Former Post Office executive ‘truly sorry’ over Horizon scandal

Former Post Office head of partnerships Angela van den Bogerd has said she is “truly sorry” for the “devastation” caused to wrongly convicted subpostmasters and that she never “knowingly” did anything wrong.

Beginning her evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry in central London on Thursday, said she understood apologising “doesn’t change what’s happened”.

She told the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry on Thursday:“But I do want to say to everyone impacted by wrongful convictions and wrongful contract terminations that I am truly, truly sorry for the devastation caused to you, your family and friends.

Angela van den Bogerd, former people services director and head of partnerships at Post Office (PA Media)
Angela van den Bogerd, former people services director and head of partnerships at Post Office (PA Media)

“I hope my evidence will assist this inquiry with getting to the answers you and so many others deserve.”

After her apology she denied ever “knowingly” doing anything wrong and said she did “the best I could” in the circumstances.

She said: “I didn’t knowingly do anything wrong, and I would never knowingly do anything wrong.”

Counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC said she did not apologise in her witness statement for her role in the Horizon scandal.

Ms van den Bogerd went on: “I apologise for not getting to the answer more quickly. But with the evidence I had and the parameters of my role at the time, I did the best I could to the best of my ability.”

She told of leaving the Post Office in 2020 because of delays with the compensation scheme, saying she was “disillusioned” with the process.

Ms van den Bogerd, asked if she blames Horizon developer Fujitsu for not being “transparent” with her and the Post Office, responded: “Yes.”

She also agreed with Mr Beer that chiefs were attempting to control the narrative by using the words “exception or anomaly” to describe bugs or defects in the Horizon system.

Giving evidence to the Inquiry she also has claimed she forgot about an email in 2010 saying that cash balances in subpostmasters’ branch accounts could be remotely accessed.

A December 5 2010 email sent to her by Lynn Hobbs, the organisation’s general manager of network support, said she had “found out that Fujitsu can actually put an entry into a branch account remotely”.

But Ms van den Bogerd said to the inquiry: “I don’t actually remember receiving these emails.”

Jason Beer KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, asked: “Is what truly happening here is that you’re telling us that you don’t recall it because you know the email of December 5 2010 presents you with a problem?”

She responds: “No not all - I wish I had remembered that information.”

In her witness statement, Ms van den Bogerd insisted she was not aware of remote access to accounts until 2011.

The inquiry heard that while giving evidence in the Mr Bates vs the Post Office High Court case in March 2019, Ms van den Bogerd said she first knew about remote access “in the last year or so”. Mr Beer asked: “That’s false isn’t it?”

She replied: “At the time I didn’t think it was.”

Mr Beer said there were also emails in January 2011 and April 2014 telling her about remote access.

The inquiry was shown a 2014 email sent from communications worker Melanie Corfield to several Post Office bosses including Angela van den Bogerd.

It read: “Our current line, if we’re asked about remote access being used to change branch data or transactions, is simply ‘this is not and has never been possible’.”

Ms van den Bogerd said she does not remember if she challenged the “false lines”, despite knowing this was the case.

She said she “must have missed” the email, saying: “If it had registered with me, I would have challenged it.”

She insisted it was not a “cover-up”.

Ms van den Bogerd held various roles throughout her 35-year career at the Post Office, starting off as a network change operations manager, then on to head of network services, head of partnerships, director of support services and the director of people and change.

She was appointed as the Post Office’s business improvement director in 2018, but stepped down from the role in 2020.

Coronation Street actress Katherine Kelly played her in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which first aired on January 1.

Errors in the Post Office’s Horizon IT system meant money appeared to be missing from many branch accounts when, in fact, it was not.

As a result, the government-owned organisation prosecuted more than 700 subpostmasters who were handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015.

The scandal represents one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK legal history. Since then, the Court of Appeal has quashed the convictions of more than 100 subpostmasters.

Additional reporting by PA