the evidence that has been given in these proceedings that subpostmasters and mistresses would try and find money to pay, they would sometimes borrow from family, from friends, loan sharks, even memorably, on one occasion – probably more than one occasion – taking money from the kid’s piggy bank. That’s what was going on, Mrs van den Bogerd. You’ve not taken responsibility for very much, if anything at all, in this Inquiry. Do you want to take any responsibility for being part of the Post Office actions in doing so?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’ve explained what my roles were. I’ve said that there are some documents that I’ve missed and I wish I hadn’t, and I – and I would have looked at things differently knowing what I know now.

Mr Stein: Let’s have another look, though, let’s have another think about what this did within the Post Office and what it did to the Post Office’s investigation of difficulties with the Horizon system.

So we can see that the helpline was part of the Post Office’s pay-up principle, the penalty pay-up principle: you’ve got to pay, we’re not accepting criticisms of our wonderful Horizon system, okay?

What do you think that will have done to the reporting of faults in relation to the Horizon system? Do you think it would have been a good idea or a bad idea?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.

Mr Stein: Right, if people are being told to pay up when they’re trying to say, “There’s something wrong with your system”, does that help identify faults in the Horizon system?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: No, it doesn’t –

Angela van den Bogerd: As I said, I would have expected them to have been escalated, for them to be offered some help in finding the losses.

Mr Stein: That is what was going on, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: Well, it – I mean, it was in some cases. There are – there’s evidence of people did get help and did get assistance in branch. What I’m saying is what should have happened in the case of Mrs O’Dell is that it should have been escalated and she should have got some assistance.

Mr Stein: Mrs van den Bogerd, you do listen to things occasionally, don’t you? I’ve explained already that of 102 people, over 40 per cent of people that were using the helpline were told “Pay up, don’t worry about what you’re saying about the system”. Now, we can’t replicate everybody working in the Post Office over these many years but there’s likely to have been a very significant number of people who were told to basically pay up, “We’re not listening to you complaining about the faults”. That would not have helped the investigation of issues with the Horizon system; do you agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: I agree.

Mr Stein: Because it means that when passing on problems that were being experienced by subpostmasters, those problems weren’t getting to Fujitsu, were they, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: I agree, and postmasters telling us they were having problems and us being able to investigate them or passing to Fujitsu would have really helped. Unfortunately, in many cases, we weren’t being made aware that there were problems and they were covering losses in a number of cases and that didn’t help us either. So –

Mr Stein: Right, you can have your nice falling out with Fujitsu as much as you like, Mrs van den Bogerd. Let’s try and think about where the governance lay in relation to the helpline system. Who should have been in charge of the helpline system stopping this misinterpretation of the contract, stopping the fraudulent line being taken by the Post Office that they had to pay up? Who should have been the title of the person in charge of that part of the system?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the Knowledge Base information came from the relevant product or function owners, so NBSC would pull the information from the relevant section. It wouldn’t be complied – compiled by NBSC, it would be compiled by other people around the organisation. So, in terms of that particular question, it should have been through Contracts and/or Legal, in terms of was that information that they had on the Knowledge Base correct, in terms of what they were giving to postmasters.

Mr Stein: Right, let’s help in a slightly different way: should it have been the Chief Operating Officer that was in charge of making sure there was oversight of what the product was, in other words what was being said in the helpline? Should it have been the CEO? Should it have been a particular director? Who should it have been within management that was governing that aspect?

Angela van den Bogerd: It should have been whoever the Executive Director was at the time and it changed – the structure changed several times, so it would have been the Chief Operating Officer at some point, it would have been the CFO at some point. It changed over the years and I don’t know who it would have been in 2009.

Mr Stein: Now, over of the period of many years that the Post Office was operating the Horizon system, there came a point in the early ’00s where what was going on was that the Post Office was having to target the closure of branch offices; do you agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: There were several programmes of closure, yes.

Mr Stein: Yes, right. Now, were there, for the Area Branch Managers – at one time you were one of those – were there targets in relation to branch closures? In other words, it would be very helpful if you could achieve 20, 30, 40, 100 closures?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not at the local level, no.

Mr Stein: What about at the more senior level? Were there targets?

Angela van den Bogerd: So as part of – there were three programmes I remember: Network Change, Network Reinvention and Network Transformation. They were all targeted at reducing branches but they were run as programmes with compensation.

Mr Stein: Well, there was compensation for branches that were closed by agreement. So –

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: – the compensation might be a year or two’s pay or a particular period, you agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: I agree.

Mr Stein: Now, if a branch was closed as a result of an audit, so someone not being able to pay a shortfall and, therefore, targeted for a civil action or, worse, prosecuted, they didn’t have to pay the subpostmaster or mistress, did they?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: No. If a branch was closed in a small local community area and it was closed because a subpostmaster or mistress was being blamed by the Post Office, then that’s helpful to the Post Office, isn’t it, because local people then can’t complain it’s the Post Office’s fault because it’s the subpostmaster?

Angela van den Bogerd: That wouldn’t have been helpful because we would have looked to re-establish that provision in the area at that point. We had certain access criteria that we had to comply with from Government.

Mr Stein: If the branch was closed because of an audit and because people can’t pay their shortfall that they’re being told that they must pay, or they’re prosecuted, the Post Office can try and recover, as they did on many occasion, money through the civil courts or the criminal courts. So in that case, they get a branch closed, without having to pay compensation, and they get money back from the shortfall that wasn’t the subpostmaster’s fault; that’s true, isn’t it? That’s what was going on?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: Did you get a bonus at a certain level for achieving your targets in relation to branch closures?

Angela van den Bogerd: When I was part of the Network Change Programme, I would have had an objective link to that but it was part of the programme. Other than that, my targets would have been related to maintaining the size of the Network or increasing it because that was some of the roles that I was in previously. So quite the opposite of what you just described.

Mr Stein: Well, it doesn’t sound like it’s the opposite. As part of the bonus structure, in achieving the end result, which is closure of branches, there was some link to bonus; do you agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: Only as part of a programme my other roles, when I was part of the rural Network was to maintain the size and, if we had a closure, then to re-establish a service in that area.

Mr Stein: Now, you say at paragraph 30 of your statement – I’m going to take you to it, please, WITN09900100, paragraph 30, page 14, please:

“Prior to this [you say], I was aware of general ‘rumblings’ of complaints and concerns about the integrity of the Horizon system …”

Okay?

Angela van den Bogerd: Yes.

Mr Stein: “… and I believe that when I took over the responsibility for the Contract and Administration Team, I became aware of claims that the Horizon system itself was generating the discrepancies in branches.”

All right?

Now, in your statement at page 6, paragraph 9(k) – I’d rather have this on the screen, please, I’ll read out the relevant part I’m about to refer to – it says this that, between 2015 and 2016, you were Director of Support Services and then you were also managing the Contract Advisers and Contract Administration Teams.

Now, just help us please understand what you’re saying it about when it was you became aware of the rumblings and complaints and concerns about the integrity of the Horizon system? It doesn’t seem to have been 2015, when you were managing the Contract Advisers and Contract Administration Team.

Angela van den Bogerd: So I managed them in 2011, as well. So they – the contracts – I managed them in different times, so they – I took on responsibility for Lin Norbury and John Breeden, who headed up the team in 2011. I then – I’m sorry, I’m going to have to refer to my statement in terms of my – the roles that I did, because I stepped out –

Mr Stein: Page 5, you might find useful.

Angela van den Bogerd: Thank you.

Mr Stein: If you’re referring to the period of time, which is December 2010 to August 2012. That is –

Angela van den Bogerd: That is when I was Head of Network Services.

Mr Stein: Right. So which year, during the different roles that you had within the Post Office, that you set out within your statement, are you saying you were aware of these rumblings?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that was – what I’m saying is that, in 2011, when I took on the Contract Advisers Team as part of my role then, that’s when I started to get involved in these cases, and that’s when I was aware of Shoosmiths. Prior to that, I had been aware of some rumblings, and then, like I say, I got involved in 2011.

Sir Wyn Williams: Well, if can interject, unless my memory is failing me, I think Mr Beer showed you a document yesterday which put you on notice in 2004.

Angela van den Bogerd: So that was the Lower Eggleton case.

Sir Wyn Williams: Yes, and you accepted, I think, that that was at least a rumbling?

Angela van den Bogerd: So that was the provision of Horizon logs to the postmaster at the time, yes.

Mr Stein: Right. So, by the time you get to what seems to be around 2010, you’ve got background rumblings; you’ve got the build-up of what’s going on; you’ve got the JFSA being formed; you’ve got the incredibly brave Computer Weekly publicising problems and complaints with the Horizon system; you’ve got MPs talking about it, sending in letters to the Managing Director and CEOs of the company.

Now, there’s a lot of rumblings going on here in relation to the integral part of the Post Office system that’s called Horizon. This is a lot of rumblings; do you not agree?

Angela van den Bogerd: At around that time when I stepped into that role, yes.

Mr Stein: Yes. Now, this has got to be very worrying amongst people working at the Post Office, that “This thing, Horizon, which we all depend upon, everybody seems to be saying that there’s a real problem with it”.

Do you not agree? These rumblings must have been pretty worrying for people at the Post Office?

Angela van den Bogerd: What I’m saying here, in terms of rumblings, that was my recollection and it’s only when I stepped into taking on the responsibility for the Contracts Advisers Team that I started to be exposed to that – what you’ve just described is when I started to be exposed to that.

And then, leading on from that, that’s why I wanted to get involved in the initial investigations into the cases and then the scheme.

Mr Stein: Mrs van den Bogerd, what we haven’t seen at around that time or, indeed, frankly, any time, is any documents which say something along the lines of, “Gosh, maybe there’s a problem with the Horizon system. Imagine the harm that we might be doing. Imagine what we’re doing to families, the mental health of our subpostmasters and mistresses, the people working in those branches”.

We don’t see anything like that, Mrs van den Bogerd, in relation to these rumblings that you’re talking about going on at that time. Is that because the culture of the Post Office was all about the Post Office brand and damn the subpostmasters?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: What other explanation is there, Mrs van den Bogerd, when we see a total absence of care about people with families that you should be trying to protect, not prosecute?

Angela van den Bogerd: That’s why we brought in Second Sight and that’s why we wanted to investigate the cases because, at that point, it was evident that there were a number of people that were claiming that the Horizon system was causing their losses.

Mr Stein: Let’s go back to the helpline. Did the message change once these rumblings were getting louder and louder and the crisis was getting ever more obvious and ever more serious? Did the line from the helpline change? Did you make sure that the helpline, or anyone make sure that the helpline, still wasn’t saying to these poor people in the Post Office branches that they’ve got to pay up regardless? Did anybody give that any attention, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: I did, yes. As part of the Branch Support Programme, I brought in those changes. So on the back of Second Sight’s Interim Report, I set up the Branch Support Programme, which was about making improvements to a range of processes and working with subpostmasters, and one of those was NBSC.

Mr Stein: Right. So that means you must have done a bit of checking about what was going on at the NBSC to make this make sense. You must have gone to them and said, “Let’s have a look at what you’ve been doing so far”; did you do that, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: What I looked at was providing the support in NBSC that meant that there was more Tier 2 support to be able to deal with the escalations that you took me to in Mrs O’Dell’s case, for instance, so that we had better support there. That’s –

Mr Stein: So at around that time, are you trying to tell us that you saw that there were problems within the NBSC, that there were people being told to pay up regardless, and you then made a correction; is that what you’re trying to tell us?

Angela van den Bogerd: I’m saying it was a broader improvement. So the Interim Report –

Mr Stein: Could you cut the corporate speak? Could you just tell us whether you tried to improve the problem which I’ve discussed with you?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was part of it. Yes, I did. I wanted –

Mr Stein: So you must have recognised that there was a problem in the operation of the helpline at that time; is that correct, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: So I recognised that postmasters weren’t getting – and I’m not saying in all cases but I’m saying in some cases – they weren’t getting the level of support that they should have had in relation to investigating their discrepancies, and that’s what I set to correct through the Branch Support Programme, and then later, when I took on responsibility for the NBSC, I continued with those improvements.

Mr Stein: Okay. Now, what about a message being sent out to the postmasters and mistresses? Was there a message sent out at that time to say, “Look, we’re beginning to think there might be a bit of a problem, that there could be a difficulty with shortfalls and you need to be on notice”? Did anybody provide them with a warning to say, “Look, there’s a bit of an issue here”?

Angela van den Bogerd: No.

Mr Stein: No. Jacqueline Falcon worked as a counter clerk at a post office branch in Hadston, Northumberland, between 2000 and 2015. She got blamed by her employer for a shortfall. This policy was so embedded within the system that subpostmasters and mistresses would blame other people for losses. Mrs Falcon was arrested and charged with fraud. She was handed a three-month prison sentence suspended for three months. Shunned by the local community, barely able to leave her house, it has affected her pregnancy, she was put on anti-depressants during that time and, to this day, she still does not go into the Hadston Post Office branch.

Now, that was happening to her in 2014, and in February 2015 that’s when she was arrested. Why didn’t the Post Office send out a message to make sure that people were not being unnecessarily blamed for what might be, what could be, a problem within the system? No proof of if it at that point in your mind, it seems, but what could be a problem. Why wasn’t that message sent out?

Angela van den Bogerd: So the message we always gave then was, “If you have an issue, please ring, and we will help with getting to the bottom of it”. That’s what I put in place as part of the Branch Support Programme and when I was in Support Services. Earlier than that, then that level of assistance wasn’t available.

Mr Stein: Ms van den Bogerd, in the High Court and regarding the High Court action, Mr Bates and other witnesses have stated that the Post Office was clearly trying to outspend and outdistance the GLO claimants. Was that the Post Office strategy?

Angela van den Bogerd: That was my understanding of it.

Mr Stein: Three leading counsel were instructed over various times. Why so many?

Angela van den Bogerd: Sorry –

Mr Stein: Three leading counsel, three QCs, at that time, were instructed.

Angela van den Bogerd: So I was aware of two.

Mr Stein: Mr Justice Fraser said this, paragraph 58 of his judgment, in relation to the Horizon Issues Judgment, number 6:

“Over the numerous hearings and two full substantive trials I have conducted, I have gained the distinct impression that the Post Office is less committed to speedy resolution of the entire group action than are the complainants.”

Was that a deliberate strategy being employed by the Post Office, to try to outspend the GLO claimants?

Angela van den Bogerd: Not that I was aware of.

Mr Stein: Mr Justice Fraser said, from his considerable experience, that, in relation to serious and difficult High Court actions, even as against other cases of a similar type, that the level and rate of expenditure in the GLO litigation was very high. That was a deliberate POL strategy, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: I didn’t think so at the time.

Mr Stein: Let’s go to one last document, POL00006380. Can we go to the bottom half of page 2, which is paragraph 4, please. Thank you very much. We’ll be looking at paragraph 4.3 in one moment. Now, this is a Bond Dickinson solicitors document written requesting instructions on the strategy to be taken. So let’s just look at this before I finish. Paragraph 4.3:

“… believe that the better solution is to try to focus the claimants into a collective position where they will either have to abandon the claims or seek a reasonable settlement. It should be remembered that the claims are financially supported by Freeths (whose fees are at least partially conditional on winning), a third party funder and insurers. Without support these proceedings would not have been possible. All three entities will have the power to pull their support if the merits of the case drop below a certain level. Our target audience is therefore Freeths, the funder and insurers who will adopt a cold, logical assessment of whether they will get a payout rather than the claimants who may wish to fight on principle regardless of merit.”

Now, this Bond Dickinson solicitors asking for instructions to agree with a strategy which is to drive the GLO claimants away from the court because they will not be supported by Freeths, the insurers or the third-party funders. That was a strategy that Mr Justice Fraser came to a conclusion that he could see in operation, couldn’t he, Mrs van den Bogerd? That was the POL strategy, wasn’t it?

Angela van den Bogerd: That wasn’t my understanding when we started in the litigation but, clearly, that’s what was being proposed as we got into it. That wasn’t –

Mr Stein: You said, in your evidence yesterday, you’re always aware of the public purse as being something at play in relation to the Post Office, Mrs van den Bogerd. It’s hardly the action of a company that’s worried about the public purse, taxpayers’ money, subpostmasters’ and mistresses’ money – through branch and through hard work being put into the Post Office – it’s hardly expressing any concern, is it, about those worries, about the public purse, to use Government money, subpostmasters’ money, to try to drive them out of the court, is it, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: I was always concerned about taxpayers’ money throughout the course of my time there and, as I said yesterday, one of reasons I decided to leave when I did was because I was disillusioned because there was more money being spent defending or trying not to pay out on the Historical Shortfall Scheme, than it was on paying out, and that was one of the reasons, so –

Mr Stein: Every day you were at the court, sitting there supporting the action, were you telling the Legal Team, “Oh, I’m a bit worried about the public purse and how much we’re trying to drive these poor people into the ground”? Was that your constant refrain, Mrs van den Bogerd?

Angela van den Bogerd: That wasn’t the conversation. That was a conversation above me, not for me to have.

Mr Stein: No further questions.

Sir Wyn Williams: Thank you. I think that concludes the questioning, Mr Beer?

Mr Beer: It does, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: So first of all, thank you to all the representatives of Core Participants who have so scrupulously abided by my directions.

Thank you, Mrs van den Bogerd, for making a detailed witness statement and for answering very many questions over two days.

Right, Tuesday?

Mr Beer: Tuesday at 9.45, please, sir.

Sir Wyn Williams: Tuesday at 9.45. Thanks, everyone.

(3.38 pm)

(The hearing adjourned until 9.45 am on Tuesday, 30 April 2024)