Thursday 14 March 2019

Why did the Post Office accuse Aakash Patny of false accounting yesterday?

In my write-up of yesterday's proceedings I noted a little vignette between the Post Office barrister Simon Henderson, and claimant witness Aakash Patny, who had had some trouble declaring his stock to Horizon. Aakash says he declared the stock he had in his branch and then Horizon, for some reason, registered it as £18K - way more stock than he would have in his branch. As we watched the cross-examination, we thought the stamps issue had been done with. But no. This is how I wrote it up yesterday:

"Mr Henderson then started off on a different issue Mr Patny had raised about a MoneyGram cancellation, but soon after asked for a short break.
On reconvening Mr Henderson went back to the stamps and having earlier told his witness "no one is saying it's the worst mistake to have made" promptly accused Mr Patny of false accounting:

Q.  you remember the £18,000
       declaration of stamps, was that an attempt by you to
       disguise a shortfall of cash?
   A.  No.
   Q.  I suggest it may have been.  I suggest it was, Mr Patny.
       You deny that?
   A.  I do, yes.

Mr Patny was implacable. In his mind he had neither made a mistake, nor suddenly decided to engage in potentially criminal activity. It was a Horizon bug.

Quite what advantage the Post Office sought to gain today by accusing Mr Patny of deliberately inflating the stamp value to hide a shortage of cash, I have no idea. It was all very odd. The stamp conversation had been put to bed and Mr Henderson had moved on to the MoneyGram problem. Then there is a sudden request for a break. After the break Mr Henderson comes back, parks the MoneyGram issue, returns to the stamp problem and without warning unleashes the Criminal Offence Baboon.

There must be some kind of legal tactic here, and if there is a lawyer reading this, I'd be grateful if they could get in touch."

UPDATE 1: A lawyer has got in touch! This is her take:
"The Patny criminal offence allegation was probably made as it appeared that he was giving good evidence on the Horizon cock up and the only other plausible explanation is that he was false accounting. So it seems that they had a break, discussed that the line if questioning wasn't going well and therefore felt that they had to put that allegation to him as it is the only other explanation
I may be speculating, but that what it seems like."
Now - this may not be the case at all and if the Post Office lawyers want to get in touch to explain their strategy I would be delighted to clarify.

UPDATE 2: This afternoon (Thu 14 March) I was contacted by someone who wouldn't give me her name but described herself as an experienced litigation lawyer. She suggested I have a very good read of the blog post: "Thinking of alleging or pleading fraud: better read this first."

It gives legal context to the manner and circumstance of what I have described above.