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Prosecutions of sub postmasters by the Department for Work and Pensions could be “tainted” as Sky News reveals officials worked with now discredited Post Office investigators to secure convictions.

Around 100 prosecutions of Post Office staff were led by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) between 2001 and 2006.

It is understood that these usually involved the cashing in of stolen order books.

The Post Office itself wrongly prosecuted hundreds of sub-postmasters between 1999 and 2015 – based on evidence from the faulty Horizon accounting system.

The role of government

A Sky News investigation, however, has discovered that information was shared between Post Office investigation teams and the DWP.

Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Robert Neill KC, said as a result DWP convictions “need to be looked at”.

More on Post Office Scandal

“I hadn’t been aware of that, for example, there may have been material in the DWP case as a result of joint investigations – which suggests a disclosure failure,” he added.

“I think that’s the area they need to look at if we are saying their approach was tainted from the beginning – in the way the investigators adopted things – then joint operations I suspect would be just as tainted arguably as something where it has been the Post Office on its own.”

What was known?

A 2003 DWP report into fraud describes “joint working” and the “sharing of information” with the Post Office.

It also outlines a “Fraud Prevention Board” established by the DWP and Royal Mail Group plc which includes “the exchange of information that directly assists fraud prevention and investigations”.

In addition, separately, a 2003 letter seen by Sky News also indicates a connection between DWP and Post Office investigations.

The letter, from the then post affairs minister Stephen Timms, references the case of Roger Allen, a sub-postmaster from Norwich.

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It states: “Subsequent investigations by the police, the Post Office Investigation Department and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) led to a prosecution by DWP…”

Roger Allen was convicted in 2004 of stealing pension payments and was sentenced to six months in prison. He died in March of this year.

Mr Allen had pleaded guilty to spare his wife – after his lawyer told him in a letter that there had been “an indication from the Crown that they may discontinue the proceedings against Mrs Allen were you minded to plead guilty”.

Despite the Criminal Cases Review Commission deciding Mr Allen had grounds to appeal against his conviction – it was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2021.

DWP prosecutions are not covered in upcoming government legislation that will overturn Post Office convictions.

Roger Allen. Pic: Keren Simpson
Image:
Roger Allen. Pic: Keren Simpson

Fighting to clear names

Keren Simpson, Roger’s daughter, has vowed to fight to clear his name posthumously.

She describes her father as a “proud” and “honest” man who “couldn’t face or deal” with the fact his conviction would not be overturned.

She says “in the end he obviously gave up” and there is “very little surviving evidence” because of the passage of time.

“He’s the innocent one,” Keren states. “I don’t see why he’s got to try and prove it. They have got to try and prove it, and show what evidence they actually had on my dad.

“Because the Department of Work and Pensions have put a statement out saying there was surveillance and witness testimonies and physical evidence to show it.

“Show me it.”

Roger Allen. Pic: Keren Simpson
Image:
Roger Allen. Pic: Keren Simpson

Investigation failures?

Sky News has also seen documents that suggest failures by DWP investigators in a different case in the 2000s.

It involved a sub-postmaster who decided to plead not guilty and was acquitted of stealing by a jury.

In one extract it says a “senior investigating officer” was “willing to admit in open court that (they) had been neglectful in (their) duty in securing evidence”.

Another document appears to show a failure to review transaction logs used as evidence against the sub-postmaster.

Some logs appear to show that the accused did not cash the “dockets”, used to collect pension payments.

Other transaction logs indicate the sub-postmaster was not present at a particular branch when the theft was alleged to have occurred.

Christopher Head
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Christopher Head

Chris Head, former sub-postmaster and a campaigner for others, has also seen the documents and says they point to a “deeply flawed” DWP investigation.

“…they failed to obtain all transaction logs for the entirety of this case, but the ones that they have, they have they clearly haven’t looked at.”

He believes there are “more cases out there” which could be “part of a miscarriage of justice”.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these claims.

“DWP investigates offences against the welfare system to protect taxpayers’ money, and between 2001 and 2006 a small number of Post Office staff were convicted for welfare-related fraud.

“These cases involved complex investigations and were backed by evidence including filmed surveillance, stolen benefit books and witness statements – they did not rely on Horizon evidence, and this has been accepted by the Court of Appeal.”

The Post Office says it “continues to help other prosecuting authorities to ensure that they have every assistance in taking their work forward”.

“This includes sharing all the information we have in relation to prosecutions which have been brought by other prosecutors.”

Meanwhile, Lord Sikka has tabled an amendment in the House of Lords to the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill to include all DWP convictions.

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‘I was told this was a wonder drug but not warned about the deathly consequences’: 100 faces of infected blood scandal

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'I was told this was a wonder drug but not warned about the deathly consequences': 100 faces of infected blood scandal

“Losing Gary, my soul mate, was beyond painful,” says Kathryn Croucher, whose husband died aged 42 in 2010.

“Every day was a struggle dealing with the knowledge he was HIV and Hepatitis C positive.”

“Mum always said she was given a death sentence,” recalls Ronan Fitzgerald. His mother, Jane, died aged 54 after being infected with Hepatitis C when she was 16. “It was a ticking time bomb.”

Updates:
Scandal was ‘not an accident’
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The faces of the infected blood scandal.

More than 30,000 Britons were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C after being given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Around 3,000 people have died as a result of the scandal, while many more still live under the shadow of health problems, debilitating treatments and stigma. Now, the findings of a public inquiry, first announced in 2017, will finally be published.

These are 100 faces of infected blood victims that either they, or their families, have shared with Sky News.

Click the images to read their stories.

Sky News will have full coverage of the infected blood report on TV, online and on the Sky News app today.

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Sky News would like to thank everyone who contributed to this project.

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Julian Assange wins High Court bid to bring appeal against extradition to US

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Julian Assange wins High Court bid to bring appeal against extradition to US

Julian Assange will be allowed to appeal against his extradition to the United States.

Two judges responded today to US assurances that Mr Assange will not face the death penalty – and can rely on the First Amendment right to free speech if he faced a trial for spying.

The WikiLeaks founder faces prosecution in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information after the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017. Pic: Reuters
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017. Pic: Reuters

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a police van after being arrested in London in 2019. Pic: Reuters
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a police van after being arrested in London in 2019. Pic: Reuters

Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange, criticised the assurances of Joe Biden’s US administration at the hearing. He said: “Based on the principle of the separation of powers, the US court can and will apply US law, whatever the executive may say or do.”

He added most of the promises were “blatantly inadequate” – but they had accepted the promise about the death penalty.

In written submissions, the barrister said while the assurance over the death penalty was “an unambiguous executive promise”, the other assurance does not give “any reliable promise as to future action”.

The barrister added: “What needs to be conclusively removed is the risk that he will be prevented from relying on the first amendment on grounds of nationality.”

But James Lewis KC, representing the US government, insisted the “judicial branch of the United States will take due notice of this solemn assurance given by its government in the course of international relations”.

In written submissions, he said there is “no question” that Assange, if extradited, “will be entitled to the full panoply of due process trial rights, including the right to raise, and seek to rely upon, the first amendment as a defence”.

He later told the court: “The assurance does make it clear that he will not be discriminated against because of his nationality.

“He can and will be able to raise all those arguments and his nationality will not prejudice a fair trial.”

Today’s decision is the latest chapter in 13 years of legal battles and detentions for Australian-born Mr Assange.

A woman attends a protest outside the High Court on the day of an extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska
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Supporters of Mr Assange have been gathering outside the High Court. Pic: Reuters

A police officers looks on near a placard outside of the Royal Court of Justice.
Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

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The US authorities want to put Mr Assange on trial over 18 charges, nearly all under the Espionage Act.

They claim his actions with WikiLeaks were reckless, damaged national security, and endangered the lives of agents.

During a two-day hearing in February, lawyers for Mr Assange asked for permission to challenge a judge’s dismissal of the majority of his case to prevent his extradition.

In March, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson dismissed most of Mr Assange’s legal arguments – but said unless assurances were given by the US, he would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds.

These assurances are that Assange would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment – which protects freedom of speech in the US – that he is not “prejudiced at trial” due to his nationality, and that the death penalty is not imposed.

People attend a protest outside the High Court 
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

People attend a protest outside the High Court
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Pic: Reuters

Supporters of Mr Assange have already been gathering outside the High Court to continue their calls for his release.

Mr Assange is currently being held in London’s high security Belmarsh prison.

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Hunt for two suspects after man dies in Glasgow stabbing

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Hunt for two suspects after man dies in Glasgow stabbing

Detectives are on the hunt for two men following a fatal stabbing in Glasgow at the weekend.

Police Scotland said the force received a report of a man being attacked and stabbed in Saracen Street, Possil, at around 5pm on Saturday.

Emergency services attended and took the 27-year-old victim to the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where he later died.

The death is being treated as “suspicious” ahead of the completion of a post-mortem examination.

Investigating officers have since established that two men were involved in the attack.

The suspects have been described as white and in their 30s.

One was wearing a light-blue top and black shorts, while the other was dressed in a white top, black shorts and black trainers.

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Officers have been gathering and reviewing CCTV footage from in and around the neighbourhood as the probe continues.

Additional patrols have also been mobilised to the area, and anyone with information or concerns can approach these officers.

Read more from Sky News:
The stories behind 100 victims of infected blood scandal
Probe launched after man dies in police custody

Detective Inspector Lesley-Ann McGee said: “It was a warm, sunny day and there were lots of people out enjoying the weather in Saracen.

“I am asking them to get in touch with us with any information that could assist us in establishing the motive for this attack. If you saw, heard or know anything please contact us.

“I’m also asking people with dashcam or doorbell recording equipment to check for any footage that could assist our investigation.

“A family is mourning the loss of a loved one and it’s imperative we are able to answer how their loved one died.”

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