6 and 7 July Hearings postponed following Post Office disclosure failings
The Inquiry announced this morning that hearings scheduled for today and tomorrow (6 and 7 July) will be postponed after failings by the Post Office to disclose evidence to the Inquiry.
Inquiry Chair, Sir Wyn Williams, had been due to hear evidence from former Fujitsu engineer, Gareth Jenkins. He will now be called to a hearing later in the year, likely to last four days.
Counsel to the Inquiry, Jason Beer KC, set out a number of failings of the Post Office, including disclosing 95 documents to the Inquiry this week that relate to Mr Jenkins in some way and should previously have been disclosed to the Inquiry. The Post Office has apologised to the Inquiry for sending these documents so late.
Mr Beer referenced evidence given by Post Office’s General Counsel, Ben Foat, on Tuesday, and set out reasons why it would not be appropriate to call Mr Jenkins now.
He noted that this Inquiry is itself investigating the late or non-provision of disclosure by the Post Office in a series of criminal prosecutions that lasted over a decade, and the non-disclosure of documents in civil proceedings, and the unfairness that such non-disclosure had on parties and on witnesses.
He said: “We of all people will not entertain the making of the same mistakes of the past whilst simultaneously investigating those mistakes.”
He also noted Mr Jenkins is under criminal investigation by the Metropolitan Police for serious criminal offences relating to his role in the Horizon scandal, and that the evidence that he gives to this Inquiry may be used in any criminal investigation, prosecutorial decision making, and in any criminal proceedings brought against him.
Mr Beer went on to say that at 10.32 pm last night, the Post Office wrote to the Inquiry drawing its attention to the fact that amongst the 95 documents that it had recently disclosed, it had recently identified that one of them was a new document that the Post Office said was ‘likely to be of significant interest to the Inquiry’. He said the Inquiry had already identified the document as being of significant interest. The Post Office also disclosed in the same letter that it had identified 4,767 documents, not previously disclosed to the Inquiry, that may be relevant to the evidence of Mr Jenkins.
Mr Beer said: “It is of course grossly unsatisfactory, to be told at 10.32 pm that there are 4,767 documents that are at least potentially relevant to a witness who is being called 11 hours and 28 minutes later.”
Sir Wyn Williams will be issuing directions to the Post Office this week that seek to ensure disclosure issues do not continue.
The Chair agreed with Mr Beer’s plans to reschedule the hearing and said “I cannot help but express my frustration that this has happened at this time. It is a very important time for the Inquiry, and we do not need dislocation.”
Sir Wyn expressed regret and apologies to those who had travelled to the hearing today, saying “Clearly, the evidence which was intended to be heard was of considerable significance, and of interest to very many people.”
Mr Beer also acknowledged that the rescheduling would be upsetting and distressing for many: “All I can say is that we are determined to uncover the truth, but to do so in a way that ensures fairness to all, and which leads to conclusions in a report from [Sir Wyn Williams] which are unimpeachable.”
A full transcript and recording of the aborted hearing are available here.
Proceedings will resume on Tuesday 11 July in line with the published timetable. Details about Mr Jenkins’ rescheduled evidence session will be published later in the year.