A Post Office investigator who dismissed Horizon victims as ‘crooks’ was given cash bonuses for each postmaster that was convicted, it emerged last night.
Long-serving employee Gary Thomas told the Post Office Horizon inquiry an incentive scheme including ‘bonus objectives’ had influenced his behaviour as an investigator.
In one email exchange with a colleague while he was the lead investigator in the case of posthumously cleared postmaster Julian Wilson, the security team worker said he wanted to prove there was ‘no ‘Case for the Justice of Thieving Subposters’.’
Mr Wilson was wrongfully convicted of stealing £27,000 at his Post Office in Astwood Bank, Worcestershire, in 2008. He died aged 67 from bowl cancer in 2016 and didn’t live to see his name cleared.
His conviction was overturned five years later in 2021. His widow, Karen, has since said her husband had talked about suicide and believed the stressed caused by the Horizon IT scandal had contributed to his early death.
It comes as campaigner Alan Bates has said the legal fight will continue for some postmasters after the Government made an initial offer of just £75,000 compensation to those who were hounded by the Post Office – and had to pay back cash – but who were never convicted of any offence.
Mr Thomas was shown an email chain between himself and a colleague in 2015 as he gave evidence to the inquiry in which he said he was ‘pleased’ to get documents relating to Mr Wilson’s case, reported The Telegraph.
When asked why, he wrote back: ‘Because I want to prove that there is FFFFiiinnn no “Case for the Justice of Thieving Subpostmasters” and that we were the best Investigators they ever had and they were all crooks!!’
He admitted during giving evidence his words were ‘absolutely disgraceful’ and he was ’embarrassed’ for inferring that everyone was guilty.
Shamed former Post Office chief Paula Vennells has already succumbed to mounting pressure and handed back her CBE over the fallout, and now she may be forced to pay back £2million in bonuses if the inquiry finds her as a ‘guilty party’.
Postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake told the BBC that removing her bonuses ‘could be a sanction we place on her’.
Ms Vennells, 64, pocketed more than £100,000 a year in bonuses on top of her £320,000 a year wage.
It saw her money swell by £2.2million over her seven-year tenure as Post Office chief from 2012 until she stepped down in 2019 – the same year she received her biggest payout of £245,000, reported The Times.
It emerged on Wednesday that hundreds of wrongly-convicted branch managers could have their names cleared by the end of the year.
Blanket legislation to exonerate subpostmasters convicted in England and Wales will be introduced within weeks and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said they were victims of ‘one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history’.
The long-running battle for justice accelerated dramatically after ITV broadcast the drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which highlighted the scandal earlier this month.
Alan Bates, the campaigning former sub-postmaster an ITV drama centred on, welcomed the ‘good news’ but said the fight is not over for many of those still awaiting compensation.