The Football Association of Wales’ (FAW) appointment of a former Post Office executive, who tried to mislead a High Court judge in the Horizon IT scandal, has been questioned by a Welsh Labour MP.
According to a source, the full board of the FAW Council will discuss the appointment of Angela Van den Bogerd as head of people following a letter to its CEO from Jack Sargeant, MP for Alyn and Deeside.
Sargeant expressed his concerns that FAW had appointed Van den Bogerd despite her involvement in a national scandal that saw subpostmasters have their lives destroyed after being wrongly blamed for accounting shortfalls in their branches. Many were prosecuted for crimes, which a High Court judgment ruled were actually caused by computer errors.
Subpostmasters were sent to prison, heavily fined, forced to do community service and many were bankrupted. Thousands were affected.
A Computer Weekly investigation in 2009 revealed that subpostmasters, who run Post Office branches, were being blamed for unexplained financial losses, which they claimed were caused by errors made by the Horizon system. The Post Office denied this, and many subpostmasters were subsequently prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with prison sentences, community service, criminal records and heavy fines among the injustices they suffered as a result. It has become one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history (see timeline below).
Part of the problem was the Post Office’s insistence that Horizon was robust and its denial that Horizon errors were causing unexplained accounting shortfalls. In the multimillion-pound Horizon group litigation, in which subpostmasters were proved right that Horizon was causing shortfalls, High Court judge Peter Fraser described the Post Office’s stance as “amounting to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the Earth is flat”.
Van den Bogerd was the most senior Post Office executive who gave evidence and was cross-examined in court during a recent group litigation action brought by hundreds of subpostmasters.
When Fraser handed down his judgment on the first trial in the court action, which was a huge victory for the subpostmasters, he was highly critical of Van den Bogerd.
In the 300-page judgment handed down on 15 March 2019, he said: “There were two specific matters where [Van den Bogerd] did not give me frank evidence, and sought to obfuscate matters, and mislead me.”
Van den Bogerd left the Post Office quietly in May 2019, before being recently appointed head of people at FAW.
Sargeant wrote to FAW CEO Jonathan Ford, outlining his concerns. He said Ford should be aware of van den Bogerd’s involvement in the Post Office Horizon scandal and what Fraser had said about her in his judgement.
“The judge’s comments and the considerations of the victims of the scandal across Wales and the UK should be at the forefront of your mind,” wrote Sargeant.
FAW had not responded to Computer weekly’s questions at the time of publishing.
Earlier this month, former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells was forced to resign from her position as chair of Imperial College Healthcare Trust as a result of mounting pressure for her to resign due to her role in the Horizon scandal.
Alan Bates, the former subpostmaster who led the campaign for justice over the last two decades, ran a Post Office in Craig-y-Don, north Wales, before becoming a victim of the Horizon errors.
On Van den Bogerd he questioned the level of research that was done by FAW before appointing her. “She was hugely involved in the scandal,” he added.
Noel Thomas from Gaerwen in Anglesey worked for the Post Office for 42 years. His problems started in 2003, when he discovered a deficit of £6,000. Further problems occurred in 2005, when the Post Office told him he owed £50,000. He was later convicted of false accounting and spent his 60th birthday in jail.