Ex-Post Office boss says he didn’t realise firm prosecuted personal employees | EUROtoday

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A former Post Office boss has mentioned he was “unaware” that the organisation had the ability of prosecution as a part of the Horizon IT scandal and assumed the police and director of public prosecutions (DPP) had been concerned.

Giving proof on the Post Office inquiry on Friday, Alan Cook – who was managing director of the group from 2006 to 2010 – mentioned it was “one of my regrets” he didn’t decide up on this at an earlier stage.

Alan Cook, former impartial non-executive director and managing director of the Post Office gave proof to the inquiry on Friday (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

He instructed the Horizon IT inquiry: “I was unaware that the Post Office were the prosecuting authority. I knew there were court cases but didn’t realise that the Post Office in about two-thirds of the cases had initiated the prosecution as opposed to the DPP or the police.”

In his witness assertion, Mr Cook added: “To the best of my knowledge the risk and compliance committee was not given any information or reporting, nor did it have any oversight of the prosecution of subpostmasters.

“As a result, I did not take any steps as a member of the Risk and Compliance Committee to ensure that the Post Office was acting in compliance with its legal obligations in relation to those prosecutions and civil proceedings against subpostmasters. I was not aware that they were taking place.”

He instructed the inquiry he didn’t ask questions on the matter till he noticed an article in Computer Weekly in May 2009.

The inquiry was proven an e mail from a Post Officer PR officer in 2009 indicating to Mr Cook that there was “nervousness” in regards to the Horizon system.

In response Mr Cook mentioned: “My instincts tell that, in a recession, subbies with their hand in the till choose to blame the technology when they are found to be short of cash”.

Mr Cook mentioned his response was “unacceptable” and one he’ll “regret for the rest of my life” and “was not in line with my view of subpostmasters.”

Counsel to the inquiry Sam Stevens requested: “Why was your instinct to think that subpostmasters, who alleged that Horizon caused shortfalls, were stealing from the Post Office?”

Mr Cook mentioned: “Well that’s an expression I’ll regret for the rest of my life – it was an inappropriate thing to put in an email. It was not in line with my view of subpostmasters.”

Mr Stevens continued: “In perhaps an unguarded comment, you’ve put that your instincts were for it to effectively be that subpostmasters were stealing and then blaming the technology – does that represent your actual views at the time?”

Mr Cook replied: “No, but it was said.” Mr Stevens pressed him: “Why did you say it if it wasn’t your view?”

Mr Cook responded: “I had a friendly informal relationship with Mary Fagan and it’s just an email I shouldn’t have written but it was important to me that she understood exactly where we were at.

“She was very helpful to me, she was a sounding board and I was probably more open and frank with what I was thinking with her than many other people. That sentiment was expressed – what I wrote in that email was unacceptable.”

At the start of the day, Mr Cook used the chance to “most strongly” placed on report his private apology to subpostmasters for his half within the scandal.

He mentioned: “I wonder… if I could just say before we get started, I’d like to put on record most strongly my personal apology and sympathies with all subpostmasters their families and those affected by this.

“As we get into the conversation, obviously, there will be an opportunity for me to elaborate but it just felt to me that was an important thing to say up front.”

At the inquiry on Thursday, former Post Office boss David Smith, who was managing director between April and December 2010, prompt he was partly accountable for the Horizon IT scandal as a result of he “didn’t really reflect” on how the organisation prosecuted alleged crimes.

He mentioned there have been “inherent risks” concerned within the prosecutions going down in-house versus by an impartial authority.

The Post Office has come underneath fireplace for the reason that broadcast of ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which put the Horizon scandal underneath the highlight.

More than 700 subpostmasters had been prosecuted by the Government-owned organisation and handed prison convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s defective Horizon system made it seem as if cash was lacking at their branches.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are awaiting compensation regardless of the Government asserting that those that have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

This story is being up to date.