Ex-Post Office boss wrote of ‘subbies with hand in the till’, inquiry hears | Post Office Horizon scandal

A former post office boss sent an email to two employees in 2009, telling them that his intuition about the Horizon scandal was that his “subordinates with their hands in the cash register” were blaming the technology. It was revealed.

The message from Paula Vennels’ predecessor Alan Cooke was revealed during a session of the Post Office Horizon investigation.

In an email to Royal Mail’s former corporate affairs director and second employee, Mary Fagan, Mr Cook said that at a time when the press was “taking note” of “the accuracy of the Horizon system” “Tensions are steadily increasing.”

He writes: “My gut feeling is that when people who are stuck at the cash register in a recession find that they don’t have enough money, they choose to blame technology.”

Cook called for an investigation into the claims about Horizon, but admitted to the inquiry that he had no recollection of receiving the findings before he left the company in January 2010.

He also said he did not know that the department was independently prosecuting branch operators until his final months leading the Postal Service as executive director.

During Mr Cook’s tenure from March 2006 to January 2010, the Post Office brought 160 prosecutions of branch operators.

Asked why the Post Office was spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal costs pursuing relatively small branch operators, Mr Cook said the decision was made by Mr Vennels, who was network director at the time. He said he believed it was. She later headed the organization in his place.

Asked about his comments in the email, Cook said: “These are words I will regret for the rest of my life. They were inappropriate to post in an email and were not consistent with my views on the Deputy Postmaster General.” ” He said he should have known more and acted better.

From 1999 to 2015, hundreds of post office operators were accused of negligence based on flawed information in the Horizon computer system that provided false information that cash was missing from post office branches. In some cases, they were convicted of crimes such as theft, false accounting, and fraud. account.

Sam Stein, a lawyer who represents some Post Office branch managers, said his client, now 52, ​​was sentenced to nine months in prison in 2007 for allegedly missing £59,000 from a Post Office branch. , brought the case against Janet Skinner. At Bransholme, Hull.

She called a helpline more than 100 times for help but felt she was under pressure to plead guilty in court to potentially have her sentence reduced.

“I couldn’t understand what was going on,” Cook said. “When I heard the reports about them and the person who pled guilty, I knew we were making the right decision.”

Cook apologized to Skinner in the interrogation room. Skinner later told reporters: “Maybe he’s sincere, but I think his evidence is dishonest. He was sitting at the head of that table, so he would have known what was going on. ”

The inquiry also heard from Adam Crozier, who was chief executive of Royal Mail Group Ltd between 2003 and 2010, when the Post Office was part of the organisation.

Crozier said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointing” that he was unaware of the “tragic situation” of the post office manager and his family.

“My heart goes out to the people and their families who have been so unfairly treated and denied justice for so long,” he said in a statement.

Mr Crozier left Royal Mail to become chief executive of ITV. He did not appear in the channel’s drama “Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office” about this scandal.