Post Office Investigator Denies Acting Like ‘Mafia Gangster’ Toward Subpostmaster

A Post Office investigator has denied that he and his colleagues “behaved like mafia gangsters” seeking to collect “rewards through threats and lies” from subpostmasters.

Stephen Bradshaw, a veteran post office employee, has been accused of intimidating branch managers while investigating allegations of missing money in accounts.

The criminal cases were based on evidence from the faulty Horizon computer system and led to one of the worst miscarriages of justice ever committed in Britain.

Giving evidence at a public inquiry into the scandal on Thursday, Bradshaw continued to insist his investigations had been “professional” and claimed the problems with Horizon had never been passed on to investigators like him.

Bradshaw was involved in the criminal investigation of nine subpostmasters, including Lisa Brennan, a former counter clerk at a post office in Huyton, near Liverpool, who was falsely accused of stealing £3,000 in 2003.

Bradshaw has also been accused by fellow Merseyside assistant manager Rita Threlfall of asking him the color of his eyes and what jewelery he was wearing before saying: “Well, then we’ve got a description of you for when they come,” during his interview. under caution in August 2010.

Another deputy postmistress, Jacqueline McDonald, claimed she was “bullied” by Bradshaw during an investigation into her alleged £50,000 shortfall.

Responding to Ms McDonald’s claims in her statement, the witness said: “I reject the accusation that I am a liar.

“I also refute the claim that Jacqueline McDonald was intimidated, from the moment we arrived, the auditor was already on site, conversations were initially (held) with Mr. McDonald, the reason for our attendance was explained, he was kept informed to Mr. and Mrs. McDonald. as the day progressed.”

The investigator added: “Ms. Jacqueline McDonald is also wrong in claiming that Post Office investigators behaved like mafia gangsters seeking to collect their reward with threats and lies.”

When presented with a comment in an interview when he told Brennan that she should “get up earlier”, Bradshaw said: “I apologize if she doesn’t like that kind of terminology, it wasn’t meant to be harmful to her.”

Inquiry lawyer Julian Blake highlighted an interview with Ms McDonald when Mr Bradshaw accused her of “telling a load of lies”.

He compared the language to a “1970s TV detective show,” but Bradshaw defended his conduct, saying the interview was not intended to be “nice.”

He added that Ms McDonald’s legal team at the trial had not argued that the interview was “oppressive or aggressive”.

Bradshaw, a Post Office employee since 1978, said he was not “technically minded” and insisted he was “not told” about the problems with Horizon’s IT system.

He also insisted there were “no concerns” about the quality of his investigations.

“It seems like we haven’t been given any knowledge, from the top down, about errors and defects,” he said. “It wasn’t a waterfall from Fujitsu, the Post Office board, to our level as research director.

“I had no reason to suspect at the time that there was any problem with the Horizon system because they hadn’t told us.”

Bradshaw was shown an email he sent to a colleague in 2010 with links to early reports about the scandal, but insisted again: “I was not informed of any problems with the Horizon system.”

In his witness statement, Bradshaw said for each of the nine criminal investigations he was involved in: “There were no concerns, the investigation was carried out in a professional manner throughout.”

Before his evidence began, Mr Bradshaw was warned that he had the right not to incriminate himself when answering questions.

He told the inquiry he now “regrets” signing witness statements in criminal proceedings which had actually been drafted by lawyers insisting there were no problems with the Horizon system.

He joined the investigations team in 2000 and has worked at the Post Office for the last 45 years.

Former Post Office investigators have told the Inquiry that bonuses were offered for successful prosecutions and money was seized from subpostmasters.

Bradshaw said at today’s hearing that he received bonuses, but denied they were related to the number of cases he took on.

In a 2010 self-assessment, he told his bosses that he had personally intervened in Ms. McDonald’s criminal case when the integrity of the Horizon system was called into question.

“I rejected the lawyer’s recommendation and persuaded him that a trial would be necessary, as the reason given by the defendant (Horizon’s integrity) would have a wider impact on the business if the trial did not take place.” he wrote.

Today, Bradshaw characterized self-assessment as an “extravagant way of explaining what happened that day.”

“At that time, as far as I remember, it was not proven that Horizon had such a big flaw,” he said. “I wouldn’t write it like that now, but it’s a self-assessment of the way a company wanted it done.”

Bradshaw’s questioning comes a day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced new legislation designed to exonerate Post Office branch managers who were convicted in the Horizon IT scandal.

He told the Commons: “This is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history,” and has committed £1bn for payments to affected subpostmasters and their families.

The Government has already paid out around £138 million to more than 2,700 claimants under three Post Office compensation schemes.

“The lives and reputations of people who worked hard to serve their communities were destroyed through no fault of their own,” Mr Sunak said. “Victims must obtain justice and compensation.”

In 2019, a High Court judge ruled that the Horizon IT system contained “errors and defects” and there was a “significant risk” that the system would cause shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts.

The Public Inquiry, led by retired judge Sir Wyn Williams, was first established in September 2020 and held hearings in 2022 into the human impact on subpostmasters who were investigated and prosecuted by the Post Office. But public and media interest in the scandal has been supercharged by the ITV drama Mr Bates v The Post Office.

Attorney General Alex Chalk admitted Thursday morning that the scandal will cost taxpayers “a fortune” and said that if Fujitsu, which designed the Horizon system, is found guilty in the investigation, the company “should face the consequences.” consequences”.

Current and former Fujitsu employees are due to testify at the investigation next week.

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