Duncan Tait via Inchcape websiteDuncan Tait via Inchcape website


Inchcape boss Duncan Tait tells Horizon inquiry ex-Post Office CEO was ‘a demanding customer’

  • Inchcape CEO gives evidence to inquiry into Post Office Horizon IT scandal
  • Duncan Tait tells of Post Office execs contacting him with issues day and night
  • He says he was repeatedly told that subpostmasters’ claims were unfounded
  • ‘There were no red flashing lights saying I should get ­involved any more than I did,’ he says

Time 10:33 am, June 20, 2024

Inchcape CEO Duncan Tait has said former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells was ‘a demanding customer’ when he was the boss of Fujitsu.

Tait is giving evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry into the scandal that saw more than 700 subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office.

They were handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 after Fujitsu’s faulty system made it appear as if money was missing at their branches.

Tait was CEO of Fujitsu’s UK arm between 2011 and 2019, and in a witness statement, he said Vennells was ‘a demanding customer’, reported the PA news agency.

He added: ‘Post Office executives, including Ms Vennells, did not hesitate to escalate issues to me 365 days of the year at all times of the day and night.

‘I responded rapidly every time. But they never escalated to me any issues regarding Horizon integrity.

‘Indeed, I heard repeatedly that the subpostmasters’ claims regarding Horizon integrity were unfounded and that the system was working well.’

Tait, who joined Inchcape as group CEO in June 2020, recalled a time when Vennells had texted him during a family dinner about the home and phone broadband (HPBB) contract.

He said: ‘She would forward to me complaints that she received from HPBB customers, and contact me out of hours to report service issues to me.

‘For instance, I recall receiving a text message from her during a weekend family dinner, and calling her to discuss the issue.

‘Ms Vennells was a demanding customer who was very clear when an issue had arisen which she wanted fixed.’

Hundreds of victims of the scandal – labelled England’s biggest miscarriage of justice – are awaiting compensation despite the government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

The Times said Tait told the inquiry that while he was at Fujitsu there were ‘no red flashing lights’ that made him think there should be a probe into the Horizon system.

He said he knew of complaints about the Horizon software that was used by Post Office branches in 2009, but although Fujitsu staff talked about Horizon defects and gave expert evidence in prosecutions brought by the Post Office, Tait said he had been assured that Horizon was running perfectly.

A general view of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry hearing room at Aldwych House in central London (Jonathan Brady:PA)

The Post Office Horizon IT inquiry has been hearing evidence from Duncan Tait. Picture credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

And he told the inquiry that although concerns of subpostmasters were put to him soon before he joined Fujitsu, his understanding at the time was that they were unfounded.

Tait was repeatedly asked at the inquiry why he didn’t initiate any internal scrutiny of Horizon after MPs and campaigners raised their concerns.

The inquiry was told a Post Office executive urged him in 2011 to watch a BBC probe into the case of pregnant subpostmaster Seema Misra, who had been sent to prison the year before because of flawed data provided by Horizon.

He said he didn’t feel any need to because of the assurances he had been given, but added: ‘I wished I had looked at this, as it might have given me a different perspective.

‘There were no red flashing lights saying I should get ­involved any more than I did.’

The inquiry continues.

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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