POST OFFICE: HORIZON TRIAL – JUDGEMENT FINDS IN FAVOUR OF CLAIMANTS

POST OFFICE: HORIZON TRIAL – JUDGEMENT FINDS IN FAVOUR OF CLAIMANTS

Further to LTB 703/19 dated 11th December. A week has now elapsed since Justice Fraser handed down a further judgement following the second trial known as the “Horizon” trial and once again the Judge found in favour of the claimants. In the judgement, Justice Fraser said the legacy Horizon IT system was “not remotely robust and that there was a significant and material risk of inaccuracy in branch accounts as a result of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon System“. 

The Judge also noted the following:

“The approach by the Post Office to the evidence of someone such as Mr Latif demonstrates a simple institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider any possible alternatives to their view of Horizon, which was maintained regardless of the weight of factual evidence to the contrary. That approach by the Post Office was continued, even though now there is also considerable expert evidence to the contrary as well (and much of it agreed expert evidence on the existence of numerous bugs).

This approach by the Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred, at least so far as the witnesses called before me in the Horizon Issues trial are concerned. It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat.” [the bold is my emphasis] 

As a consequence of this latest development in this long running saga, there has been considerable media attention on the Post Office and in particular on the management style adopted by Paula Vennells the former CEO who was in post from 2007 as the Network Director and then from 2012 until earlier this year as the CEO.

The Sunday Times yesterday featured in its main paper and in the business section major articles on the Horizon situation and in doing so focused their attentions on how the Post Office has dealt with this matter in recent years. The main article is headlined Post Office’s computer glitch destroyed shopkeepers’ lives“. 

The second article headed Curate behind the Post Office witch-hunt can be accessed via the following link: 

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/curate-behind-the-post-office-witch-hunt-6f8pdpprk?shareToken=21972ebb8f0cbba980a8fb2cb0d5f14c

Additionally, the Daily Mail has today run a feature article on page 8 entitled “Post Office boss who still won’t deliver an apology…” The link is as follows: 

https://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-7819763/Former-Post-Office-boss-wont-say-sorry-postmasters-wrongly-jailed-glitch.html

What is irrefutable is that Paula Vennells obstinately and consistently argued that the Horizon system was fit for purpose and as such all claims by Postmasters for justice were dismissed by the Post Office. This position was demonstrated at a 2015 BIS Select Committee where Paula Vennells gave evidence and robustly supported the Horizon system.

Also, the aggressive defence at all the court cases during 2018 and 2019 including the various appeals and the attempt to recuse the judge are predicated on the basis that the Post Office vigorously rejected the claimant’s arguments that Horizon was flawed. It is also true to say the Post Office has only admitted its failings after spending many millions of tax-payers’ money in unsuccessfully attempting to defend itself.

Branches will also be aware that earlier this month, an out of court settlement was reached between the Justice for SubPostmasters Alliance and the Post Office in regard to the Group Litigation brought by 557 Postmasters in relation to the flaws in the Horizon computer system. The total amount the Post Office has agreed to pay in compensation is £57.75m.

As reported in LTB 703/19 dated 11th December the Post Office gave an apology of sorts. However, this doesn’t go far enough after so many years of what can only be described as a travesty of justice against so many innocent Postmasters that were simply trying to serve their communities. The Post Office has also issued a further communication (attached) following its defeat in the second trial and their comments in this regard are underwhelming. Incredibly, the Chief Executive fails to acknowledge that the Judge’s decision went against the Post Office. 

The latest decision of the Judge quickly followed the out of court settlement which has understandably led to a significant amount of media coverage. This includes an interview on BBC news with the journalist Nick Wallis who has been following the case extensively including attending all court hearings:

https://twitter.com/rebeccajonesbbc/status/1206652545768161282?fbclid=IwAR3qfC8bcZrGw-6Y7hZ0CF0utVtNdJ29fGov-Fi5A3HIxwyJ0UHWzrB0ySw

In addition, below are links to several press & media articles on this matter.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50806745

https://www.postofficetrial.com/

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/post-office-attacked-and-disparaged-sub-postmasters-judge-finds/5102542.article

https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252475611/Subpostmasters-proved-right-on-IT-system-failures-as-calls-for-full-public-inquiry-mount

https://www.computerweekly.com/blog/Computer-Weekly-Editors-Blog/The-Horizon-scandal-is-over-but-the-fight-continues-an-inquiry-into-the-Post-Office-is-essential

https://www.theregister.co.uk/AMP/2019/12/18/post_office_trial_fujitsu_horizon_judgment/?fbclid=IwAR0fLeIAdXNq4tWey7G067OMiwt0SlHXcPmdByi2up5ZxyF-pGNqCS_jcyk

Criminal Cases Review Commission

Justice Fraser now considers this case to be closed and therefore the third and fourth trials scheduled for next year will not go ahead. However there are currently about 35 cases going through the Criminal Cases Review Commission – the CCRC has the power to refer the cases of prosecuted Postmasters back to the appeal courts. A Computer Weekly article specifically on the review by the CCRC can be accessed by using the following link:

https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252475773/Criminal-Courts-Review-Commission-to-review-Horizon-judgment-swiftly

Involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions

In addition, Justice Fraser said “Based on the knowledge that I have gained, I have very grave concerns regarding veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system”. As a consequence he will be supplying a dossier to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further investigation. Furthermore, a number of Postmasters were given permission to pursue the Post Office on charges of malicious prosecution. 

Call for a Public Inquiry / Parliamentary Scrutiny

Computer Weekly contacted BEIS for a comment on the government’s plans for those Postmasters who had been wronged. A BEIS Spokesperson responded as follows:

“We welcome the announcement that a resolution has been reached between the parties to settle this long-running litigation and the steps they have taken through the mediation talks.

“We stand by to support the organisation as it looks forward to moving ahead and shaping a modern and dynamic Post Office.”

Clearly this is not good enough and in view of the seriousness of this matter, the Union is now calling for a public inquiry into the whole Horizon debacle. In this regard, we will be writing to the Minister for Postal Affairs to outline our grave concerns in relation to the appalling treatment of Postmasters by Post Office management and will call for a comprehensive investigation in the form of a public inquiry.

This inquiry should also investigate the actions of the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) who have done absolutely nothing to support their members in relation to the outrageous treatment they have suffered due to the Horizon system which has proven to be not fit for purpose. Indeed, during a previous BIS Select Committee Inquiry in February 2015, George Thomson, former General Secretary of

the NFSP stated he believed the Horizon system was “fantastically robust”. Mr Thomson noted that “Systemically, it is very strong. However, there are one or two issues where money went missing and postmasters have felt that it had to be Horizon, while in a lot of cases it could have been errors or, in fact, members of staff misappropriating money”. 

The NFSP’s cosy relationship with the Post Office was highlighted in Judge Fraser’s ruling in the first trial – the “Common Issues” trail on 15th March 2019 when he stated: 

“It is obvious, in my judgment, that the NFSP is not remotely independent of the Post Office, nor does it appear to put its members’ interests above its own separate commercial interests.”

“The Post Office effectively controls the NFSP”.

Furthermore, in a statement following the latest ruling, the NFSP is seemingly trying to re-write history by repositioning themselves as follows:

“By implication of this verdict, PO has misled the NFSP for years about the reliability of the Horizon system.

As outlined by Justice Fraser, the NFSP raised concerns to PO about problems our members have experienced with the system; repeatedly we were told that the system was robust, and that user error is the primary cause of problems.

The fact that Justice Fraser considers the current version of Horizon to be robust is welcome news – this will be a relief to serving subpostmasters. However, government must also ensure that, going forwards, the status of Horizon is monitored and reported on transparently. It is vital that every subpostmaster should feel confident that the investment they have made in their post office business is not reliant on a flawed system. This will engender trust in the system and PO.

Above all, PO must change the way it deals with the subpostmaster network. The NFSP has long argued that subpostmasters must not be treated as ‘guilty until proven innocent’ in the case of a loss or shortfall. Unfortunately, there was an authoritarian culture within PO for many years – something which was, ultimately, the root cause of the GLO and the reason so many postmasters lives have been disrupted and adversely affected”.

Lord Arbuthnot, former MP for North East Hampshire, who previously led a cross-party parliamentary group of MPs looking in to this matter on behalf of their affected Postmaster constituents, has also now called for judge-led inquiry. Lord Arbuthnot stated:

“The subpostmasters have been vindicated in every respect. It is an excellent Christmas present, but won at great cost. The cost falls partly on the taxpayer but also heavily on the subpostmasters themselves, who will have their damages reduced by the amount the litigation funders will (justifiably) deduct.

“Now that these battles are being won, it is time to turn our attention to how it all came about and went so far. We need an inquiry and, since the Post Office has repeatedly given inaccurate information including to me, it needs to be led by a judge. It may be that the best person to conduct the inquiry would be the

judge who already has such extensive knowledge of the details, Sir Peter Fraser. He has done much of the work already.”

There is no doubt this appalling situation amounts to a national scandal. How can a government-owned organisation treat so many people so badly for so long? There are exceptionally serious questions to ask of the Post Office leadership and indeed government for that matter. Whilst the legal process may have come to a conclusion with the out of court settlement, this shouldn’t in any way detract from public scrutiny of what has gone wrong here. The Union will consequently be vigorously pursuing in the New Year, a Public Inquiry via all parliamentary avenues. The Post Office Board and its former Chief Executive have to be accountable for their actions and the outcry for justice is not going to go away.

Further developments will be reported.

Yours sincerely

Andy Furey

Assistant Secretary

19LTB719 – Post Office – Horizon Trial – Judgement Finds in Favour of Claimants

Attachment to 19LTB719 – Group Litigation Update

 



YOUNG WORKERS CONFERENCE – MOTIONS

YOUNG WORKERS CONFERENCE – MOTIONS

The General Standing Orders Committee had hoped that the agenda for the Young Workers Conference due to be held on 21st January would be issued on the website by close of play on Friday 20thDecember.

As this week has progressed it has become clear that due to a number of issues including the General Election and the Royal Mail dispute a number of departments at CWU HQ are not in a position to meet this deadline.

The General SOC has therefore taken the decision to publish the motions and the Standing Orders to allow Branches and Regional Sub Committees to see the order of motions and to start preparing for conference.   The completed agenda will be issued as soon as possible in early January.

As you will know, the Young Workers Conference will select two delegates to represent the Young Workers Members to attend General Conference 2020.     The Standing Orders for the Young Workers Conference will advise a ballot to select these two delegates and it will be conducted during Conference itself.   Nominees must be members of the Union and have the support of their branch and/or Regional Young Workers Sub Committee.    Additionally, individuals must be willing to accept nomination.

The exception to this are members of the Young Workers Committee themselves who may be proposed for these positions but need to have the nomination of the Young Workers Committee and/or any Regional Young Workers Sub Committee.

Branches and Regional Young Workers Committees should forward any nominees on the attached form for this ballot to conferences@cwu.org by no later than Wednesday 15th January 2020.

Branches are also reminded to register their delegates to the conference using the online registration link https://conference.cwu.org

Any queries regarding this Letter to Branches should be addressed to Angela Niven on 020 8971 7256 or by email to conferences@cwu.org

Yours sincerely,

 

 

A P Kearns

Senior Deputy General Secretary

19LTB716 – Young Workers Conference – Motions

Motions Young Workers Conference

Young Workers Conference 2020 Standing Orders

Nomination Form



ROYAL MAIL: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – 72 NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES

ROYAL MAIL: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – 72 NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES

I would like to advise Branches that following recent negotiations with Susan Howlett, Customer Experience Director arising from a joint resourcing review, there are now 72 new job opportunities available within four of our Customer Experience sites. In total there are 39 additional permanent posts and 33 fixed term temporary contracts extended until early September 2020. Our Centre Reps will be involved in local discussions, ensuring fair and consistent resourcing of these posts which will primarily be from current employees. This will take place in early January as follows: 

 Doxford – Non-Account – 20 permanent roles/Complaints – 5 Fixed Term contracts 

 Dearne – Account – 19 permanent roles and 11 Fixed Term contracts 

 Plymouth – Complaints – 14 Fixed Term contracts 

 Stoke – Non-Account – 3 Fixed Term contracts 

A Joint Statement confirming the above, along with opportunities for part-time staff to increase hours has been published and is attached to this LTB for information. Obviously this is good news for our CE members and those currently on a fixed term temporary contract who will be able to apply for the new permanent roles or an extension of contract until after the summer.

Review of the Bonus Scheme

We have also agreed to the establishment of a small Joint Working Group in the New Year to look into the bonus scheme to examine whether the current targets are fit for purpose and also whether there are any opportunities for improving the mechanics of the scheme. The aim of this review is to ensure our members can earn reasonable bonuses via achievable targets that are viewed as fair.

Yours sincerely

Andy Furey
Assistant Secretary

19LTB718 – Royal Mail – Customer Experience – 72 New Job Opportunities

Attachment to 19LTB718 – JS – CE Resourcing – Dec 2019

 



International Workers Memorial Day 28 April 2020 – Theme Announced by the ITUC: “Tackling Psychosocial Hazards at Work – Taking the Stress Out Of The Job”

International Workers Memorial Day 28 April 2020 – Theme Announced by the ITUC: “Tackling Psychosocial Hazards at Work – Taking the Stress Out Of The Job

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has just announced the theme for International Workers Memorial Day – Tuesday 28 April 2020.

The 28 April 2020 campaign theme will be ‎”Tackling Psychosocial Hazards at Work – Taking the Stress Out Of The Job’.

In the UK the Hazards Campaign plus TUC and UK Trade Unions will seek to highlight the harm caused by occupational work stress and related mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, burnout, plus work-related alcohol and drug dependency plus work-related suicides.

The campaign will demand action from the new UK Government on all these issues, as well as workers’ rights and Union rights, linking up with existing Union and TUC campaigns on precarious work, zero hour contracts, poor working conditions, safe staffing etc., in line with the Hazards Campaign Manifesto and TUC policies.‎

‎The broad theme allows a campaign calling for action to remedy the broad range of contributory factors causing occupational health and safety problems for workers.

Further LTBs will be issued in the new year and both the Health, Safety and Environment Department, TUC and the Hazards Campaign will produce posters and leaflets, ribbons and pens etc. The Hazards Campaign will produce the purple ribbons plus other material which we will advertise in due course.

A national exhibition is to be arranged at the People’s History Museum (Manchester) and as usual there will be Workers Memorial Day events all over the UK. We will be liaising with the TUC to ensure their national listing of events is publicised to generate widespread support and participation across the UK.

To increase the profile of Workers Memorial Day and to make it bigger and better, the Hazards Campaign is considering a national event in the UK Parliament at the beginning of April to launch the national Workers Memorial Day activities.

Additionally, improved communications and social media campaigning is also being examined by the Hazards Campaign which the CWU will support.

Internationally, Trade Unions have identified a gap in the ILO instruments – which are not dealing explicitly with psychosocial hazards, so the 28 April International Workers Memorial Day will also be used as a platform to press for an ILO Convention on this subject matter and for an expansion of the ILO list of occupational diseases to include a more detailed entry on work-related psychosocial conditions and impacts, including an explicit reference to the need for action to prevent the growing problem of work-related suicide.

‎There is also scope to link up with existing international Union campaigns on dangerous work and other issues and to highlight best practice – safety laws, agreements, actions, Union resources and campaigns.

The ITUC will be providing further details on the 28 April 2020 campaign early in the new year.

Yours sincerely

Dave Joyce
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer

19LTB717 International Workers Memorial Day 28 April 2020

 



SPECIAL REPORT   CWU National Briefing Liverpool 17th December 2019

SPECIAL REPORT

 

CWU National Briefing Liverpool 17th December 2019

 

Dave Ward opened the meeting by speaking about the Labour Partysdisastrous election results. He said Labour had got it wrong on Brexit and the leadership stood no chance after 4 years of media assassination, plus he was undermined by many Labour MPs.

Trade Unions need to reflect on the disconnection they have with the working-class areas which has got worse over the last 3 decades. The CWU will take its time before sanctioning any leadership candidate and will ensure that Branches will be involved in any decision process.Dave said he will be meeting Francis O’Grady (TUC GS) later today to discuss how Trade Unions should progress.

In respect to Industrial Action (IA) ballot injunction, if we remain solid, Royal Mail (RM) cannot implement their agenda. The CWU are miles ahead of other Unions in engagement with their members and we must maintain this going forward. RM cannot sustain the industry on parcels alone and will need to invest in other products as well as the market has changed and will continue to do so. There is nothing stronger in this industry than the workforce.

 

Tony Kearns spoke at length about the anti-trade union laws 1992 and 2016 and how RM used these laws to win an injunction against our ballot. Citing the members were entitled by law to cast their vote in secret in their own homes and they produced evidence in the form of video footage of members being encouraged to vote in delivery office at certain dates and times which proved the papers had not been delivered to their home addresses. The specific court ruling only applies to the CWU, due to the unique position of ballot papers being in frames in Delivery Offices where the members work

Yes, the CWU did encourage their members to vote early but did notinstruct them to take the papers out of frames, even though, he emphasised there has always been a custom and practice of taking your own mail from frames.

In the appeal the judgment said the difference in RM and CWU wasvanishingly small. One judge accepted the process had no bearing on the result. It took the judges less than 120 seconds to deliberate on 6 hours of legal debate. We will sit down with the legal team in the New Year to establish what we can and specifically cannot do to encourage our members to vote and vote yes. Because we must be able to encourage members to vote to get over the legal thresholds implemented by the Anti-Trade-Union laws.

 

Terry Pullinger spoke about if it was right or not to call the briefing but said that things had changed significantly in the last few days and he wouldnt of called the meeting if there was not anything to report. He also emphasised the General Election result won’t change what the CWU does. Labour has not won in the last 4 elections and we have had to cope with coalition and Tory governments during that time, along with 6 years of privatisation and we are still here. Weve got to dust ourselves off and realise the strength of this union’s membership and solidarity makes us what we are. We are like a swiss army knife, if one tool won’t work, well use another one, weve got plenty of options.

He said what he heard from the Judges in the appeal was “Bullshit”, and “I will never accept that this union, it’s reps or the members did anything wrong”.

The CWU is in a strong position and RM have been shocked by our resolve. They had not anticipated people would show the kind of solidarity they have in the face of the court injunction. They now know they cannot implement their plans without the members on board and whilst we are so strong.

Terry emphasised the Half Year results showed that RM walking away from the 4 Pillars Agreement was wrong and in doing so they had held the business back for the last 18 months. They have not been able to deliver their promises they made. We have been talking to the shareholders and pressure from them has forced RM to talk to the CWU. 

Terry then stated we have spoke to RM and there will be a meeting before Christmas to set out some agreed points and to set a structure for talks to take place in the new year as long as these points are agreed then we will agree to a period of calm and not to re-ballot until at leastthe end of February whilst we work on a potential agreement to protect our members terms and conditions job security and standard of living.The terms of the talks will need to include no re-entry of the mediation process as that has been concluded. Everything needs to be on the table, RM need to back off with the TUPE of Parcelforce agenda. Shorter Working Week needs to form part of the talks. 

Terry confirmed that RM had agreed to all the points raised in the open letter he sent for formal talks to be held. Terry emphasised that our strength has got us back in talks, and we need to use this to get an agreement, not just for our members, but to save the industry.

He emphasised that if RM relented on backing off from TUPE for Parcelforce then he would not hesitate to reballot and take industrialaction the same would apply if RM pulled away from talks.

If, at end of February, no genuine progress has been made and RM still adamant on progressing their agenda, then we would re-ballot. Terry informed us that the union has asked for RM finances to be shared, as they are saying their end of year accounts predict a possible loss next year. We will continue to meet with shareholders in New Year. We need to turn this strength into gaining an agreement to cover all 21 points on ballot paper.

There was a Q & A session and answering a question, Terry said “thejudicial system is bent, we are up against a wall of prejudice from the establishment. Our members didnt do anything they dont do every week without a challenge from RM. Our members should be proud because their solidarity has forced RM hand. A ballot for IA doesnt mean we have to strike. If it forces both parties back into negotiations,then it worked.

 

As we approach 2020 The Eastern No5 BranchCommittee and Representatives would like to take this opportunity of thanking all our members for your solidarity and support throughout this dispute and we wish you a Happy Christmas and ProsperousNew Year. We look forward to your continued support and solidarity in 2020.

 

Eastern No 5 Branch Christmas Charitable Donations

Eastern No 5 Branch Secretary & Political Officer Andy Beeby with a £450 Cheque as a Branch Donation to Peterborough Foodbank

All so pictured is Eastern No 5 Women’s Officer Kate Jackson with a Branch Donation of £300 worth of Vouchers to Peterborough Women’s Refuge. The Branch also donated a brand new set of towels of each of the 8 rooms in the refuge.

YOUNG WORKERS CONFERENCE – MOTIONS

YOUNG WORKERS CONFERENCE – MOTIONS

The General Standing Orders Committee had hoped that the agenda for the Young Workers Conference due to be held on 21st January would be issued on the website by close of play on Friday 20thDecember.

As this week has progressed it has become clear that due to a number of issues including the General Election and the Royal Mail dispute a number of departments at CWU HQ are not in a position to meet this deadline.

The General SOC has therefore taken the decision to publish the motions and the Standing Orders to allow Branches and Regional Sub Committees to see the order of motions and to start preparing for conference.   The completed agenda will be issued as soon as possible in early January.

As you will know, the Young Workers Conference will select two delegates to represent the Young Workers Members to attend General Conference 2020.     The Standing Orders for the Young Workers Conference will advise a ballot to select these two delegates and it will be conducted during Conference itself.   Nominees must be members of the Union and have the support of their branch and/or Regional Young Workers Sub Committee.    Additionally, individuals must be willing to accept nomination.

The exception to this are members of the Young Workers Committee themselves who may be proposed for these positions but need to have the nomination of the Young Workers Committee and/or any Regional Young Workers Sub Committee.

Branches and Regional Young Workers Committees should forward any nominees on the attached form for this ballot to conferences@cwu.org by no later than Wednesday 15th January 2020.

Branches are also reminded to register their delegates to the conference using the online registration link https://conference.cwu.org

Any queries regarding this Letter to Branches should be addressed to Angela Niven on 020 8971 7256 or by email to conferences@cwu.org

Yours sincerely,

 

 

A P Kearns

Senior Deputy General Secretary

19LTB716 – Young Workers Conference – Motions

Motions Young Workers Conference

Young Workers Conference 2020 Standing Orders

Nomination Form



Romford Mail Centre – Property Update

Romford Mail Centre – Property Update

You will be aware that the department reported in June 2019 that we had been made aware of significant issues in relation to negotiations on the extension of the lease arrangements for Romford Mail Centre (LTB 370/19 refers).

On the basis of a possibility that Royal Mail may have had to vacate the site a Joint Cross Functional Working Group had been reviewing potential alternative operational solutions, while commercial discussions continued between Royal Mail and the landlord. We are aware that there has been some conjecture in relation to whether any revised solution would impact on other Royal Mail Sites and as such we believe that it is appropriate to inform Branches of the latest developments.

We can now inform Branches that discussions between Royal Mail and the landlord have concluded in an agreed lease extension until March 2023 as the final tenancy arrangement, with the site reverting to the landlord from that date.

Given these developments and the fact that the extension will allow for additional opportunity to consider options that may be available in line with the revised timelines, it has been agreed to cease the current consultation activity. In recognition of the revised timelines preparatory work will now be undertaken by the business for the commencement of new joint consultation activity in line with our agreed processes, early in the New Year.

It is hoped that these developments remove the immediate uncertainty for our members based at the Romford site and we would like to reassure them that we remain fully committed to achieving a viable alternative long term solution for Romford Mail Centre, beyond 2023.

Attached for the information of Branches is the Joint Statement agreed and communicated to our members at Romford Mail Centre.

Any enquiries in relation to this LTB should be addressed to Davie Robertson, Assistant Secretary, email: kgray@cwu.org quoting reference number: 722.01.

Yours sincerely

 

Davie Robertson
Assistant Secretary

LTB 715

Att 715



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