Lawyers acting for the Post Office discussed withholding key documents as victims of the Horizon scandal tried to mount a legal action, it was revealed today.

The Post Office Inquiry heard that Amy Prime, from external firm Womble Bond Dickinson, had emailed in-house solicitor Rodric Williams in 2016 to discuss disclosure of investigation guidelines.

In the email, Prime said that, although the Post Office might face criticism later on, she proposed trying to suppress the guidelines ‘for as long as possible’. She continued: ‘For now, we’ll do what we can to avoid disclosure of these guidelines and try to do so in a way that looks legitimate. However, we are ultimately withholding a key document and this may attract some criticism from [claimants’ firm] Freeths. If you disagree with this approach do let me know.’

Email (2016) from Womble Bond Dickinson lawyer Amy Prime to Williams

Email (2016) from Womble Bond Dickinson lawyer Amy Prime to Williams

Source: Post Office Inquiry

Williams, who appeared as a witness to the inquiry today, said it was ‘regrettable’ that he had not disagreed with Prime. Asked whether he should have intervened and said this approach to disclosure was wrong, Williams said: ‘I would like to say I did that but I didn’t.’

The inquiry heard that in 2019, just a few weeks before the Bates High Court judgment backed claims by hundreds of sub-postmasters, Williams was asked for his advice on what to do about the discovery of thousands of potential new faults with the Horizon IT system. In reply the solicitor said: ‘The key risk of reviewing the [records of bugs] is that claimants have not asked for them yet. By reviewing them we are doing claimants’ work for them.’

Rodric Williams PO inquiry

Rodric Williams at this morning's inquiry

Source: Post Office Inquiry

Williams, who is now a head of legal at the Post Office and responsible for deciding on compensation issues, was regularly consulted by the organisation’s public relations team in 2014 and 2015 as more questions started to be asked about Horizon and the reliability of convictions.

He told the Post Office PR head that ‘this is getting ridiculous’ after journalist Nick Wallis asked for evidence that the system was trustworthy. He wrote a further internal email saying: ‘We don’t need to do research on Horizon. It is the system we provide to [sub-postmasters] and require them to use. If [they] don’t they can choose not to provide services for us. We are not required to bespoke our accounting system to the whims of each individual.’ He described the growing media interest in the scandal as ‘puerile’.

When the BBC enquired about Horizon he pointed out its close relationship with the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance and added: ‘I smell a rat.’

After former sub-postmaster Tim McCormack raised questions criticising Horizon, Williams emailed Post Office executive Angela Van Den Bogerd: ‘This guy is a bluffer who keeps expecting us to march to his tune.’

The hearing continues.