Disclosure of Nick Read document would ‘undermine’ investigation – Post Office

The Post Office is unable to disclose a document detailing allegations made against chief executive Nick Read because it would “undermine” the investigation, a company director has said.

Ben Tidswell, a senior independent director on the Post Office Board, confirmed to the Business and Trade Committee that a barrister-led investigation into Mr Read’s conduct was under way, in a letter dated February 29.

Mr Tidswell said an 80-page document referenced by former chairman Henry Staunton at the committee last week could actually be a 12-page document which includes some allegations against Mr Read, as well as others.

Mr Staunton told the committee that a document was compiled by the company’s HR director after they “fell out” with Mr Read.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton gave evidence to the Business and Trade Select Committee (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

In a letter from Mr Tidswell to chairman of the committee Liam Byrne, he said the investigation process was due to conclude by the end of March or early April.

He told the committee: “It appeared as though Mr Staunton, when he gave evidence on Tuesday, was holding up the terms of reference for a Speak Up process.

“However, we think he may actually have been referring to a 12-page Speak Up document which raises a number of allegations, some of which I believe relate to Mr Read, but a number of which do not.

“In accordance with Post Office’s Speak Up process on whistleblowing, these allegations are being investigated by an external barrister.

“This investigation is still ongoing and Mr Read and others within Post Office are fully co-operating with this investigation.

“At present, it is anticipated that the investigation will be concluded by the end of March/early April.”

Detailing the reasons why the Post Office could not disclose the document, Mr Tidswell said there were also legal restrictions under the Data Protection Act.

He continued: “Disclosure of the Speak Up document or the terms of reference would potentially undermine the integrity of Post Office’s Speak Up process (if individuals considered that their Speak Up complaints could subsequently be disclosed) and also undermine the ongoing investigation that is being conducted.

“There are also legal restrictions, including compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018, which mean that Post Office is unable at present to disclose a copy of the Speak Up document or the terms of reference.

“The Speak Up document and the terms of reference contain the personal data of a number of individuals and we do not have their permission, nor the permission from the author of the Speak Up document, to disclose their personal data.

“Post Office does not consider that providing a redacted version of the Speak Up document or the terms of reference would assist given that, once personal data has been redacted, there would be very little to disclose.”

The Horizon IT scandal saw more than 700 subpostmasters prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

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