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On behalf of the Claimant

Witness: A Burke
No of Statement: 1st
Exhibits: AB1
Dated: 27 February 2019
THE POST OFFICE GROUP LITIGATION

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CLAIM NO: HQ16XO1238, HQ17X02637 & HQ17X04248

BETWEEN:

ALAN BATES & OTHERS

Claimant

- and –

POST OFFICE LIMITED

Defendant

AMENDED WITNESS STATEMENT OF ANGELA BURKE

1. INTRODUCTION

1. I, Angela Burke of 123 Main Road, Newport, Brough, HU15 2QS DO SAY AS FOLLOWS:

2. The matters stated in this witness statement are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Unless otherwise stated, the facts contained in this witness statement are within my own
knowledge and are true. Where they are not within my own knowledge they are derived from
sources to which I refer and are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

3. Exhibited to this witness statement is a paginated bundle of documents marked AB1.


References in this witness statement in the form [AB1/number] are to pages of that exhibit.

4. I understand that the trial in this action is related to technical issues related to the Horizon
system, and I have been shown a copy of the Horizon Issues which I understand are to be
determined at this trial. I consider that my evidence is relevant to Issues 1, 2, 4, 9 and 15.
Where I have provided further information such as details as to my experience and the branch
I worked in, I have done so simply for the purpose of providing relevant background so that my
experience of the operation of the Horizon system can be understood in context.

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2. BACKGROUND

5. I am a former Subpostmistress and Branch Assistant. I have held various roles working for
Post Office and in Sub Post Office branches since I was 16 years old. My most recent role was
working in the Newport Post Office branch (“the Branch”) as a Branch Assistant, together
with my husband, Chris, who was the Subpostmaster. The Branch closed on 5 October 2017
under the Network Transformation. I still work in our greeting cards and stationary business
that was linked to the Branch.

3. OPERATING THE BRANCH

6. Chris and I worked together to run the Branch, and we had a part-time assistant. Chris had
another job as well so he wasn’t in the Post Office all of the time. It was a small enough branch
that usually one person could run it on their own.

7. There were two terminals at the Branch – the main, Gateway terminal and a second terminal
that was placed in a slightly better position within the Branch for serving. The money for cards
and stationary was taken over the counter, but placed in a different till to the Post Office money.
As the card shop only took about £100 - £200 a week it was easy to keep the money separate.

8. Chris and I had no major issues with unexplained shortfalls during our time running the Branch.
We could be £1 out here and there but it was never anything more than that.

9. We used to balance the Branch every week, but this then changed to monthly. We did a cash
declaration on the Horizon system every day, which allowed us to stay on top of the cash and
ensure that we had balanced. If we had left this to our monthly balancing it would be too far to
think back. We also had CCTV installed in the Branch to assist with tracing any problems and
for security.

4. 9 MAY 2016 HORIZON OUTAGE

10. On 9 May 2016, I was serving on the second counter and shortly after opening I noticed that
the system was slow. During transactions a sand timer appeared on the screen which indicated
that it was taking time to connect.

11. One customer I was serving just after 9am had come in for a cash withdrawal from a HSBC
card account. The sand timer appeared during this transaction when authorising payment and
then it timed out and a receipt printed which said “Disconnected Session Recovery Code:
0386670 Do not attempt to reverse any transaction from this session until this counter has

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been successfully recovered” [AB1/1]. This receipt showed the value of nil which I knew meant {F/1460}
that the transaction had not gone through. I told the customer that I thought there was a
problem with the system.

12. Because the system was taking twice as long to do anything, a queue started forming in the
shop. Chris wasn’t working in the Branch with me that morning but he noticed there was a
queue and came in to help. I told Chris how the system was being slow so Chris jumped on
the main terminal and logged on (at 9:20am). Once Chris was logged on, I moved across to
serve from that terminal and left the second terminal I had been using.

13. Once I was using the main terminal, I served a customer who was wanting a withdrawal of
£180 from his card account and of £73 from his wife’s card account. His wife was not with him
in the branch. their card accounts. I processed these withdrawals in the usual way, both were
authorised, the money appeared on my stack to pay out to the customer and I paid the
customer the money. The “stack” is the running total which appears in a column at the right-
hand side of the screen, which works out what the balance is to pay to a customer.

14. At around 9:28am I moved on to serve the next customer who wanted a £150 withdrawal from
his TSB card account. As this was another withdrawal, and I was being very cautious because
of the problems with the other terminal, I didn’t press “Enter” to clear my screen between
transactions and continued in the same session. Again, I processed this in the usual way. The
customer put his card into the machine and entered his pin number, the customer removed his
card, a receipt printed that this had been authorised and the money appeared on my stack to
pay to the customer. I paid the customer his £150 and gave him the receipt.

15. When I then went to press the “Enter” button to clear my screen, the sand timer appeared and
I could see that the system was running slow like the other terminal had. At around 9:30am
some receipts printed out that said “Disconnected session Recovery Code: 3580193 Do not
attempt to reverse any transaction from this session until this counter has been successfully
recovered” [AB1/2]. These receipts listed the transactions for the £180, £73 and £150 {F/1461}
withdrawals. The customers had left by this point. There was no instructions on screen telling
me what to do, nor did I have opportunity to seek guidance as it all happened quickly and there
were customers waiting to be served.

16. I served two more customers after this, one for a mobile phone top up which cancelled [AB1/3] {F/1462}
and another cash withdrawal at 9:34am which declined [AB1/4] so I did not pay the customer {F/1463}
the money.

17. At 9:36am another receipt printed which said “Recovery Failed” [AB1/5]. The £180 and £73 {F/1454}
withdrawals I had done earlier were showing on this receipt but not the £150 one. I initially

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thought this meant that the £150 withdrawal had gone through and that there was a problem
with the others, but once I sat down to study a Transaction Log that I had printed off [AB1/6] I {F/1465}
could see that the £180 and £73 transactions were showing on the Transaction Log but the
£150 withdrawal was missing.

18. With all of these problems happening, I knew it was too risky to keep the Branch open so I
served a few more customers who only wanted to buy cards from the shop and then I told
customers that unfortunately I was going to need to close the office due to some technical
problems. The customers all understood and said that they would come back later. I then sat
down and ticked off the transactions I had carried out that morning on the Transaction Log and
I could see that the £150 transaction was not showing. I then phoned the Post Office helpline.

19. I do not know why or for what reason the Horizon system had failed to record on the
Transaction Log the payment I had been authorised to make but the effect of this error would
be to cause a shortfall in the Branch account of £150 when I next came to balance. As I
mention above, the “Recovery Failed” printout did not state that the £150 transaction had failed,
and there was no alert given to me on the Horizon system that this error had occurred. There
was therefore no means through the Horizon system for the discrepancy to be identified or for
its cause to be established in my situation.

20. When I called the helpline, I was told by the supervisor that there was a nationwide problem
with Horizon and that if the transaction was not on my Transaction Log then it had not gone
through. I knew that this was not right because I had seen that the transaction had authorised,
a receipt had printed which said authorised and I had been watching my stack carefully and it
told me to pay £150 to the customer. However, from the perspective of the Horizon system,
the transaction simply did not exist. Therefore, the net effect to the Branch was that £150 had
been paid out seemingly with no justification and therefore this was a loss which would need
to be accounted for at the time of the next balance.

21. Chris and I obtained a transcript of my 9 May 2016 telephone call to the helpline through
making a subject access request to Post Office. The transcript is included in my exhibit at
[AB1/7-11]. Having read the transcript it broadly matches my recollection of what was said on {F/1466}
the call.

22. In order to try to rectify the situation and prove that there was a fault with the Horizon system,
I decided that I needed to track down the customer and seek his assistance. I did not know
his name or contact details but I was able to identify him through the CCTV with the assistance
of women who worked in the sorting office and find his address.

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23. I went to the customer’s house and I explained that there had been a problem with the
computers in the Branch and that my system was £150 down following his cash withdrawal.
The customer was happy to help me and showed me his receipt which clearly said authorised.
{F/1467}
He provided me with the receipt [AB1/12].

24. Furthermore, on 12 May 2016 I went with the customer to his bank, TSB, in Goole. The
customer asked me to explain to the bank cashier what I needed. I explained to the cashier
that I worked at the Post Office and that there had been a national outage and the cashier said
that the bank knew about this. The cashier printed a bank statement for the customer, which
showed that the £150 cash withdrawal had left his bank account and the customer let me have
{F/1470}
a copy of this [AB1/13-14].

25. On 13 May 2016 Chris spoke to a lady at Post Office Support Centre and on that call he
requested a copy of the telephone transcript of my call with the helpline. His call was escalated
and he was able to speak to a Senior Manager, Kendra Dickinson, who told Chris that we could
expect to receive a transaction correction for the £150 transaction.

26. On 17 May 2016, a transaction correction for £150 came up on the Horizon system. We were
careful to take a printout of the balance snapshot prior to accepting the transaction correction
[AB1/15] and afterwards [AB1/16], in case anything went wrong when we accepted it. The {F/1475}
{F/1476}
transaction correction worked and balanced out the £150. We noticed however that the
transaction correction had settled the amount to Lloyds bank and not to TSB. Chris spoke to
Post Office about this and they said they had done this because they didn’t have a code for
TSB. We knew that this couldn’t be right as surely that meant that something would not
reconcile. Ms Dickinson said that she would look into this in her 23 May 2016 letter to Chris
{F/1480}
[AB1/17-18] but we never heard again about this.

27. I was relieved that the issue was resolved in my case, but it took my being able to physically
trace the customer and secure his assistance to enable me to get the evidence I needed for
me to be listened to by Post Office. Based upon my initial experience of the helpline, I do not
think that Post Office would have resolved this if I had not had the clear proof that the £150
transaction had in fact been authorised and that the money had left the customer’s bank
account. I found this very troubling as to expect me to do this in any other circumstances, both
to undertake the necessary tracing of a transaction and to prove that a discrepancy was the
fault of the Horizon system, which had no record that any anomaly had occurred, would be
very difficult if not impossible.

STATEMENT OF TRUTH

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I believe the contents of this statement to be true.

Signed

……………………………….
Angela Burke

Date 27 February 2019

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