LV chairman oversaw 161 botched Post Office Horizon prosecutions: More fire for Cook as he seeks to sell mutual
The businessman behind LV’s controversial sale oversaw the prosecution of 161 innocent postmasters during his time at the helm of the Post Office.
Alan Cook, who is now LV chairman, was boss of the Post Office between 2006 and 2010 during the height of its Horizon scandal.
The debacle saw more than 700 postmasters accused of theft and accounting fraud, when in fact the missing sums of money were due to a bug in the Horizon IT system.
Alan Cook, who is now LV’s chairman, was boss of the Post Office between 2006 and 2010 during the height of its Horizon scandal
Now a Freedom of Information request shows 161 postmasters were prosecuted under Cook’s leadership. Of them, 141 were convicted and 57 imprisoned.
It has taken almost two decades for victims to clear their names, and hundreds are still fighting for compensation. MPs have branded the scandal one of the biggest miscarriages of justice to ever rock the UK.
Despite his role at the Post Office, Cook became chairman of the 178-year-old mutual LV in 2017.
Over the last year, he has come under fire for agreeing to sell the insurer to private equity sharks Bain Capital.
The business, which dates back to 1843, is owned by its customers and run for their benefit.
If Bain is successful in buying LV, when the deal is put to a member vote next week, the firm will instead be wrung for profit by its cash-hungry new owner.
LV members said they were ‘dismayed and bewildered’ that Cook was allowed to head a financial institution after his involvement at the Post Office.
Victim Jo Hamilton, who was sacked from the Post Office in 2006 and sentenced for theft in 2008, said: ‘I wouldn’t trust him, I don’t trust anyone now after what I’ve been through. I think all these senior people are just in it for the take.’
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge added: ‘It beggars belief that someone with his record could ever be hired to do another job.
‘One wonders whether his behaviour in LV mirrors his record at the Post Office.’
Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake said: ‘It looks like Mr Cook was one of the driving forces behind one of the greatest ever miscarriages of justice at the Post Office and behind one of the most dreadful deals I have ever seen.’
The Post Office began using the Horizon system in 1999, and kicked off a string of prosecutions in the early 2000s.
Paula Vennells, Cook’s successor at the Post Office, was forced to resign directorships at Morrisons and Dunelm, step down as a Church of England minister and apologise for the ‘suffering’ postmasters had incurred.
When the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 39 postmasters this year, it said the Post Office knew there were ‘serious issues about the reliability’ of Horizon but continued to bring criminal charges.
Retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams is leading an independent inquiry into the scandal, examining what the business and its former leaders knew, but Cook has not been called to give evidence.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mutuals, said: ‘Cook was always the wrong man to lead LV, he has no experience of mutuals. This latest revelation only confirms it.
‘He was certainly using Horizon to cut costs, he was driving its expansion inside the Post Office. He has defended the use of it to Parliament and select committees and never apologised.’
An LV spokesman said: ‘While it would not be appropriate for LV to comment on Post Office matters relating to Alan Cook’s tenure with them, I can assure you that he has deep sympathy for those postmasters wrongly prosecuted.
‘Furthermore he is supportive of the recently announced Post Office Horizon IT inquiry as it seeks to provide critical answers to everyone affected.’
Make your voice heard on LV
We are encouraging LV members, customers, or others, who would like to see it retain its mutual status, rather than be bought out by private equity, to write to it.
You could use the wording from the letter printed in the Daily Mail newspaper’s City pages (pictured here).
We have included the words for you to copy and paste into a letter below.
Send it to Alan Cook, Chairman of LV=, Liverpool Victoria, County Gates, Bournemouth, BH1 2NF
Dear Alan Cook,
I, the undersigned, urge you to reconsider your decision to sell LV= to Bain Capital and instead maintain its mutual status.