Post Office spin doctor said he was in a 'corporate cover up' - years before apology issued to Horizon victims

A former Post Office communications director told fellow employees he was at "the heart of a corporate cover-up", at the same time as sub-postmaster prosecutions were taking place and years before an apology was made to victims.

The inquiry into faulty Horizon software, and the associated prosecution of 700 sub-postmasters for theft and false accounting, is taking place to establish a clear account of the implementation and failure of the Fujitsu created software.

As well as the wrongful convictions many more sub-postmasters racked up large debts, lost homes, livelihoods, and reputations as they borrowed heavily to plug Horizon's incorrectly generated shortfalls in their Post Office branches.

The issue has received renewed attention after the January airing of ITV drama Mr Bates v The Post Office.

An email presented to the inquiry on Tuesday showed the Post Office's former group communications and corporate affairs director Mark Davies believed he was part of a cover-up and conspiracy.

"It's fascinating to be part of a conspiracy. To be at the heart of a corporate cover-up," Mr Davies said in an email to Post Office communications staff, a legal team member, and another director.

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At the time the email was sent, in January 2015, the Post Office was prosecuting sub-postmasters using data from Horizon.

It wasn't until 2019 that an apology was issued to sub-postmasters as part of their successful High Court challenge of Horizon and related prosecutions.

'Blaming the journalists'

Despite this, it was known at the time that branch accounts could be accessed and altered remotely by the maker Fujitsu or by the Post Office IT helpdesk.

Mr Davies, appearing at the inquiry, said he thought this remote access was only used once when asked why one of his employees said the idea of remote access was "totally loony" and a "conspiracy theory".

Emails sent by him were consistently "blaming the journalists" for asking questions about Horizon failings, a barrister for the inquiry Julian Blake said.

It was a characterisation accepted by Mr Davies, who said: "With the benefit of hindsight, they absolutely, some of [the emails] look ludicrous, I agree."

A report into Horizon flaws conducted by forensic accountants Second Sight commissioned by Post Office had identified bugs but Mr Davies and his team viewed its authors as lacking independence.

Second Sight were "colluding" with sub-postmasters, Mr Davies said in an email to the Post Office's then chief executive Paula Vennells.

Various emails shown to Mr Davies on Tuesday described journalists and Second Sight as "attackers" and media reports as "sloppy".

Additional reporting by Evan Dale.