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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Bates v Post Office: Louise Dar's Witness Statement

You can see the pdf on Scribd here, or the embed below. Below that is a searchable version scraped from the pdf, but there will be mistakes in it. In ALL instances, check it against the pdf which is the authoritative statement at ALL times:


Louise Dar Witness Statement, Bates v Post Office Common Issues Trial by Nick Wallis on Scribd


Claimants
Name of witness: L P Dar
No. of statement: 1st
No. of exhibits: LD1
Date: 10 August 2018
THE POST OFFICE GROUP LITIGATION

Claim Numbers: HQ16X01238, HQ17X02637 & HQ17X04248
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION

BETWEEN:


ALAN BATES & OTHERS
Claimants

-and-

POST OFFICE LIMITED
Defendant

WITNESS STATEMENT OF LOUISE PATERSON DAR

Louise Paterson Dar of will say as follows:

1. I was Subpostmaster of the Lenzie branch, located at 118 Kirkintilloch Road, Lenzie,
Glasgow, from 19 November 2014 to 27 March 2017 when Post Office summarily terminated
my appointment.

2. I am currently employed by Teleperformance UK as a customer service advisor, supporting
customer passport applications and progress.

3. I am Claimant number 261 and a Lead Claimant for the purposes of the Common Issues trial,
and make this Witness Statement in relation to the Common Issues as defined in Schedule
1 of the First CMC Order.

4. The matters stated within this Witness Statement are true to the best of my knowledge and
belief. Unless otherwise stated, the facts contained in this witness statement are within my
own knowledge and are true. Where they are not within my own knowledge they are derived
from the sources to which I refer and are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Exhibited to this statement is a paginated bundle of documents marked LD1. References in
this witness statement in the form [LDI/number] are to pages of that exhibit.

1A. BACKGROUND

5. Between 2006 and 2011 I was employed by Hilton Hotels as an IT support helpdesk analyst.
In this role I logged calls from Hilton staff, investigated and sought to resolve users’ IT issues
and was involved in providing staff training. I developed good IT skills in this role, and was
involved in testing and programming the Hilton Hotels reservation system. The reservations
system which was in use (Fidelio), was in some ways similar to Horizon, but it was a more
advanced system than Horizon, which I came to discover was more basic, older technology.
I expect that because of my IT background, I had greater IT skills than most other
Subpostmasters.

6. In 2011, I was made redundant, and in August 2012 I set up a retail business with my
husband Rehman, the Day Today Express Lenzie. The Day Today Express was a local
convenience store, selling groceries, confectionary and other every day essential items. The
shop was located at 118 Kirkintilloch Road, a few doors away from the Post Office branch at
94 Kirkintilloch Road, which was at the time run by the Subpostmaster Mr Jaspal Singh Toor.

7. In August or September 2012, I learned Mr Toor, intended to resign because of a proposed
change to his contract with Post Office. My husband’s family had known Mr Toor for some
years, he was a quiet man and did not speak about business very often, but he told us that
Post Office was going to change his contract, he felt that this would make the business
unviable for him, and that he thought he had no option but to move on from the branch.

8. Having recently opened the Day Today Express, I was interested in the opportunity to run
the Lenzie Post Office branch. I thought Post Office was a big company with old fashioned
values, which was at the centre of the community. I expected Post Office to be a good
company to work with, and that I would be able to build a good future for my family. Post
Office had a respectable reputation, and throughout the appointment process, Post Office
came across as approachable and supportive. I remember they provided me with glossy
brochures about how they would support and help me and that I could build my future with
them. I thought that running a branch would be a positive challenge, and that it would be
worthwhile. I very much understood this would be a long term commitment, I thought this
would be for good.

2 C1/5/2 B. APPOINTMENT PROCESS

Registering my Interest

9. Soon after becoming aware of the position from MrToor, above, in around September 2012.
a Post Office representative Elizabeth Hammerton visited me in my shop. Ms Hammerton
was very friendly, talking about Mr Toor moving on from his branch, and encouraging me to
consider the possibility of taking on the branch within Day to Day Express. I would say she
was upselling this opportunity to me. She said it would be good for the shop and good for
the area. She gave me an information leaflet about the Network Transformation Programme,
I no longer have a copy of this leaflet, but I believe it was a glossy leaflet, smaller than an A4
sheet of paper.

10. Soon after this visit, I registered my interest on the Post Office’s website online, as Ms
Hammerton had advised me to do. I didn’t hear anything back about that application, so in
early November 2012, I telephoned Post Office to check whether they could give me an
update, but was told that there was no record of my registration. I gave all of my information
to the Post Office representative again. I was told that no decisions would be made without
including me in the process and that someone from Post Office would visit to conduct a
survey.

11. I didn’t hear anything further until 2013, when I heard that the Lenzie branch would be moving
to another location, on Gallowhill Road. I called Post Office again and was again told that
there was no record that I had registered an interest. The representative on the telephone,
told me that I would need to provide proof of having registered my interest. I did not have any
documents from Post Office to confirm this, so I was unable to produce this evidence. I was
told that the transfer of the branch had already been agreed and there was nothing that could
be done about it.

12. On 17 April 2013, I sent an email addressed to the Post Office Transformation Team,
to explain the efforts I had made to register and the events above, and to make the case for
the Lenzie branch to be relocated into my shop. I also completed a customer feedback form

13. I then received a call from a Post Office representative, Ms Connie Hewitt, who met with me
on 24 April 2013, accompanied by her colleague Shirley Hailstones. Ms Hewitt questioned
me whether I had in fact applied or not, but told me that they would look into it. As I recall
during this visit Ms Hewitt said or indicated that the Day Today Express premises would not
be big enough for a branch anyway.

14. After emailing again on 20 May 2013, I was told by Ms Hewitt that at the end of the
consultation period the following month all feedback would be reviewed and Post Office would make a decision.

15. As I recall the consultation period was in fact extended again, and looking at my email of 22  July 2013 in which I sought confirmation that my application had been received, it is possible that I applied again. I think the reason I referred in that email to the branch operating from the existing branch premises was because of the concerns which Ms Hewitt had expressed to be about the size of the Day Today Express when she had visited the shop. My preference had always been that the branch operate from the shop premises, but I thought that I had to make this change in order for my application to be considered.

16. Post Office responded to say that again there was no record of my application, but after registering again via a link emailed to me, I did finally receive an acknowledgement of my application.

17.1 am confident that I had submitted the earlier applications correctly and believe it was a fault
in Post Office’s systems which led to problems I have explained above.

Discussions with Mr Toor

18.1 spoke a little to Mr Toor over this period, and my husband also had some discussions with
him. I cannot now recall exactly what was said, and Mr Toor is quite a private person, so
these were not lengthy discussions. I recall Mr Toor did explain a bit about his product
breakdown, and which Post Office products and services made good sales, and said that
motor vehicle licensing was important and generated revenue. He said to make sure my
documents were in order (which I later did), he showed me how he stored documents. He
also showed me the rough set up of the branch for example where the safe was.

19.1 didn’t ask Mr Toor for a copy of his contract, I thought this was a document which was
personal to him. The whole point of Mr Toor moving on from the branch was that the Post
Office contract was changing. He also didn’t show me any operations manual or other
documents, and I did not have any access to these types of documents until my own branch
opening.

20.1 did not discuss anything with Mr Toor about shortfalls or problems with Horizon, and he
didn’t raise any particular problems or say he had experienced any unexplained shortfalls.

Application Process

21. On 9 August 2013, I received an email from Ms Sharon Bohanna in Post Office’s Agent
Application Team, The email attached a link to an online application form, a link
to download a standard form business plan, and a zip file of additional documents, including
a restrictions policy a guide to assist with preparation of the business plan
a guide how to save the business plan in the correct format, a checklist of supporting evidence for the business plan, glossary of terms, a consent form for criminal record checks to be carried out, a pro form, and an interview preparation guide.

22.1 read these documents. In the interview preparation guide there was reference to a sense of
pride, and a requirement to “Share with us why you want to be part of our Post Office
community, operating a Post Office branch”, which fitted with my expectations about
how it would be working with Post Office.

23.1 completed the online application form, although Post Office has not disclosed a copy of this
and I do not have a copy.

24.1 remember reading the restrictions policy and having questions about whether we would be
able to have lottery through the Post Office and whether there would be restrictions on the
types of envelope we could sell. I believe I raised these with Post Office at this time.

25. The email I was sent from Post Office on 30 August 2013 attaching a fees booklet
and confirming that the branch would retain the motor vehicles licence transactions was I believe prompted by discussions I had had around this time with Post Office, following the discussions I had with Mr Toor, about his product breakdown, as I have explained above.

26. Although I was keen to take on the Post Office branch, I had some reservations about doing
so with the branch in a separate premises rather than the Day Today Express as I had
originally hoped. I was concerned about the finances for a number of reasons, including the
council tax effects of having two properties. I contacted Post Office about this around this
time because I wanted some reassurances from Post Office about my income. I can see from Post Office’s internal emails dated 4 September 2013 that a visit with me was
arranged as a result. I was given an extension of time to complete my business plan as
recorded in those emails.

27. On 18 September 2013, Ms. Bohanna sent me an email attaching a copy of what she described as the latest business plan, I believe this was an updated version of the standard form business plan I had previously been sent a link to.

28. Over this period I was working to complete the standard form business plan. I can see that
on 19 September 2013, Ms Grant sent me an email referring to the business plan I had been emailed the previous day and also saying I had been posted an information pack and “a general draft contract. I do not recalling receiving any documents in the post around this time, and do not believe I received any form of draft contract at this time.

29.1 was under pressure to complete the business plan on time and exchanged some emails
with Ms Grant about extending the time for this who was helpful and supportive and arranged a short extension.

30. On 15 October 2013 I emailed Ms Grant, attaching a business plan and my CV. The business plan was for the branch to operate at 94 Kirkintilloch Road, i.e. the existing branch premises. I used figures from Mr Toor to complete the information about previous accounts on [p69], which I had discussed with my accountant. I explained in my email to Ms Grant that Mr Toor hadn’t given me much information to work with.

31. On 22 October 2013, Ms Hammerton sent me an email attaching a document titled
“Generic Products & Services Available for PO Local ”, which was a list of products that Post Office local branches could sell, and a document titled “Network Transformation Programme” [LD1/79-99] which provided a fees estimate for the branch. I must have already been provided with that information before completing my business plan, because I had used the lower and upper range estimates (£18,700 and £20,800) as my profit projections for years 1 and 2 in my business plan. There was a red highlighted “Note & Warning” on the first page of the document which stressed that the fees were estimates only and that I should not rely on them. Obviously I did in reality have to rely on these figures.
32. I responded to Ms Hammerton on 24 October 2013, attaching a copy of the
business plan that I had submitted, and explaining that somehow Post Office’s website was again recording that I was not registered, and despite being promised a call back I had not received one. I later sent the supporting documents to Post Office special delivery, as I referred to in my email to Ms Grant.

33. On 29 October 2013,1 received an email from Ms. Bohanna requesting further
documents to be sent, including a fuller explanation of the increase in sales I was projecting.
I did as was asked by Ms Bohanna, and I also completed the online application, which
generated automated emails on 29 October 2013 and I responded to Ms Bohanna by email on 1 November 2013 to confirm that I had provided all the information requested, and attached to that email a word document which provided additional detail about my profit projections. I also attached an updated business plan, which made some amendments, including to record that I would be receiving £1,000 as a family gift.

34. This prompted an email from Ms Bohanna on 5 November 2013 to say I needed
to provide evidence of the £1,000 gift, which she said would need to be both a letter from my
father in law “giving the amount and terms of the loan” and his bank statement showing that
he has the funds in place within 7 days. I thought these were unreasonable requests and it
was not easy for me to provide this information because my father in law lives in Pakistan.
In the end, after a phone call to Ms Hammerton, I sent an email to Ms Bohanna on 11
November 2013 [LD1/122], attaching a further revised business plan [LD1/123-131], in {E5/61/1-9}
which I removed the reference to the £1,000 entirely.

35. On 14 November I received an automated email which stated that my application had been
forwarded for financial assessment and that “The analyst will complete a report and decide
on the outcome of this stage of the application”. I did not see any report at the time, and Post
Office have not disclosed a copy of this report to me.

Interview

36. On 18 November 2013 Ms Bohanna sent me an email [LD1/132], giving me a provisional
interview date of 6 December 2013. Her email said that she had attached a guide to help
with preparation of my presentation, but there was no attachment. I think I may have
contacted her about this, because on 19 November she sent me a further email subject
{E5/70/1-3}
“Presentation Sheet ’ [LD1/133] , which did have an attachment [LD1/134-136], but in fact this was a guide to assist with presentation of the business plan, which of course I had already
completed.

37. On 19 November 2013 I received by email [LD1/137] what seemed to be an automatically
generated invitation to interview, attaching an information checklist. This email said that my
interview would be recorded. I was told to be familiar with my business plan and to bring
along hard copies of my presentation.

38. My interview was with Brian Trotter, Agents Contracts Advisor. It was rescheduled to 9 December 2013 [LD1/138], for reasons I cannot now recall. I was 8 V2 months pregnant at this time, so it is possible that it was related to this.

39. During the interview I gave my prepared presentation and we discussed the business plan.

40. Following my presentation, Mr Trotter told me that he didn’t think the plan would be financially
viable, and he doubted the likely success of the products I was proposing to sell. At the time,
I thought that Mr Trotter had come to this decision based on my presentation. However, I can
see from later internal emails now disclosed by Post Office (email from Mr Trotter to Ms Marshall, dated 15 January 2014, that it seems the reason Mr Trotter rejected my application was on the basis of the financial information in the business plan. The information in that email was not shared with me by Mr Trotter.

41. During the interview Mr Trotter encouraged me to reapply for the branch, but to operate it
from the Day Today Express premises. This was frustrating as it is what I had wanted to do all along, but had been told it would not be possible. I explained this to Mr Trotter who said he would look into it.

42.1 expressed some reservations to Mr Trotter during the interview about taking on the
responsibility of a Post Office branch but Mr Trotter reassured me that the quality of the
training and support would be very good. He gave me the impression that we would be
working as partners together, and that there would be a good and supportive relationship.

43. Mr Trotter did not provide me with detailed information about Post Office or how it ran its
business. He did say that losses needed to be made good immediately, but I expected these to be minor amounts (pennies or very low value) and that it would be possible to work out where the loss had arisen. At Hilton Hotels, for example, if the wrong payment had been made, it was possible to trace this, and work out where the problem had come from. I did not know at the time that Post Office’s Horizon system was a much older and more basic system than the system at Hilton Hotels. I expected Post Office to have a fully functioning and modern system given the number of financial transactions to be processed. Mr Trotter certainly didn’t tell me that I would be responsible for apparent shortfalls of hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Scoping Visit and Re-submitted Business Plan

44. On 6 January 2014 there was a scoping visit carried out by Ms Hammerton at our shop
premises, the Day Today Express. This visit is referred to in Post Office’s letter to me dated
13 January 2014, Post Office identified works that they would require me to carry out in order for the branch to be located in the shop. The Scoping Report which was enclosed wasn’t very easy to read, but there was a list of actions to be undertaken at my cost as follows: new secure door, old retail desk to be removed, all existing shelving and stock to be removed to fit new desk, new ramp required at front entrance, and a new counter gate to be installed. There were some other actions and requirements dotted through the report. The report recorded that 60% of retail space would be lost using Post Office’s required layout. I would clarify that this must mean 60% of floor space rather than retail space (as this would include shelving on walls).

45. The letter enclosed a plan, but I do not think I was sent the scoping report
photographs. These have been disclosed by Post Office and show the shop premises and
{E5/121/1 -5} layout at this time [LD1/171-175],
{E5/81/1} 46. On 24 January 2014, I sent an email to Mr. Trotter [LD1/176] which attached a revised
{E5/80/1 10} business plan [LD1/177-186], on the basis of the branch being operated from the Day Today
Express at 118 Kirkintilloch Road.
{E5/83/1} 47. On 31 January 2014, Mr Trotter emailed me [LD1/187] to say that my business plan looked
stronger financially but there were some areas to discuss before he submitted it to Post
Office’s finance team. We spoke by phone about some of parts of the plan, and then on 3
{E5/85/1-2} February 2014 Mr Trotter sent me an email [LD1/188-189] with a version of my business
{E5/84/1 -10} Plan which he had revised [LD1/190-199], I found Mr Trotter to be helpful and supportive at
this time.

54.
I made some further minor changes to the business plan and then submitted it to Ms
Bohanna, by email the next day, on 4 February 2014 [LD1/200, LD1/201-210], It seems
from Post Office’s internal emails that there was a lack of communication within Post Office
about events relating to my application, because Ms Bohanna’s 10 February email to Mr
Trotter states that she did not know I would be reapplying [LD1/211-212].
On 18 February 2014 I was resent a set of application documents again, in a standard form
email telling me to complete an application form and business plan [LD1/213-214]. I did find
it frustrating and wasteful of my time to require me to go through this process again.
At this time I sent documents to Post Office, which were returned to me, so I had to send
them back special delivery (as referred to in an internal Post Office email from Ms Clarke to
Mr Trotter on 18 March 2014 [LD1/215-217]).
I again completed an application form [LD1/218-223], An email from Ms Clarke on 26 March
2014 [LD1/224] asked for evidence of the lease for the premises, and said I would need to
obtain new basic disclosure certificates. My husband and I completed new consent forms
for these checks [LD1/225], [LD1/226], I had already sent the lease [LD1/227-257] twice^E5/15/1 31^
already, but I did send it again recorded delivery, as referred to in my email dated 28 March
2014 [LD1/258-260],
On 8 April 2014, Ms Clarke sent me an email [LD1/261], attaching various documents to
prepare for an interview with Mr Trotter on 16 April 2014. No interview in fact took place on
this date.
On 11 April 2014 [LD1/262-263], Ms Clarke sent me an email stating that “Your application
has now been assessed by a financial analyst' but that in order for them to complete the
assessment I would need to send further documents. I was not pleased about the way in
which my application was being handled by Post Office, and started to become concerned
that perhaps Post Office were intending to move the branch to a new location (this is referred
to in an internal Post Office email from Ms Grant dated 11 April 2014 [LD1/264-265]). I did
however send the documents that were requested, recorded delivery, as referred to in my
email of 1 May 2014 [LD1/266-267],
I can see from a Post Office internal email to Mr Trotter dated 13 May 2014 [LD1/268] that
my business plan was assessed by a finance analyst, and was marked as a “pass” but “high
10
C1/5/10
risK'. I was not at the time shown the assessment, and was only told by Ms Clarke that it had
{E5/123/1 -2} passed (email on 20 May 2014 [LD1/269-270]).

Meeting with Mr Trotter

55.1 met with Mr Trotter on 4 June 2014 (noting this date in Mr Trotter’s internal Post Office email
dated 3 June 2014). I would not describe this as an interview, and I do not think Post Office
classed it as an interview at the time.

56. It was quite a relaxed discussion, and Mr Trotter was helpful and friendly. At that meeting,
Mr Trotter told me that my application would be successful, and talked to me about the
training that would be available. He said I would receive training on all aspects of Horizon
system, and emphasised that training would be thorough and that it was classroom training,
not online training.

57. Mr Trotter also emphasised that there was a helpline available, and that I could rely on it. He
said words to the effect that they are on hand, at the end of the phone, at any time you
require. He was reassuring me about the support that would be provided.

58. Mr Trotter said that I would receive a contract and mentioned the possibility of obtaining legal
advice, but he very much conveyed to me that this wasn’t necessary and that I could trust his
word. He indicated that there was nothing too detailed or complex in there. I trusted Mr
Trotter, as he had been very helpful to me throughout the process. I told him that I would get
my dad to read over the contract when I received it, which is in fact what I later did.
59. Very soon after meeting with Mr Trotter on 4 June 2014, I received Post Office’s letter dated
4 June 2014, which confirmed my success at interview. As above, I would not describe my meeting with Mr Trotter as an interview, and I think it is likely this was a standard form Post Office letter. The letter set out the training that I would receive.

60.1 then received a call from Ms Grant on 5 June about VAT registration. As set out in her
email sent dated 5 June, Ms Grant encouraged me to operate as an individual and not a company, because progressing as a company would delay my application. I agreed to progress my application as an individual.

I received a contract and some other documents from Post Office in June. Looking at an
internal Post Office email dated 17 June 2014 [LD1/275-276], it seems likely I received this
on 18 or 19 June. I can see from Post Office’s internal email chain [p276] that they suggest
that I did not receive the first copy they sent to my old address because I had not told them
about my change of address, but this is not correct. I remember that when I moved house, I
called the Network Transformation team by calling the contact number for them, to give them
my new address. I was told that they had made a record of this, but they asked me to write
a letter to confirm this in writing. I recall that I handwrote this letter at my kitchen table and
posted it to the Network Transformation team of Post Office.

To the best of my recollection now, some of the documents I received were contained in a
red wrap-around folder with the title “Modernising your Post Office branch - The Contract'
marked on the outside. I also received a bound set of documents which had
printed on the front “Post Office Network Transformation Programme Contractual Documents
Pack”, This bound set of documents had sticky tabs in places I was required to sign.
Looking carefully at the documents in the bound set of documents, I can
describe them as follows:

a. A page titled “Table of Contents”. This was in fact two lists of items. The first list seems to be guidance for Post Office about what to include in the bound set of documents, rather than a list which for me of what was actually included. For example it had a number of items listed “where applicable", which were not included in my bound set. The second list is a list for documents in the red wraparound folder. Again this isn’t very clear, for example the first entry is just “duplicate documents” and again there are items listed “where applicable”.
b. A 25 document headed “Off Site Local Post Office Agreement”, with sections of appendices as follows:
i. “Preface Part A ”
ii. “Part B Consultation Condition Precedent ”

iv. A signature page

v. “Appendix 1 Works at Branch Premises and Plan” [p290-301], which I think is a copy of the scoping report I have referred to above (at paragraph 44), and was not written in language I would expect in a contract.
vi. “Appendix 2 Equipment”, with crosses in different columns for who orders and
pays for equipment and who maintains it.
vii. “Appendix 3 Conditions of Appointment”
c. A 45 page document headed “Post Office Limited Standard Conditions for the
Operation of a Local Post Office Branch (Off Site, Post Office Limited Cash)”. I
understand this is what Post Office would describe as the standard Network
Transformation Contract (“NTC”)
d. A form to complete my bank details for payment of fees.

64. It was not clear to me which of these documents were standard form documents and which
were specific to me. I previously did not recall if I received a copy of the standard conditions
that Post Office describe as the NTC, but looking again at the bound documents and
understanding what it is that Post Office say is the NTC (as above), I think this was included
in the bound set of documents. What these documents were and how they related was very
unclear to me at the time, and I am still not very clear about it now.

65. Inside the red folder, there was a document headed “PACK", which began with a list of documents said to be included in the folder. I am less certain exactly what was included in this folder, but I believe it included copies of some of the documents which were in the bound set of documents I have referred to above. I believe the bound documents I have referred to above may also have been included in this red folder.

66.1 do not believe this folder included a copy of the Operations Manual, although this appears
to be listed on the page headed “PACK’ (“Manual - 1 copy”). I do not believe I had a copy of
this until branch set up and opening. I note that the list of contents for the red folder which is
included in the bound set of documents does not indicate that a copy of any manual would be provided to me at this time.

67. The document headed “PACK’ then had a list of instructions, the first of which was for all the
signed documents to be returned to Post Office by 26 June 2014. This was less thana week after I received them. I think I must have obtained a short extension to this period because I in fact sent the documents to Post Office on 2 July 2014, as I explain below.

68.1 can see that the instructions suggested I obtain legal advice, and I understand that Post
Office rely on this, but Mr Trotter had played down the need for this in my discussion with him
as I have described above (paragraph 58), and I had told Mr Trotter that I would get my dad
to read over the contract when I received it, which is what I did.

69.1 did my best to understand the documents I was sent and talked through them with my dad,
but neither of us have any legal experience. Post Office did not draw my attention to any
particular provisions of these long documents, and whereas I did think the documents were
confusing, and did not fully understand them, I relied on what Mr Trotter had said about them
and my trust in Post Office overall.

70.1 did not have any opportunity to negotiate the terms of these documents and I understood
that I had to return them without any changes, which is what I did.

71. On 2 July 2014, I returned the documents I was required to sign to Ms Grant at Post Office
by recorded delivery, and sent an email to Ms Grant to the next day to confirm.

72. Post Office then sent me a letter dated 16 July 2014, which was headed “SIGNED
AGREEMENT". This included a version of the bound set of documents, now showing on the signature page that the agreement had been signed by me on 2 July 2014, and Post Office on 15 July 2014.

Shop Works prior to Branch Opening

73. There was a lot of work to do to get the shop ready to open. Some of this work I paid directly
myself, but a lot of the work which Post Office paid for still had to be organised by me, and
required a lot of work obtaining quotes and making arrangements. I had many meetings with
third parties and contractors, to ensure that the requirements of the Post Office were met.

In relation to the ramp for the front entrance, on 11 June 2014 I met with the council to discuss
this, which I emailed Ms Grant about on 11 June 2014, Ultimately the Council would not permit me to install a permanent access ramp, so I agreed with Post Office that I would provide a temporary ramp. Post Office also required me to install a bell for assistance and grab rail, as recorded in Post Office’s internal email on 10 September 2014 I did install a grab rail, but Post Office later decided there was no need for a bell as the counter was right next to the door.

Post Office required me to obtain an asbestos report for the branch, requested by Ms Grant’s
email to me on 4 July 2014, Post Office in fact arranged for this survey to be carried out, but the report was sent directly to me on 21 July 2014 and I emailed Wendy Grant the same day to let her know that I had received it.

Post Office scheduled a meeting, referred to by Post Office as an ISM, on 11 September
2014. Charlie Green, Post Office’s project manager sent me an email on 13 September 2014, attaching notes from the meeting, a letter, lists of approved suppliers and a number of other documents. I believe the text of the letter was supposed to have been copied into a Post Office template, but this had not been done which I did not think was very professional. The notes recorded the works which Post Office required and a timetable for different parts of the works to be carried out
I obtained quotes for the necessary works. It was particularly difficult to get a suitable quote for the secure door, as can be seen from my various emails in October 2014.

I also made enquiries and obtained quotes for joinery works relating to the shop counter and
other works as referred to in my various emails with contractors in September and October |
2014. In addition to obtaining quotations for these works, I was also taking time to meet with contractors and oversee some of the works. For some of the works which {E5/170/1}
{E5/177/1}
were to be funded by Post Office I was still required to pay the contractor directly myself and {E5/178/1 -2
then ask Post Office to reimburse me (see my letter dated 20 November 2014 [LD1/424]). }
In November 2014 Post Office installed Horizon and provided a horizon terminal and also a
pay station at the branch. Around this time Post Office also installed a safe, the Post Office
counter itself, and a security screen.
On 12 November 2014, Post Office issued a Completion Certificate, which myself and Mr
Green each signed [LD1/425-430], The “supporting compulsory photographs” [p428-429],
show how the shop looked from the outside and inside, including signs for Post Office and
15
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{E5/192/6}
pay station, Post Office window stickers, and the new Post Office counter. There were some
minor works still required of me at this stage prior to branch opening [p430].
80.
81.
{E5/126/1-2}
{E5/161/1-2}
{E5/185/1-3}
82.
{E5/186/1-2}
{E5/190/1 -34}
{E5/189/1-2}
83.
84.
{E5/185/1}
Classroom Training
Classroom training prior to branch opening took place between 12 -15 November 2014, in a
training centre at the Springburn Crown Office branch.
The information I had received from Post Office about the training in advance, was the 4 June
2014 letter ([LD1/271-272] referred to above), an email on 24 September 2014 [LD1/431-
432], which included the course content for the 3 days of classroom training, as well as some
information about the plans for in branch training. I had requested in my meeting with Mr
Trotter that my husband Rehman also attend this training, and this was finally confirmed
when we received an email on 7 November addressed to him, also identifying the classroom
course content [LD1/433-435],
These emails referred to three training workbooks, which my husband noticed had not been
sent to us, so he requested copies of these [LD1/436-437], and ultimately we did obtain them
prior to the course beginning. I think a representative of Post Office brought them into the
shop for us. The workbooks were about compliance training [LD1/438-471], and dangerous
{E5/191/1-28}
goods [LD1/472-492] and [LD1/493-520], 1 ;
I would say that the classroom training was quite basic and at 3 days only, it was quite short.
There were 5 or 6 of us on the course, some from local and some from main branches, and
the course covered content for products which would not be offered in our branch, for
example, travel insurance, special stamp books and cashing different types of cheque. We
spent time completing training sheets and role playing transactions with a training terminal,
printer and card reader.
As I recall, the course content did follow the content in the emails which had been sent to
Rehman and me, which was [p433]: Introduction & Health and Safety; Take Over Stock &
Datestamp; Postage, etc.; Royal Mail Inland Services; Automated Products & Reversals;
Security (including Open Plan Working); Regulatory Compliance; E Top Ups & Phonecards;
DWP Cash Cheques; Stock Balancing; Performance Standards Assessment; Introduction to
Horizon; Postal Orders; Cash Management; Banking; Royal Mail International Services;
Customer Service; Post Office Card Account and Redirection of Mail.
16
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{E5/185/1}
{E5/164/1-2}
85. During the training I asked the trainer what we should do if we had problems with balancing
and the trainer said that we should check over the figures and if in doubt, call the helpline. I
asked about troubleshooting and was told that this would be covered during the onsite
training.
86.1 did not find the classroom training to be adequate at all. Given my background as an IT
analyst at Hilton Hotels, I was very aware of the amount of training required to equip users
with the necessary knowledge to enable them to use a complex IT system such as Horizon
and the many complex tasks which a user may need to carry out. In my opinion, the training
should have been far more thorough.
Branch Set Up and Induction Training
87. Set up of the branch took place on 17-18 November 2017. The Post Office auditor present
was Ms Margaret Guthrie. It was her job to set up the branch and to provide induction
training and ongoing support during my first days of operation.
88. On the first day of set up, Ms Guthrie experienced problems logging in to Horizon, and it took
her around 2 hours to even get in to the system.
89. In the weeks leading up to the branch opening, Post Office had delivered various labels,
forms, and other items necessary to set up the counter. There were also deliveries of cash,
stamps and stock which arrived on the first day of set up.
90. It was Ms Guthrie’s job to enter the cash, stamps and stock which had been delivered onto
Horizon, but she made mistakes when she was doing this, so that even before we had even
opened we had an apparent shortfall of £977. I explain this further below.
91. During this period prior to branch opening, Ms Guthrie provided some induction training to
me, my husband Rehman, and our assistant Ms Jasbir Sohi but I do not think this followed
the course content which had been emailed in advance [p433], Ms Guthrie was trying to fix
the problems which I have referred to above.
92. Ms Guthrie taught me how to count and sort cash and stock. She also gave me some
paperwork in a grey folder, which I believe contained the “Horizon Online Cash Declarations
- Top Tips Guide” [LD1/521 -522], This document says that cash declarations must be made
17
C1/5/17
before 19:00 hrs, but Ms Guthrie told me that it didn’t matter what time the declaration was
made, so long as it was made every day.
93. Ms Guthrie did tell me that I would have to make good shortfalls showing on Horizon, and
said I would be lucky if I was only £20 to £30 down when balancing. I was concerned about
this, and specifically asked Ms Guthrie what do if the system wasn’t balancing, but she just
said to call the Helpline and that they would resolve any problems I told Ms Guthrie that I
wasn’t comfortable opening the branch without any troubleshooting training and I asked if
any could be provided, but she didn’t offer me anything more, she told me that I would just
have to get on with it and call the Helpline if I had problems. This is not what I expected, and
it meant that I was left entirely reliant on the Helpline if I had problems.
Branch Opening
94. The branch opened for the first time on the afternoon of 19 November 2014. I believe the
opening time was pushed back from 1 to 2pm because we were not quite ready for 1pm.
There was a lot happening on that day.
{D1.5/3/1}
95. It was during that day that Ms Guthrie gave me a document headed “Acknowledgement of
Appointment’ [LD1/523], We were standing behind the counter at this time, and Ms Guthrie
said that I needed to sign it in order to take control and for the branch to be signed over to
me. Ms Guthrie didn’t explain the document to me, or what any of the terms ‘my agreement’,
the ‘book of rules’ or ‘postal instructions’, were intended to mean. It was not and is not clear
to me what these terms mean, or which documents they include. I didn’t think that I had a
choice whether to sign this document, all the works had been completed and the branch was
due to open that day. I didn’t have any time to consider the document and didn’t understand
that it was something which I might want to consider with a lawyer.
96. Ms Guthrie gave me a copy of the Operations Manual and told me to read it at my leisure. I
understand now that Post Office says that the Operations Manual formed part of my contract,
but this is not something that I understood prior to or during my appointment.
97.1 was also required to sign a number of further documents on that day. These included a
{E5/201/1-2} form called ‘PI 3’ [LD1/524-525] and other documents which I cannot not recall, but I do
remember being asked to sign various items of paperwork on that day. These documents
were not explained to me by Ms Guthrie and were presented to me at around the same time
as the Acknowledgement of Appointment I have referred to above.
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On Site Support
98. After branch opening Ms Guthrie stayed on site for 6 or 7 days. She was shadowing me, and
intervening in customer transactions. I often didn’t find her interventions helpful, and she was
sometimes rude to customers. She seemed overwhelmed by the fact that the shop was busy
at particular times of the day, but a main reason for opening the branch in the shop was that
it had existing customers.
99. The Performance Standards Assessment prepared by Ms Guthrie for me on 27 November
{E5/203/1-3} 2014 [LD1/526-528] gives the impression that I was not committed the branch, which I
entirely disagree with. This was always going to be a busy branch, and it was Ms Guthrie
who was not comfortable with that. I had taken on an experienced Post Office assistant, Ms
Sohi, who Ms Guthrie encouraged me to rely on for her experience. I also made sure to read
up on Post Office instructions and guidance available to me when the shop was less busy.
{E5/126/1}
{E5/161/1}
100. Although the letter I had been sent on 4 June 2014 and email I had been sent on 24
September ([p271] and [p431] above) said that Ms Guthrie would support me with my first
balance day, which was 3 December 2014, in fact she was not present that day. Ms Guthrie
attended the Thursday before, on 27 November 2014 and prepared for rollover on that day,
but that was not the same process and this did not assist me with my balancing.
101. Also, although Ms Guthrie said she would come back after opening to give me more
training or support she did not. In fact, the first time Ms Guthrie came back was on 15 July
2015 to carry out an audit, as I explain below.
C. ISSUES AND ASPECTS OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Expectations and Reliance on Post Office
102. My expectations prior to being appointed were that I would be reliant on Post Office and
that I would be like an employee in many ways. I remember that Ms Hammerton would refer
to my “payslips” which was consistent with this. I understand Post Office now describe me
and Post Office as separate businesses, but this is not how it felt at the time during the
appointment process or how I understood it would be in practice. I thought we would be
working in collaboration together.
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C1/5/19
{E5/17/1-4}
{E5/16/1-2}
{E5/93/1 -2}
{E5/17/1}
103. I didn’t really understand the contractual position, either the documents which I was sent
and signed on 2 July 2014, or the acknowledgement of appointment on 19 November 2014.
I had understood from Mr Trotter that legal advice wasn’t really necessary and there was
nothing too complex or concerning in the contracts. I don’t fully understand now all of the
documents which Post Office say have contractual effect, or how I was supposed to know
how Post Office would operate the contract in practice. I understand that in Post Office’s
Defence (at paragraph 21(d)) it is said that some contractual documents were available on
request and/or online, and that not all of the types of document were relevant to my branch,
but this does not help me to understand what exactly are the documents Post Office say
make up my contract.
104. I think it is obvious that I had to rely on Post Office for all training, assistance and support.
I had no other way to obtain relevant training, and I was repeatedly told that if I had any
problems I should call the Helpline. The main way in which my expectations differed from
reality was the quality of training assistance and support I received, which I explain further
below.
Horizon and Helpline as Services
105. I understood that Horizon and the Helpline were both in Post Office’s control, were
provided by Post Office to me, and I was supposed to rely on them. I was repeatedly told
that I should rely on the Helpline and it was there to assist me. I understood that Horizon
was a system which was supposed to make the business of running a branch easier, and
expected that if a big company like Post Office provided it in all of its branches, it must be
good.
106. I understand there is a legal issue as to whether Horizon and the Helpline were “services"
provided to me, and I therefore also mention that in the restrictions policy [LD1/11-14] which
I was provided with by email on 9 August 2013 [LD1/9-10] and 18 February 2012 [LD1/213-
214], it states as follows:
“Operators benefit from being part of the Post Office® network. In addition to
payments which Subpostmasters receive from Post Office Ltd, Post Office Ltd
invests in advertising that brings customers into Post Office® branches, it ensures
that Post Office® products meet regulatory requirements and it provides customer
and business services such as helplines to support Subpostmasters/Operators.”
[pH]
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How Post Office Ran its Business
{E5/208/1-4}
107. I have been shown paragraph 11 of Post Office’s Defence in my case, where Post Office
suggests it is to be inferred that I would have obtained information about the way in which
Post Office ran its business and about the business relationship it had with its
Subpostmasters before my appointment. The information I obtained from Mr Toor was very
limited, and the extent of this is set out above. Before my appointment, I was not aware of
the manner in which Post Office ran its business and dealt with its Subpostmasters. I have
set out above what my expectations were in respect of working with Post Office, which was
based on my general impression of Post Office and from my discussions with Post Office. I
was not aware of the limitations in training and support (including the way in which Post Office
operated the Helpline) and I would say that how this was delivered or provided was entirely
at odds with what I knew and expected prior to contracting. Prior to appointment, I did not
know about the way in which Horizon operated in practice, Post Office’s approach to
shortfalls, audits and investigation, or its approach to suspension and termination.
Training, Support and the Helpline
108. I have explained above why I do not think the classroom training or initial onsite training
or support was adequate. It was much less thorough than I had expected, both based on my
discussions about this with Mr Trotter at interview, and generally from my experience at Hilton
Hotels and City Hotels, which gave me experience about what was required in order to
operate a system like Horizon.
109. My expectation that I would receive more detailed training prior to opening was also
consistent with what was later said to me by Mr Fraser (a Post Office auditor) who asked me
why I had only received 3 days training, and not the full 5 days training. I later learned from
Ms Guthrie that the standard Post Office training provided had changed to save costs and
the 5 day training was no longer available. From the way Mr Trotter spoke to me at interview,
I think he was also expecting better and more thorough training than I in fact received.
110. In terms of branch opening and in branch training, I did not expect to immediately have
a problem in my branch accounts, but an error was introduced by the Post Office’s own
auditor Ms Guthrie, as I have mentioned above. As I later recorded in my email to Mr Trotter
on 12 February 2015 [LD1/529-532], it appears that the apparent shortfall first appeared at
the time of the first roll over to the next trading period, Ms Guthrie tried and failed to resolve
it, then left me with the problem in my accounts. After a period this appeared to go away,
21
C1/5/21
and I was told by the Helpline it had been resolved, only to then be billed the amount months
later, in February 2015.
111. At the time in November 2014, Ms Guthrie did not know what had caused this problem.
At one point she suggested that I might have taken the money, which I was very shocked by
and was in any event ridiculous because she had been with me all day. She then said it was
likely caused by the power cut we had experienced. Ms Guthrie wasn’t able to find out that
it was her mistake that had caused the problem. She said things like it was “the system”
which was the problem.
112. I was very unhappy and concerned about these events, and I raised with Mr Trotter why
Ms Guthrie had been allowed to leave with my branch accounts still showing a shortfall. I
didn’t think she should be allowed to be an auditor when she had such limited knowledge of
how to deal with shortfalls, and I told him this. Mr Trotter said to me that Post Office was
looking whether the problem was related to the power outage and the matter would be
escalated to Fujitsu because it was their system. Ultimately this problem was resolved by
Post Office issuing transaction corrections, which is referred to in my email to Andrew Winn
{E5/209} on 4 March 2014 [LD1/533-534], I note now that Post Office chose not to send me the more
complete information about the errors which had been identified, in their internal emails
{E5/208/1-4} ([p529-532], following my 12 February email above).
113. Prior to contracting I expected there to be some sort of ongoing training or at least a
helpful response when I specifically asked for further training, but this was not the case. The
only training I received after opening was online compliance training in the form of multiple
choice questions. Post Office required me to retain the print out confirmations of this training
{E5/203.1/1 -9} for me ancj my assjstants, which I did [LD1/535-543].
{E5/206/1} 114. On 1 December 2014, my area manager, Jamie Haugh sent me an email [LD1/544]
{E5/206/1-2} attaching some information titled “How to complete Stock & Office Balance” [LD1/545-546],
He sent me this because when he visited my branch shortly before the beginning of
December 2014, I asked him if he knew why my balancing had never been correct to the
penny. He told me that so far as he understood, there was no reason why it should not be
correct. He said that he would look into this for me. He mentioned that he knew of another
Subpostmistress who had some helpful tips. He said he would look into this and follow up
with me. I am not sure whether the document he sent to me was from another
Subpostmistress but I did not find the document particularly helpful and I continued to have
difficulties balancing
22
C1/5/22
{E5/201/1}
115. I felt very disappointed with the training I had received overall and I raised this on a
number of occasions with Mr Haugh. My disappointment is recorded in Mr Haugh’s email to
me sent on 6 March 2015 [LD1/547], As I recall I did follow up with the contact provided
(Ms Hassam), but I did not hear anything further. I was not offered any further training at any
time.
116. As to the Helpline, my expectations prior to being appointed were that the Helpline would
be extremely helpful and able to resolve any problem I encountered, because I had
repeatedly been told to rely on the Helpline and given the impression that it was an excellent
source of support. I was shocked to find out that in practice the support from the Helpline
was much more limited. From what I now understand about the Helpline, I think the limitations
of it are general limitations, and not specific to my case, so when I was being told to rely on
the Helpline in fact it was never going to be as good as I was being led to believe.
117. I frequently asked for support from the Helpline, I would estimate 2-3 times per month,
and often this was in relation to problems with apparent shortfalls or balancing. Contrary to
what I had expected, the advice I received was generally not very helpful at all. The Helpline
advisors didn’t help me with information about specific transactions or information, and just
gave very general advice. Most of the time, the Helpline would just tell me to do a re-count
and if there was still a shortfall, they just told me that I would have to make it good. Throughout
the time I was calling the helpline I generally was given the impression that I was the only
person having these kind of problems with balancing. They would seem surprised when I
described the problems and they never gave any indication that similar issues were occurring
in other branches.
118. I was one time told how to “get around” Horizon by altering stock figures to balance,
which was obviously not helping me to find the specific problem, and was just covering it up.
They told me they ‘shouldn’t be doing this’ but that this was the only way around the problem
I had. This felt wrong and it was concerning to me that there were little ’work arounds’ to
dealing with the Horizon system, this really suggested that there was some kind of fault in
the system.
119. At times the advice I was given by the Helpline was not in line with the advice that I was
given by Post Office representatives. For example, Ms Guthrie had told me that in order to
deal with discrepancies I should use the ‘variance’ button, but the Helpline told me not to do
this.
23
C1/5/23
120. I believe that Post Office had access to many more sources of information about
transactions than I did, but the Helpline advisors did not share this with me, and they would
say that they “could not see the system’’.
121. Post Office has disclosed helpline records relating to my branch which cover the period
{E5/198/1 -3} 19 November 2014 to 9 March 2017 [LD1/548-560], I don’t know if this log in fact records
all of the times I contacted the Helpline and the notes are very brief. The log doesn’t show
the calls which Margaret Guthrie made to the Helpline during branch set up which I have
referred to above. I note that the log does show that Post Office treated as a “resolution”
advice to do a recount or run a report, whether or not this actually resolved the problem for
me. See for example the entry on 30 November 2014, which records “#389 LOSS
CURRENTLY ON HORIZON. LOOKING AT A CASH VAIRANCE". I think looking at the date
of this entry, it is possible I made this call because of the problem introduced by Ms Guthrie
during branch opening, but I cannot be sure. The “resolution” which is recorded was simply
“ADVISED TO TRY A BALANCE REPORT’’. There is no record whether this in fact resolved
the problem for me.
122. As part of my previous employment with Hilton Hotels, I had always been told and worked
on the basis that unless an issue was satisfactorily resolved, we could not close the enquiry.
Prior to being appointed, I expected the same standard of service from the Helpline, but from
my experience this was clearly not Post Office’s approach to resolving problems raised by
Subpostmasters.
Assistants
123. I understand that Post Office says it was my role to train assistants, but this was not
explained to me at the time, and was not realistic in practice, when the training I had received
was so limited.
124. Post Office didn’t offer me any support or guidance about training my assistants, other
than requiring them to undertake the compliance tests I have referred to above.
{E5/203/3}
125. Post Office had encouraged me to rely on my experienced assistant Ms Sohi, who had
previously been employed by Mr Toor, when taking on the branch (this is referred to in Ms
Guthrie’s performance assessment of me, referred to above, at [p528]).
24
C1/5/24
126. Later, Post Office also encouraged me to dismiss Ms Sohi, after the 15 July 2015 audit
which I refer to below. Post Office told me that there had been deliberate falsification and
{E5/223/1-2} inflation of accounts the night before the audit using Ms Soho’s user id, [LD1/561-562] and
gave me further guidance about conducting a disciplinary meeting with her (as referred to in
{E5/224/1-2} my notes for the meeting [LD1/563-564]). I understood that if I didn’t dismiss Ms Sohi Post
Office would not let me reopen the branch.
127. More generally, I understood that Post Office controlled the process of employing
assistants, by requiring assistants to be registered with them, and being able to refuse any
assistants I wanted to employ if they did not agree.
Horizon
128. I did not expect to be encountering apparent shortfalls and not be able to identify and
resolve the problem, either on my own or with Post Office’s help. In fact I had apparent
shortfalls on a regular basis. I was generally unable to find the cause of the problem using
Horizon and I had to rely on Post Office to help me. In fact Post Office gave me very little
help, and I didn’t have access to the same information I believe Post Office had access to.
129. I have described above the initial problem caused by Ms Guthrie during branch set up
and the fact that Ms Guthrie couldn’t find the problem using Horizon. I was completely reliant
on Post Office to sort this issue out, which thankfully they finally did. I expected there to be
an easier way to use Horizon to identify the cause of the problem and how to resolve it
quickly.
130. I think this experience during branch set up is highly relevant to how easy it was for an
error to be entered into Horizon. I also think it shows how difficult it was for Subpostmasters
in practice to find out the cause of an apparent shortfall showing on Horizon, when Ms
Guthrie, an experienced auditor, was unable to do this. The emails above also show that
Post Office did not provide complete information to me even when it was available to them.
131. I encountered further problems with Horizon during my period as Subpostmaster,
including in June 2015, when Post Office issued a transaction correction for £2,660, which
related to a delivery of coins. I did not agree with the transaction correction or the basis for
it, but I was told by Post Office that I had to accept it in order to roll into the next balance
period. This transaction correction is recorded in the transaction correction data which Post
{E5/229} Office has disclosed ([LD1/565-566]).
25
C1/5/25
132. I was initially told that without the rem in slip, which I did not have because it hadn’t
printed, that Post Office couldn’t even log a call with Fujitsu to investigate. I then spoke to
my area manager Mr Haugh about this who tried to assist, and there are various Post Office
internal emails I have now seen which show the problem I had, and the lack of understanding
on behalf of even Post Office employees about the issue (for example, email chain from Mr
{E5/211/1-2} Haugh beginning 4 June 2015 [LD1/567-568]). While Mr Haugh was trying to be helpful, he
was also focused on sales and upselling, as shown by his email to me on 5 June 2015
{E5/212/1} ([LD1/569]). I was very stressed throughout this period, and did everything I could to try to
resolve it, including providing to Post Office all the documents I thought might assist and as
full explanations as possible.
133. I have now seen an email sent by Mr Haugh to Ms Southern on 19 June 2015 [LD1/570-
{E5/213/1-5} 574] (which I was not copied into), which shows the lack of understanding even by Mr Haugh
about what reports were available on Horizon (7 have spoken to a Branch Manager in a
former branch of mine and she says you can check on Horizon through the Rem in report
and Transaction Log as to whether it has been scanned in”). He also seems to be
uncomfortable with how I was being treated during this time (7 don’t know the process but it
seems like we are treating people as being guilty of something all because they have lost a
slip. Surely there are other methods of checking?”). Mr Haugh also referred to how little
training I had received and the effect it was having on me (“This is a new operator with limited
training and this amount of money is probably 4 months income. Louise is really stressed
about the situation.”).
134. I have also now seen an email from Mr Haugh to Mr Trotter on 19 June 2015 [LD1/575-
{E5/214/1-5} 579] (which I was not copied into), telling him about the issue, and again recording his
concern (“Not sure where she goes next. It seems the business are telling her she never
scanned it in so you owe us the £2k. ”)
Audits and Investigation
135. My branch was first audited on 15 June 2015. This was during the period when I was
trying to get to the bottom of the problem with the transaction correction and cash, which I
have referred to above. Prior to contracting I didn’t expect Post Office to plan an audit during
a period where there was this type of uncertainty and there were outstanding enquiries being
made.
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136. I had not been in the branch for the period before the audit, as I had been in Pakistan
and Ms Sohi had been managing the branch in my absence.
{E5/215/1 -3}
{E5/216/1 -2}
{E5/217/1 -2}
137. The audit was conducted by Ms Guthrie, and she concluded that there was an alleged
shortfall of £10,423.96, as recorded in her audit report [LD1/580-586], although this was not
sent to me at the time. Ms Guthrie only left me with a few handwritten notes on the day.
138. I was suspended following this audit, which meant that I was then unable to carry out my
own investigation. I raised this and other issues with Mr Trotter in my email to him on 22 July
{E5/219/1} 2015 [LD1/587], I later met with him on 27 July, and as can be seen from my notes [LD1/588-
{E5/220/1-2} 589], I was raising with Mr Trotter possible enquiries Post Office could make, and explaining
the difficulties I had had with the transaction correction as referred to above.
139. Post Office did later find that a large amount of the apparent shortfalls related to cheques
which had been sent. Post Office’s internal emails between 30 July and 4 August refer to
{E5/221/1-5} this [LD1/590-594], and I note that Mr Trotter considered that the cheques “may have been
sent out of course or gone missing in the post” (email on 30 July 2015). However, I was
considered accountable and liable to pay for these apparent shortfalls until the cheques were
found.
140. I was also held liable for the losses which had apparently been caused by Ms Sohi (on
{E5/223/1-2} the basis of Mr Trotter’s email to me ([LD1/561-562] above).
141. As I explain further below, Post Office did not allow me to reopen the branch until I agreed
to repay the amount of the outstanding apparent shortfall from the audit and accepted new
contractual conditions. Post Office then deducted the amount of the shortfall in instalments
from my fees.
142. I was audited again on 17 May 2016, the auditor on this occasion was Mr Fraser, and an
apparent shortage of £2,252 was found. On this occasion I was not suspended, but was
again required to make good the apparent shortfall, and received a “Notice to remedy
[E5/231/1-2} breaches in 14 days” letter dated 6 June 2016 [LD1/595-596], Post Office took the approach
that because I was not able to explain the apparent shortfall I had to repay it and again made
arrangements for deductions to be made from my wages. So far as I am aware Post Office
did not itself carry out any investigation in relation to the cause of the apparent shortfall.
27
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143. I was audited for a third time on 3 February 2017. An apparent shortfall of £6,870.85
{E5/234/1-11} was recorded in Post Office’s report [LD1/597-607] (although this was not provided to me).
144. During this audit, one of the auditors named Caroline told me not to worry, that it would
all get sorted out, and when I said the situation was ridiculous told me many people had said
that.
145. Again, Post Office’s approach was that unless I could explain the amount of the apparent
shortfall then I was liable for it. I could not, although I did explain the problems I had had,
and asked for more support. I was suspended and later dismissed. I was made liable for
the amount of the apparent shortfall.
146. Prior to contracting, I expected to have a great deal more support from Post Office when
dealing with a situation where I was being held liable for very large sums of money - many
thousands of pounds. I expected Post Office to assist me to try to find out the cause of the
losses, whether I was responsible for them, and whether these were real losses to Post Office
at all.
Suspension and Termination
147. As explained above, I was suspended following the first and third audits. I was not paid
any fees during my suspension and did not have access to any information via Horizon. Post
Office took away some of my records following the third audit and when I asked did not return
them to me.
148. I attended a meeting with David Southall on 3 March 2017. Again Post Office’s approach
was that I had to provide an explanation, rather than Post Office trying to help me with what
had gone wrong.
{E5/235/1-4}149. My appointment was then terminated by letter dated 27 March 2017 [LD1/608-611],
150. Prior to my appointment I had not expected Post Office to terminate my appointment,
either on notice or summarily (as in fact occurred). I thought this was a long term
arrangement, that this would provide my livelihood for good. Post Office was advertising
that the Network Transformation scheme was to build futures, and they had required
investment and commitment from me at the outset. I remember Ms Hammerton had encouraged me when I was talking about buying a house that I would be investing in my future, and together with Post Office, I would be able to build a good future for my family.
151. I expected that if there were problems, Post Office would support me to resolve them.
Comparative Knowledge about Transactions
152. I understand that one of the issues before the Court at the Common Issues trial relates
to relative knowledge about transactions as between Subpostmasters and Post Office, and
I have been shown paragraphs 76(4) to (6) of Post Office’s Generic Defence where Post
Office states the alleged limits of its knowledge in relation to transactions undertaken in
branches.
153. I understood that Post Office had much greater access to information than me, and
indeed this can be seen from some of Post Office’s internal emails which have now been
disclosed but weren’t available to me at the time.
154. The only reference guides that were available to me for Horizon were the guides that
were built in to the Horizon system itself, when you keyed F9 or F10 (I cannot recall the exact
key). These guides could not be accessed when in the middle of a transaction, so were not
helpful as a point of reference when in the middle of a transaction. They were also not very
user friendly, some sections were blank, there was no search function, and the only print
option was a page at a time.
155. Post Office could obtain information from Fujitsu, who I was not able to contact directly,
so I was entirely reliant on Post Office if and when they chose to do this, and whether they
shared this information with me.
156. I never received any training to assist me to identify the cause of apparent shortfalls,
even after Post Office held me liable for apparent shortfalls which I could not explain.
157. I believe that Post Office were much better able than me to investigate the cause of
apparent shortfalls if they wanted to do so. For example, it was Post Office who provided me
with the information about Ms Sohi, although neither Post Office nor me had been present in
branch at the relevant time.

Variations to Contract

158. As I have referred to above, following first audit in July 2015, Post Office offered to
“reinstate” me if I agreed to certain “conditions” set out in their letter of 24 August 2015,
including repayment of the alleged shortfall amount ([LD1/612-613]). I understand now that
this letter varied my existing contract terms. I did not take any legal advice in relation to this
letter and did not think I had any choice except to agree if I wanted to reopen the branch
which I did, having invested so much into it.
159. Post Office required me to sign and return their letter of 6 June 2016 following the second
audit, which I understand also affected my contract.
160. I requested a variation to my contact terms in August or September 2015, when I
requested a change to opening hours following the events of July 2015 and Ms Sohi being
dismissed [LD1/615], Mr Trotter told me on 28 August 2015 that I couldn’t make this request
until the anniversary date of my contract “which according to my records is the 19th November
20'/5”[LD1/616-617], then on 7 September said that my request had been noted and he was
awaiting authorisation from the regional manager [LD1/618]. I did not then receive a decision
until 24 March 2016 [LD1/619-622], Mr Trotter sent me a letter confirming new hours with
effect from 4 April 2016. Mr Trotter expressly stated in that letter that the change amounted
to “a variation to your Agreement'. I do not know why it took Post Office so long to agree to
this change, but I think it is possible that Mr Trotter just forgot about it. It seemed to me that
he was overworked and had too much to deal with, he did not seem to be particularly
organised.

161. Around the same time I made a request to Post Office for my branch to become a Post
Office Plus branch to enable customers to deal with their banking [LD1/614]. My branch
was located next to a Royal Bank of Scotland branch, which closed in August 2015 and I had
enquiries from various customers, who hoped to bank at their local Post Office, my branch. I
understood that we could only offer banking services if Post Office designated the branch a
“Plus” branch. This request was ultimately refused by Post Office, but I cannot recall the date
this decision was made.

I believe the contents of this statement to be true.
Signed
Date 10 August 2018

Day 5 write-up: Final Lead claimant is cross-examined

Louise Dar outside the Rolls Building after being cross-examined today
There was only one witness today and court finished early. I have posted today's tweets from the courtroom here. It's up to you whether you read them first, if at all. This write-up can be read in isolation.

Louise Dar was the last of the six Lead Claimants to be cross-examined in this trial. Her five predecessors were Alan Bates, Pam Stubbs, Mohammad Sabir, Naushad Abdulla and Liz Stockdale.

As with previous witnesses, I am unable to see their witness statements before they are sworn in. When they are sworn in, I make an email request for their witness statements, which I then acquire. I understand the necessity of not making a witness statement available before the witness is sworn in, but it means I have to play catch up on the witness's story whilst also trying to live tweet the cross-examination process. No system is perfect. I am grateful to people who are supplying me with the information I am getting.
Ms Dar was Subpostmaster of the Lenzie branch in Glasgow, from 19 November 2014 to 27 March 2017 when she, like Mr Abdulla, was "summarily terminated" after allegedly racking up a series of four figure shortfalls.
It looks like Ms Dar had problems from the off. This from her witness statement:
"Set up of the branch took place on 17-18 November 2014. The Post Office auditor present was Ms Margaret Guthrie. It was her job to set up the branch and to provide induction training and ongoing support during my first days of operation.
88. On the first day of set up, Ms Guthrie experienced problems logging in to Horizon, and it took her around 2 hours to even get in to the system.
89. In the weeks leading up to the branch opening, Post Office had delivered various labels, forms, and other items necessary to set up the counter. There were also deliveries of cash, stamps and stock which arrived on the first day of set up.
90. It was Ms Guthrie’s job to enter the cash, stamps and stock which had been delivered onto Horizon, but she made mistakes when she was doing this, so that even before we had even opened we had an apparent shortfall of £977. I explain this further below.
91. During this period prior to branch opening, Ms Guthrie provided some induction training to me, my husband Rehman, and our assistant Ms Jasbir Sohi but I do not think this followed the course content which had been emailed in advance, Ms Guthrie was trying to fix the problems which I have referred to above."
and
"110.... I did not expect to immediately have a problem in my branch accounts, but an error was introduced by the Post Office’s own auditor Ms Guthrie, as I have mentioned above. As I later recorded in my email to Mr Trotter on 12 February 2015, it appears that the apparent shortfall first appeared at the time of the first roll over to the next trading period, Ms Guthrie tried and failed to resolve it, then left me with the problem in my accounts. After a period this appeared to go away, and I was told by the Helpline it had been resolved, only to then be billed the amount months later, in February 2015.
111. At the time in November 2014, Ms Guthrie did not know what had caused this problem. At one point she suggested that I might have taken the money, which I was very shocked by and was in any event ridiculous because she had been with me all day. She then said it was likely caused by the power cut we had experienced. Ms Guthrie wasn’t able to find out that it was her mistake that had caused the problem. She said things like it was “the system” which was the problem."
Ms Dar notes during her training:
"93. Ms Guthrie did tell me that I would have to make good shortfalls showing on Horizon, and said I would be lucky if I was only £20 to £30 down when balancing. I was concerned about this, and specifically asked Ms Guthrie what do if the system wasn’t balancing, but she just said to call the Helpline and that they would resolve any problems. I told Ms Guthrie that I wasn’t comfortable opening the branch without any troubleshooting training and I asked if any could be provided, but she didn’t offer me anything more, she told me that I would just have to get on with it and call the Helpline if I had problems. This is not what I expected, and it meant that I was left entirely reliant on the Helpline if I had problems."
It's interesting that Ms Dar does not use her witness statement (and did not use her time on the stand today) to explicity allege there are problems, bugs or glitches in the Horizon system (though she does say below her experiences "suggest" there was). Her biggest glitch appears to have been Ms Guthrie.
Margaret Guthrie makes a return eight months later to audit Ms Dar's branch. She finds a discrepancy of £10,423.96, which Ms Dar was held liable for. (Ms Guthrie, afaik, and much to Ms Dar's disgust, is not due to give evidence in this trial, but if she would like the right of reply on this blog she, or her representatives are welcome to get in touch).
As Ms Dar is not alleging problems with Horizon directly, Ms Dar's evidence brings the Post Office's other systems into focus - contracting new Subpostmasters, training them, supporting them and their use of Horizon, investigating them and the process for booting them out.
Ms Dar, along with her five predecessors in the witness box, claim they didn't get a proper view of the Subpostmaster contract, they didn't get time to read or understand the documents they were signing and they didn't really understand the implications of what they might be getting into.
Mr Cavender, the Post Office's extremely capable QC, set about Ms Dar's arguments in the same way he set about the other lead claimants, painting them as experienced, intelligent people who went into their business relationship with the Post Office with their eyes open to the risks, and fully aware of the import of the documentation they signed and the contract they definitely, definitely, definitely received.
Mr Cavender's questioning of Ms Dar on the documents she did sign took an unexpected turn when he asked her about the documents Ms Guthrie gave Ms Dar on the day the branch was transferred to her. He asked if she remembers signing a document on which it is stated she agrees "to be bound by the terms of her agreement". Ms Dar paints a picture of a busy branch which was opening late and getting very busy and said that several documents were thrust into her hand by Mrs Guthrie who asked her to sign them.
Mr Cavender pushed back suggesting that the document Ms Dar was being shown in court on the screen in front of her had very few words on it, and at that point Ms Dar burst into tears, evidently reliving a difficult moment. Ms Dar told the judge about the state  ("a shambles", "a complete mess") Ms Guthrie had left the branch in and said that Ms Guthrie should be in court because she "had questions to answer" about what she did to her.
Now, unlike the two claimants on Day 4, Ms Dar has not been accused of false accounting or falsifying figures by the Post Office. Today Mr Cavender put it to her that the only reason such huge losses could have arisen in her branch was due to her or her staff's dishonesty or errors. Ms Dar was adamant she was not dishonest - she would never artificially inflate the cash in her branch, apart from on one occasion - when she was told to by the helpline. Now I have heard this in unofficial conversations with Subpostmasters before and it was mentioned by an MP in a parliamentary debate in 2014:
Mr David Jones: Looking beyond the issue of mediation, it is clear from what we have heard in the debate that a large number of people have had their life ruined because they adopted accounting practices on the basis of advice given to them by the Post Office. In other words, as I said in an intervention, the Post Office itself was counselling on procuring false accounting. Has my hon. Friend the Minister considered referring that matter to the prosecuting authorities?
Jo Swinson: My right hon. Friend is right to recognise that the accusation is a serious one—if true, it would be incredibly serious. It is difficult to know whether that is the case, which is why full investigation is needed. The hon. Member for North Durham made a clear challenge, and a fair one, about ensuring that we get some action and resolution on the issue. The point that I push back on is that many of the cases are incredibly complex, understandably so, because they are dealing with systems and many transactions—
Mr Kevan Jones: You’re the Minister, do something!
I had a look at Ms Dar's witness statement to see what she says about it there:
"118. I was one time told how to “get around” Horizon by altering stock figures to balance, which was obviously not helping me to find the specific problem, and was just covering it up. They told me they ‘shouldn’t be doing this’ but that this was the only way around the problem I had. This felt wrong and it was concerning to me that there were little ’work arounds’ to dealing with the Horizon system, this really suggested that there was some kind of fault in the system."
Mr Cavender told Ms Dar that this exchange "did not happen."
"It categorically did", she replied.
Mr Cavender asked her what she did about the situation, and Ms Dar replied she carried out the Helpline's instruction.
“So you falsified the figure.”
A little steel came into Ms Dar's voice. “On advice from the helpline.” 
Earlier Mr Cavender had drawn attention to the results of one audit in which it is noted that Ms Dar had balanced the night before with 400 x £2 coins in branch, yet when the auditor arrived the next day, there were just 2 x £2 coins. Ms Dar could not explain this.
Mr Cavender also drew attention to one of Ms Dar's audits in which thousands of pounds of foreign exchange money was also missing. Ms Dar could not explain why this was missing either.
**************
The trial continues tomorrow with the first two Post Office witnesses being cross-examined. The judge, I think, said it would be a Mr Beale and a Mr Williamson, but we'll see when we get to court at 10.30am tomorrow.