Post Office confirms NDA waiver as Horizon scandal inquiry calls for witnesses to come forward – including those in Chesterfield

The man leading the public inquiry into the wrongful convictions of subpostmasters has reiterated his call for witnesses after the Post Office confirmed it will not seek to enforce gagging orders against them.

Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 6:59 pm

Sir Wyn Williams, Chair of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, is once again urging people involved in training, assisting, auditing or investigating subpostmasters to come forward.

The former High Court judge made the call on Monday as he confirmed that the Post Office will not seek to enforce the terms of any non-disclosure agreement (NDA) it may have with current or former employees, subpostmasters, branch managers or assistants, or Directors in relation to the inquiry’s terms of reference.

There are certain caveats to the waiver, however, which are set out in correspondence published on the inquiry website.

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Chesterfield's Harjinder Butoy outside the Court of Appeal after his conviction was quashed. Picture from Hudgell Solicitors.

It is believed that some of the people involved in training and other aspects may have worked at the Post Office’s Chesterfield service centre at Future Walk offices on West Bars.

Monday's announcement comes after previous commitments secured by Sir Wyn to apply individual NDA waivers on a case-by-case basis.

The move is hoped to encourage more people to respond to a recent call for evidence relating to phases 3 and 4 of the inquiry.

Phase 3 will focus on ‘Operation: training, assistance, resolution of disputes, knowledge and rectification of errors in the Horizon system'; Phase 4 will cover ‘Action against subpostmasters and others: policy making, audits and investigations, civil and criminal proceedings, knowledge of and responsibility for failures in investigation and disclosure’.

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Sir Wyn Williams said: “I have been made aware of potential concerns regarding the ability for certain persons to engage with the Inquiry in light of obligations those persons may have under non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with Post Office Limited.

“I hope that this announcement alleviates the above concerns and that any and all persons with relevant information who may have been previously deterred from engaging or participating with the Inquiry may now feel free to do so.”

More than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting between 2000 and 2014 over faulty information from the Horizon IT system, which identified incorrect accounting errors at branches across the UK.

It is the largest case of wrongful conviction in British history.

Horizon was introduced into the Post Office Network in 1999 and was used for tasks such as transactions, accounting and stocktaking.

Former Chesterfield subpostmaster Harjinder Butoy is among those who were wrongfully convicted.

In 2008, he was found guilty of stealing £206,000 from the post office he ran – a crime he did not commit.

The dad-of-three endured 18 months behind bars before finally having his conviction overturned at the Court of Appeal last year.

The chair of the public inquiry into the scandal has the power to compel witnesses to give evidence but is inviting people with information which may assist the inquiry to make themselves known.

Those with information relating to phases 3 and 4 are invited to respond to the call for evidence by June 30.

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