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A Post Office investigator said he was taking instruction from the company’s lawyers when he claimed there were no problems with the Horizon IT system and denied acting like a “mafia gangster” in his dealings with some of the sub-postmasters caught up in the scandal.
Appearing before the long-running public inquiry into one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice, which resumed on Thursday, Stephen Bradshaw said law firm Cartwright King, which was acting for the Post Office, wrote a statement signed by him in 2012 defending the faulty IT system.
The statement dated November 2012 said: “The Post Office continues to have absolute confidence in the robustness and integrity of its Horizon system.”
Asked if it was appropriate to declare “confidence” in the IT system, whose faults were responsible for accounting shortfalls that the Post Office had blamed on hundreds of sub-postmasters, he said: “I was given that statement by Cartwright King and told to put that statement through. In hindsight . . . there probably should have been another line stating, ‘These are not my words’.”
Bradshaw had earlier told the inquiry he was not “technically minded” and was not equipped to know whether there were bugs or errors in the Horizon system.
Bradshaw’s evidence marks the return of the inquiry into the Post Office-Fujitsu scandal after the winter break. During the recess the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office lead to widespread outrage about a scandal that has been mired by cover-ups and inertia for decades, forcing the government to intervene this week.
More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted using data from faulty Horizon software between 2000 and 2014; only 93 convictions have been overturned.
In a written statement to the inquiry Bradshaw, who joined the Post Office in 1978 and began working as an investigator in 2000, denied claims he and others had “behaved like Mafia gangsters” in their dealings with sub-postmasters falsely accused of wrongdoing. “I refute the allegation that I am a liar,” he wrote.
Sub-postmaster Jacqueline McDonald has previously accused Bradshaw of “bullying” her during interviews conducted to ascertain whether she had engaged in any financial misconduct or theft, and said investigators had acted like “mafia gangsters”.
Asked if this approach was appropriate, Bradshaw said the interviews were conducted at “pace” and were not supposed to be “nice”. Earlier he had told the inquiry: “The investigations were done correctly.”
Inquiry counsel Julian Blake pointed to a transcript of one interview with McDonald in which Bradshaw accused her of telling a “pack of lies”.
One of the most serious allegations levelled at Post Office investigators is that they repeatedly told sub-postmasters they were the only ones experiencing issues with the Horizon system and accounting shortfalls when in reality hundreds of people were alerting the Post Office to problems.
A transcript was shown of an interview with McDonald in which she was told by another investigator present that she was the only one with shortfalls in their balance, which Bradshaw did not query.
He told the inquiry he was just a “small cog in the system” and that any concerns about the Horizon IT system the Post Office might have had were not passed down to him by his superiors.
The statutory inquiry began in 2021 and is chaired by retired judge Sir Wyn Williams. It previously probed the human impact of the scandal and the rollout of the Horizon system and is now looking at the action taken against sub-postmasters.
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