A SUB-POSTMISTRESS running a Post Office in Kendal was given a plea deal in return for not blaming Horizon, it has been revealed. 

A case from 2011 involving Katherine Jane McQue, who used to run Rinkfield Post Office on Burton Road in Kendal, was raised in the ongoing Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry.

Horizon is the digital accounting system installed by Fujitsu that was rolled out to branches across the UK. From 1999 to 2015, the Post Office prosecuted thousands of people for fraud based on shortfalls relayed by the IT system - which were often incorrect. 

The Post Office spent years rejecting the concept of fault with the Horizon IT System and instead blamed operators for taking the money. The issue has become a national debate after the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office.  

On January 11 Stephen Bradshaw, who conducted investigations for the Post Office during the time prosecutions were being made, was questioned by counsel for the inquiry Julian Blake KC. 

Mr Blake ran through several cases that Mr Bradshaw was involved in, one of which was Regina vs Katherine Jane McQue at Carlisle Crown Court on May 3 2011. 

This publication reported on May 11 that year that then 47-year-old McQue falsified records at the post office to hide that it had less cash than it should have done. 

She admitted a near-£25,000 fraud by making false entries in the Post Office accounting system to cover up the losses. McQue said that this was in an attempt to gain enough time to pay the money back.

Prosecuting counsel Andrew Rutter said McQue had run the post office since October 2005, but in August 2008 she realised there was a shortfall in the cash being held there.

From then until June 2009, when a Post Office auditor arrived to examine her accounts, she made 'repeated and regular' false entries to disguise the shortfall.

She was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and made to do 150 hours of unpaid community work.

She was also ordered to pay £1,000 towards the costs of the prosecution. 

McQue had previously denied any wrongdoing, claiming Horizon was flawed and showed losses when none had occurred, but she then admitted such a claim had no foundation when she appeared in court. 

The inquiry referred to a memo sent to Mr Bradshaw on March 4 by the principal lawyer. It states: "The above case was held at Carlisle Crown Court on the 28 February 2011 when the matter was listed for Trial. 

"Prior to the case being called on there was some discussions between all parties with a  view to establishing whether or not the pleas offered by the Defence would be acceptable.

"An indication was given that a plea to Count 2 fraud might be acceptable so long as the Defendant stipulated in her Basis of Plea that there was nothing wrong with Horizon and that she was responsible for the loss and recognised the confiscation would be sought should the loss not be repaid." 

Sir Wyn Williams, who is chairing the inquiry, asked Mr Bradshaw: "Is it appropriate for someone representing the Post Office to say we will accept your plea but only if you don't blame Horizon."

In response, Mr Bradshaw replied 'probably not.' 

Upon further questioning from Mr Blake, Mr Bradshaw said that 'with today's knowledge' it would not have been acceptable for the Post Office to make that condition. 

Speaking in terms of Post Office cases in 2011, he said: "That's the way some of the cases were going - whether the instructions come from the solicitors - because that's true." He said that the condition was put in place by the solicitors rather than him.