Friday, May 17, 2024

Top Post Office lawyer refuses to appear before Horizon IT Inquiry

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One of the key legal figures in the later years of the Post Office scandal is refusing to appear at the public inquiry into it, reports Law Gazette.

Jane MacLeod, who was the organisation's chief in-house lawyer between 2015 and 2019, was due to appear as a witness next month to explain her role in the civil litigation that fully exposed the scandal.

But today the counsel to the inquiry, Jason Beer KC, told another witness before the inquiry: "We are not going to hear from her. She lives abroad and won’t co-operate."

The Law Gazette report tells us:

MacLeod was head of the Post Office legal team during the Bates v Post Office litigation and is believed to have advised chairman Tim Parker not to share the review authored by Treasury lawyer Jonathan Swift KC. This review had found ‘real issues’ for the Post Office.

MacLeod told the BBC earlier this year that she could not comment on papers showing the Post Office knew its defence in the Bates litigation was untrue. She said at the time that she supported the ongoing public inquiry and was assisting it. She added that while the inquiry was ongoing ‘I do not think it is appropriate to comment at this time’.

If you had asked MacLeod to justify her large salary while at the Post Office, she would have talked about the responsibility her job involved. But when she is actually asked to bear some responsibility, we don't see her cowardly arse for dust.

And this has been true of many senior Post Office executives who have appeared before the inquiry. "I don't recall" and "I don't remember" are the phrases that have been most often heard. One lawyer claimed not to know the standard of proof required in criminal cases,

Really it has been the modern business corporation, with its absurd difference in pay and status between those at the top and the rest of its employees and its secrecy, that has been in the dock at the inquiry. Why does it allow such awful people to prosper?

This is something to remember when Paul Vennells appears before the inquiry from Wednesday to Friday of next week. Sure, I'll be laying stocks of popcorn and rotten vegetables, but the issues at stake there go deeper than a few individuals, however unpleasant they are.


Neil Hickman said...

It's over three years since I wrote in an article in the Law Society's Gazette (the solicitors' trade paper) that "Lord knows, this country’s prisons are full enough already – but we shall know that the Horizon scandal has really been taken seriously when some senior Post Office personnel are added to the prison population. I am not holding my breath" -
As Marina Hyde acidly comments in the Guardian: "It’s hard to escape the idea that in this country (and others), there is a class of people who go to jail and a class of people who get directorships, and there is close to zero crossover. If you are a little post office operator who steals a relatively tiny amount of money – or doesn’t, as it turned out – you can end up in prison. If you are the big person in charge of everything when many of these post office operators were getting wrongly banged up [i.e. if you are Paula Vennells], you get paid relatively vast amounts of money and can end up on the board of Dunelm".

Phil Beesley said...

I enjoyed Neil Hickman's comment. However I'd explain many problems by the lack of jeopardy and a surplus of brass necks.

During the Covid pandemic, UK agents for PPE knew that they would make a healthy profit selling to the government, whether or not the equipment was usable. Sunak made a big fuss about supporting small and medium size businesses but government assistance ended up with landlords. Landlords could not be allowed to fail, like banks during the 2008 financial crisis.

Large organisations run on the basis that senior managers are beyond jeopardy. If they run a business badly, somehow they still earn a bonus. They can only be dismissed for criminal acts outside their job. The legal protection created for vulnerable employees has been turned around to make bosses unsackable.

If they can endure brief public humiliation and payment of financial restitution, senior managers with brass neck will not find themselves excludes from polite society. They will use their 'humbling experience' as morals and ethics advisers. We can't assume that they are bad through and through, can we?

Anonymous said...

Anyone got a photo of her...since she's too ashamed to show her own face wld be justice of sorts for it to be made public. Hope other witnesses ie Paula Vennells will now feel able to be honest about what she did and said to perpetuate the worst miscarriage of justice in British history. Shame she didn't stay in Australia where she comes from. Would have saved a lot of misery for lots of people.