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Double down or quit? By Dr Jason Price

What duty do you have when you are informed that a mistake has been made, but it will be embarrassing and costly (for you or your organisation) to reverse course?

This article in The Times provides another case study for you to learn from in the Horizon Post Office scandal.

The article tells us that “An investigator with access to prosecution files claims he told Angela Van den Bogerd, a senior manager overseeing matters relating to the Horizon accounting system, that Jo Hamilton had been charged with theft even though no evidence had been found.”

Ms Van den Bogerd was an operational senior manager responsible for the Horizon accounting system and Jo Hamilton is one of 700 postmasters prosecuted based on evidence from the accounting system.

Ms Hamilton was wrongly convicted and has subsequently had her conviction quashed (along with suffering the trauma and shame of being convicted of a crime she did not commit).

As a decision-maker, if you become aware the basis for your previous decisions is flawed, what do you do? Do you plough on, as the Post Office appears to have done here, and continue to prosecute people - allegedly withholding evidence from the defence and leading to miscarriages of justice?

The article tells us that Ian Henderson, of Second Sight - the forensic accountants the Post Office employed that uncovered problems in the system - said “That was information given to Angela and the Mediation Working Group”.

Jo Hamilton was certainly the most blatant [miscarriage of justice]. The internal Post Office investigation report said there was no evidence of theft.”

Do you act now on the information you are given, or do you follow the Post Office’s example - and shoot the messenger by ending your contract with Second Sight, after they presented inconvenient and embarrassing findings?

The inquiry will determine what it thinks of senior executives who plough on regardless when the evidence has changed, seemingly to protect their positions and past decisions.

Ms Van den Bogerd, and her boss, CEO at the time Paula Vennells, have said they will give evidence when they are called. It will be fascinating to hear their decision-making process and why they felt it was right to press on with prosecutions, knowing they were flawed.

So here’s today’s reflective learning exercise for you:

Think of a time when you were told that a decision you’d previously made was out-of-date or based on inaccurate or flawed information - ideally one that is personally or organisationally embarrassing or costly?

What did you do? Did you change course and disclose there had been a mistake made?

If not, what stopped you?


EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr Jason Price (no relation to the editor) consults on bullying, harassment, workplace incivility and complaints management.  Originally from the UK, he is based in Wellington NZ and his website is

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