Post Office scandal: Former sub-postmaster responds after hearing Fujitsu manager labelled him a 'nasty chap'

A former sub-postmaster who went bankrupt as a result of the Post Office scandal has told Sky News it is "what I expect" after it emerged a Fujitsu manager labelled him a "nasty chap" ahead of legal proceedings.

Peter Sewell was part of the Post Office Account Security Team at Fujitsu when Lee Castleton faced his court battle with the Post Office in 2007.

Mr Sewell told a colleague Mr Castleton would be "all out to rubbish" the Fujitsu name ahead of the legal fight that led to the former East Yorkshire sub-postmaster's bankruptcy, after he lost the case.

The Fujitsu boss made the remarks in an email exchange with IT security analyst Andrew Dunks in December 2006, the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry heard on Thursday.

Responding to the comments while stood outside the public inquiry in Westminster, Mr Castleton told Sky News: "I've just travelled down, and I've just had an email to say that that email appeared, I didn't know about it... 'a pretty nasty chap'. It is what I expect.

"I think I had pretty bad treatment all round from the Post Office.

"I've never even spoken to anybody from Fujitsu."

In reference to Mr Sewell, he added: "I don't even know his name, I've never spoken to him, never written to him, nothing, no contact whatsoever... It shows exactly the treatment, every single (sub-postmaster) got, and it probably continues to this day."

Mr Sewell refused to respond when Sky News correspondent Ivor Bennett asked him outside the inquiry why he made the remarks in the email exchange.

Mr Castleton, from Bridlington, was engaged in a legal fight with the Post Office after he was found to have a £25,000 shortfall at his branch.

He was one of hundreds of sub-postmasters who were prosecuted over claims they were stealing from the Post Office - but the missing money was actually due to errors in the Horizon software, which was developed by Fujitsu.

Mr Castleton was played by the actor Will Mellor in the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which has raised the profile of the inquiry and the injustice suffered by hundreds of sub-postmasters.

Mr Sewell admitted "we all protect our own companies" when pressed at the inquiry on whether he saw it as important to protect Fujitsu's overall reputation.

Read more:
Horizon developer Fujitsu says it will compensate victims
Post Office 'deceitful' if it withheld information, says Scottish first minister
Badenoch seeks urgent Fujitsu talks over Post Office compensation

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In the 2006 email exchange, Mr Sewell appeared to give words of encouragement to his colleague ahead of the court battle, which read: "See you in court then.

"Fetters lane is where they used to hang people out to dry. I don't suppose that type of thing happens any more though.

"That Castleton is a nasty chap and will be all out to rubbish the FJ (Fujitsu) name.

"It's up to you to maintain absolute strength and integrity no matter what the prosecution throw at you.

"We will all be behind you hoping you come through unscathed. Bless you."

Mr Dunks replied: "Thank you for those very kind and encouraging words. I had to pause halfway through reading it to wipe away a small tear..."

The statutory inquiry, which began in 2021 and is chaired by retired judge Sir Wyn Williams, has previously looked at the human impact of the scandal, the Horizon system rollout and the operation of the system, and is now looking into the action taken against sub-postmasters.

The inquiry was established to ensure there was a "public summary of the failings which occurred with the Horizon IT system at the Post Office" and subsequently led to the wrongful convictions of sub-postmasters.