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‘Evidence to support’ Post Office and Fujitsu staff broke law, lawyers claim

Post Office and Fujitsu former and present staff accused by sub-postmasters' lawyers
Post Office and Fujitsu former and present staff accused by sub-postmasters' lawyers

Post Office investigators may have broken the law by prosecuting sub-postmasters, lawyers have alleged.

Solicitors representing several sub-postmasters have told the inquiry there is “evidence to support” criminal allegations against more than a dozen individuals who worked across both Fujitsu and Post Office, including a former investigator who still works for the organisation in a different role.

Among those whom the solicitors accuse of “conspiring together, and with others, to pervert the course of justice” are Rob Wilson, the Post Office’s former head of criminal law, and former investigator Stephen Bradshaw, who remains employed by the Post Office.

The allegations were contained in documents submitted to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry following the conclusion of its latest phase.

The inquiry is investigating the scandal which saw more than 900 sub-postmasters wrongfully prosecuted for fictional shortfalls that were produced by Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon software.

In written closing submissions handed to the inquiry and made public on Thursday night, law firm Hodge, Jones & Allen, states that 14 individuals , including Mr Wilson and Mr Bradshaw, “conspired together, and with others, to pervert the course of justice by pursuing criminal prosecutions between 2000 and 2015 which were not in the interests of justice, but which were in the interests of POL [Post Office Limited] and Fujitsu”.

Lee Castleton, with wife, Lisa
Lee Castleton, with wife, Lisa, was 'destined to become a victim' in Post Office pursuit of prosecution - Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian

Several allegations are made in the 40-page document submitted to the inquiry.

The law firm alleges that by the time one of its clients, Lee Castleton, went to trial at the end of 2006 “it was known” that “there were problems with [Horizon’s] system errors”.

Mr Castleton, 55, was blamed for a £26,000 shortfall at his Yorkshire branch in 2004 and declared bankruptcy three years later after the Post Office took his case to the High Court.

His lawyers say that he was “destined to become a victim in [Post Office’s] ruthless determination to acquire a precedent”.

The documents claim that “there is evidence to support” the allegation that former Post Office employees: Keith Baines, then a contracts manager; Mandy Talbot, a former solicitor; Graham Ward, a former security team casework manager; Tony Utting, a former investigator; and Rod Ismay, a former accountant who wrote an internal report on Horizon for the Post Office, “conspired together, and with others to pervert the course of justice by pursuing a debt claim on behalf of POL against Lee Castleton”.

The law firm also wrote that there was “evidence to support” the allegation that Brian Pinder and Naomi Elliott, two former Fujitsu managers, “conspired together and with others, to pervert the course of justice by distorting and concealing evidence relevant to the claim being brought by [Post Office] against Lee Castleton”.

Rob Wilson, a former head of criminal law for the Post Office
Rob Wilson, a former head of criminal law for the Post Office, accused of perverting course of justice

It also alleges that there was evidence that Anne Chambers, the retired Fujitsu engineer who gave evidence against Mr Castleston in his trial, “committed perjury” by “agreeing” not to mention a log of known errors and “obscuring the potential for there to have been errors” in the sub-postmaster’s accounts”.

The solicitors submissions’ concluded: “When those supposed to uphold the law, take the law into their own hands, and break the law, in the name of the law, for their own nefarious purpose, whether for profit, or brute force of power, there is no law, only institutionalised lawlessness.”

It added: “Those named herein are among those responsible and should be investigated, fearlessly and independently, in due course.”

Paul Marshall, a barrister representing several sub-postmaster victims, said: “These are tremendously serious allegations concerning a tragedy that has been going on for more than 20 years.”

He added: “My personal view is that the damage to the reputation of the legal profession will be irreparable unless these allegations are taken very seriously by both the regulators and also the criminal investigators and authorities – by that I mean the director of public prosecutions and the police.”

On Thursday, Mr Castleton told The Telegraph: “While I haven’t seen the documents, I hope that if that is the case they will be judged accordingly.

“I would like them to be treated as if anyone else would be – I would like the police to look carefully through the documents and consider their cases.”

A Met Police spokesman said: “The investigation is ongoing into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice. These potential offences arise out of investigations and prosecutions carried out by the Post Office.

He added: “Two people have been interviewed under caution to date. Our investigation is considering the actions of individuals connected with Fujitsu and the Post Office.

“We are an interested party to the public inquiry and are monitoring and gathering the evidence it hears.”

A Fujitsu spokesman declined to comment.

Post Office did not respond to requests to comment.