Notice of Preliminary Hearing
The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry
Notice of Preliminary Hearing on 8 November 2021, 11:00 – 4:00
Venue: to be confirmed
(1) Statement by the Chairman
(2) Submissions on List of Issues
The Chair has reviewed the written submissions provided in response to the Inquiry’s consultation on its provisional List of Issues. He has identified four themes on which further written and oral submissions are invited both from core participants and from interested persons who engaged in the Inquiry’s initial consultation process. All other proposed amendments to the List of Issues will be determined by the Chair on the papers.
It is not mandatory for core participants or for interested persons who engaged in the Inquiry’s initial consultation process to provide written submissions unless they wish to advance oral submissions on any of the following four themes in which case written submissions must be sent to the Solicitor to the Inquiry by 4:00pm Friday, 29 October.
Written submissions provided on these four themes shall be disclosed to the core participants and published on the Inquiry’s website. All submissions should be confined to answering the specific questions posed by the Chair. Written submissions should be limited to a maximum of 15 A4 pages in 12-point font. The Chair is likely to impose time limits for each core participant and interested person to make their oral submissions, should they wish to make any.
A. Second Sight Investigations Limited (“Second Sight”)
A number of those who responded to the Inquiry’s consultation suggested that the Inquiry should examine one or more of the following topics: (a) the scope of the investigation(s) undertaken by Second Sight; (b) the adequacy of the information provided to Second Sight; (c) the response of Post Office Limited to Second Sight’s findings; (d) the decision to terminate Second Sight’s engagement; (e) the role of government in decision-making relating to Second Sight.
The Chair, accordingly, invites submissions in response to the following questions:
(i) To what extent should the Inquiry examine the events surrounding Second Sight?
(ii) Is it sufficient for the Inquiry to investigate the reasons for the decision to terminate the Post Office Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme?
(iii) Should the Inquiry examine whether and to what extent the scope and findings of, and the disclosure made in relation to, the independent investigation(s) undertaken by Second Sight were appropriate?
B. Reliance upon legal advice
Several respondents to the Inquiry’s consultation proposed that the Inquiry should investigate one or more of the following issues: (a) the nature of any legal advice obtained to inform policy decisions about the civil and criminal liability of SPMs, managers and assistants for shortfalls shown by Horizon; (b) the action (if any) taken upon receipt of that legal advice; (c) whether legal advice was sought in proceedings brought against SPMs, managers and assistants; (d) the nature of the legal advice obtained.
For these reasons, the Chair requests submissions in response to the following questions:
(i) Is it necessary for the Inquiry to investigate whether and to what extent Royal Mail Group and Post Office Limited acted upon legal advice when they:
a. formulated policies and guidelines on the civil and criminal liability of SPMs, managers and assistants for shortfalls shown by Horizon; and
b. brought civil and / or criminal proceedings against SPMs, managers and assistants alleged to be responsible for shortfalls shown by Horizon?
(ii) If so, should the nature of the legal advice received be investigated?
C. Conduct of the Group Litigation
A number of those who responded to the Inquiry’s consultation requested that there be an investigation into one or more of the following topics: (a) the strategy of Post Office Limited during the Group Litigation; (b) the identity of those responsible for formulating that strategy; (c) the reasons for, and the appropriateness of, that strategy; (d) the nature of the legal advice received by Post Office Limited; (e) Post Office Limited’s approach to its disclosure obligations.
The Chair, therefore, invites submissions in response to the following questions:
(i) Do the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference permit an investigation of the conduct of the Group Litigation?
(ii) If so, should the conduct of the Group Litigation by Post Office Limited (and others) be investigated?
D. Divergences across the United Kingdom
A further issue raised in response to the Inquiry’s consultation concerns the extent of any differences in Post Office Limited’s systems of investigation within the devolved union. The Chair, therefore, invites submissions in response to the following question:
(i) Should the Inquiry investigate whether and to what extent there existed divergences in the policies and practices adopted by Royal Mail Group and Post Office Limited within the four countries of the United Kingdom when taking action against SPMS, managers and assistants alleged to be responsible for shortfalls shown by Horizon?
Please send all written submissions to email@example.com or by post to PO Box: PO Horizon IT Inquiry, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET.
The Inquiry intends to publish the names of those persons whom the Chair has designated as core participants to the Inquiry.
Any core participant who wishes to have their identity protected from disclosure must make an application for a restriction order in accordance with the Inquiry Protocol on Redaction, Anonymity and Restriction Orders by 19 October 2021.
Any such application will be processed by the Inquiry in accordance with the Protocol on Redaction, Anonymity and Restriction Orders and shall be determined by the Chair on the papers.
The Inquiry shall send a draft confidentiality undertaking to all core participants and (where applicable) to their recognised legal representatives on or before 15 October 2021.
All core participants and (where applicable) their recognised legal representatives must return their signed undertaking to the Inquiry by 22 October 2021.
Issued under the authority of the Chair on 12 October 2021