back to article Post Office faces potential criminal probe over Fujitsu IT system's accounting failures

Fujitsu faces a potential criminal investigation after a High Court judge's savage criticism of the outsourcing company and one of its customers, the Post Office, at the end of a long-running trial over the state mail operator's core IT system. In the so-called Horizon judgment handed down on Monday, Mr Justice Fraser went for …

  1. Rob Willett

    Ooooh first post....

    Wow, wow and wow.

    I can't recall another trial with an IT element thats been so interesting. Autonomy/HP is really all about accounting and valuations <meh>.

    This is about the stuff you and I do day in/day out, build, test, deliver, debug, repeat.

    I wonder if the people who were giving evidence on behalf of FJS and PO thought that this was just another delivery board or SLT meeting and that being somewhat economical with the actualite was acceptable? Clearly not now. The revelation of a referral to the DPP means some of these people will now be consulting very expensive lawyers indeed. The boot is on the other foot.

    Also how FJS/PO could keep a straight face when they said there were no bugs is beyond me. Any system of this size will be plagued with them, especially a client server system.

    I also recall Private Eye taking up the cudgels on behalf of the SPM's as well.

    I think this one will run and run, not perhaps as long as SCO/IBM and Groklaw but might be fun.

    All the best to the SPM's, my advise is when your opponent is down on the floor, thats absolutely the best and right time to administer a damm good kicking.

    Rob

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ooooh first post....

      Personally my money is on the usual "....not held responsible" and no court action or criminal charges being placed.

      As the saying goes you get the Government you deserve and the current party has form where it comes to protect their friends see section III from http://www.truthaboutlloyds.com/fraud/10minutes.html

      I quote from link

      "Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made it British government policy not to prosecute any executives at Lloyd's, and the Serious Fraud Office therefore refused to bring charges against anyone involved"

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Ooooh first post....

        I think there will be some perjury charges against some of the people who gave evidence against sub postmasters in fraud cases.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Ooooh first post....

        Hello Anonymous Coward. Even if true this would have little relevance in this case because while politicians can direct the CPS not prosecute offenses (incidentally did you know that the plod calls the CPS the Criminal Protection Service?) the courts are utterly independent.

        If there is no investigation into the conduct of the Post Office in this case then I wouldn't be at all surprised if the people who have been prosecuted and found guilty start appealing their prosecutions and point to the judgement on the grounds that a miscarriage of justice has occurred and false evidence was presented. That would appear pretty inevitable at this point, as is a slow drip of convictions being annulled by the appeal courts along with scathing judgements from irate judges.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Ooooh first post....

          Just waiting the the obvious one Post Office employee on this site to downvote your comment, too.

          1. Rob Willett

            Re: Ooooh first post....

            I think the downvote was because I put a holding sentence in whilst I wrote what I wanted to say, well I hope that was what the downvote was for... I never get first post and was delighted when I did. I have to take my little pleasures and successes as I can.

            You could be right and it was somebody in PO who didn't like my comment.

            There has been a mass of publicity about this, I'm hoping it keeps on coming. The SPM's deserve better than what they got and thankfully they have managed to get things into court and won against a far better funded adversary. Clearly the PO strategy was deny everything, fight everything and admit nothing. Mmmm... sounds very familiar.

            Rob

            1. trolleybus

              Re: Ooooh first post....

              You got to write the first post and you failed.

              You're supposed to say that Windows XP was better than anything since, that you ditched Windows for Linux some years ago, systemd is crap and you run Noscript to avoid this JS nonsense.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge
                IT Angle

                Re: Ooooh first post....

                Where's the IT angle in that?

              2. Kane Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: Ooooh first post....

                You forgot to add the Troll Icon > > >

                Back on the Trollbus, Trolleybus!

              3. johnrobyclayton

                Re: Ooooh first post....

                'Ere, I resemble that comment, except its Windows 2000 Advanced Server slipstreamed with SP3 and the registry hack that made the evaluation versions included in the MS Cert training packs full versions. Ahh the good old days. Devuan rules.

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Ooooh first post....

            They attempted to deliver a downvote, but is sorry that they missed you. Your downvote can be collected the next working day from the local sorting office.

        2. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Ooooh first post....

          did you know that the plod calls the CPS the Criminal Protection Service

          If the police, who were responsible for prosecutions before the CPS, had demonstrated scrupulous - or even just basic - attention to evidence and judicial procedure, the CPS would never have come about. If the police can't come up with evidence for a better than 50% chance of conviction, they really need to do their own job better: the days of officers turning up in a magistrates court with curiously identical statements and demanding a conviction are over.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Ooooh first post....

            Um. I take it that you remember that the news reported that rape cases were being chucked out because the CPS didn't disclose relevant evidence disproving their cases not too long ago? The CPS is not exactly perfect in that regard either.

            Percentage of cases successfully convicted is in fact arguably not actually a great measure; The CPS could get a 100% success rate by reducing the number of cases convicted by 99% and only convicting cases they were utterly certain they could win rather than prosecuting cases with a reasonable likelihood of conviction. What sort of percentage reduction is this since the local beat bobby just stuck a case in to the magistrates court when he caught somebody trying to do a windows in on his beat?

            And even if it has improved, is it beneficial to society for the police officers to be sitting in an office doing paperwork for a prosecution rather than out on the streets?

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Ooooh first post....

              "

              Um. I take it that you remember that the news reported that rape cases were being chucked out because the CPS didn't disclose relevant evidence disproving their cases not too long ago?

              "

              Erm - ITYWF that the reason the CPS did not disclose the relevant evidence was in most cases because the police had not informed them that it existed. I'm afraid that the police still routinely cherry-pick and exaggerate evidence (especially when persuading a magistrate to grant a search warrant), only now instead of only misleading the court, it serves to mislead the CPS lawyers as well.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ooooh first post....

          incidentally did you know that the plod calls the CPS the Criminal Protection Service?

          The one I've heard is "Clown Prosecution Service," becaue if they can't fuck up a case, nobody can.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ooooh first post....

            (same AC as above) - I come at this one with some knowledge of their shortcomings. My wife works as civilian police staff and is reponsible for arranging getting witnesses to trial (including accommodation, travel, etc.). The CPS has to get lists of witnesses, trial dates, etc. to her in good time so that she can contact the witnesses (and there may be dozens) and also update victims on the progress of a trial (defendant's plea, verdict, sentencing, etc.). The CPS are often late in getting this information to her, so that she is chasing witnesses right up to the trial date, and the information they provide is often incomplete. It goes without saying that if witnesses don't turn up to a trial, then no evidence is presented, and a perp doesn't get convicted.

            To be fair to the CPS though, they have been facing the same ideological austerity cuts as the rest of the public sector. It's almost as if a Conservative government doesn't actually care about law and order.

            1. Kane Silver badge

              Re: Ooooh first post....

              "To be fair to the CPS though, they have been facing the same ideological austerity cuts as the rest of the public sector. It's almost as if a Conservative government only doesn't actually cares about specific law and order."

              There, fixed that for you!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Ooooh first post....

                "To be fair to the CPS though, they have been facing the same ideological austerity cuts as the rest of the public sector. It's almost as if a Conservative government only cares about Brexit."

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Ooooh first post....

                  " It's almost as if a Conservative government only cares about Brexit."

                  They don't even care about that.

                  Queen Bloris has been telling all and sundry that he has a deal all ready to go after elected - and as predicted promptly dumped "No Deal" back on the table.

                  1980s Albania here we come.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ooooh first post....

              ...I'll just add to this a note about the consequences of witnesses not turning up to a trial...

              If it is known in good time that a key witness won't attend, a trial can be pulled - this is less expensive than going ahead with a trail which will fail, or pulling a trial on the day. If a trial does go ahead, and the evidence is insufficient because witnesses did't turn up, then the defendant has to be found not guilty, even if they did it. They also cannot be re-tried for the same crime, so the very real consequences of the CPS (or my wife) not doing their job properly is for a perpetrator to walk free.

              Whilst it is an adage that it is better for a guilty person to walk free than for an innocent man to be imprisoned, if the guilty walk free due to a failing system, then things can be improved.

              A lot of my wife's cases are domestic-violence related (it's a lot more common than most people think). If a domestic abuser walks out of court, they are quite likley to go straight back to their victim and start abusing them again. The societal, and policing cost of dealing with this is much greater than any perceived cost savings of cutting budgets in the justice system.

            3. An ominous cow heard

              Re: Court admin

              "The CPS has to get lists of witnesses, trial dates, etc. to [administrators] in good time so they can contact the witnesses (and there may be dozens) and also update victims on the progress of a trial (defendant's plea, verdict, sentencing, etc.)."

              So a well run court admin automation system would be a useful asset, and a failing one would be a bit of a problem?

              Anyone know what the state of play might be with such a system in England/Wales?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Court admin

                My wife's job is far from that of an untrained administrator (although the pay is so bad you'd think that was the case). The full job title is "Victim and Witness Care Officer", and the title belies the fact that she is doing jobs previously done by several people . She comes from a highly-trained background in victim care, which itself is difficult and emotionally draining work. Due to budget cuts, her role now not only includes supporting victims of crime, but also the court work for witnesses, various sundry tasks preparing cases for trial, liaising with the CPS and officers, who are often hard to get hold of, and prickly, as well as important safeguarding work, which used to be done by a specialised unit, for which the training has been minimal. This involves making decisions about child safeguarding, which arguably is a profession in itself (and is extremely high-pressure and sensitive work), and for which a practitioner should really have a specilaised degree (and the drive to actually work in such a soul-destroying field). My wife does have a specialised master's degree, but in criminology, not in safeguarding. The system is stretched such that she, and many others, have been railroaded into doing work for which they are not fully trained, and in which they have little interest. Communication within and between the police, social services, and CPS is also very poor (again due to budget constraints), so most people who interact with her have little idea about what her unit does, so you also get a lot of people trying to offload their work onto the unit.

                It's little wonder that the unit has a serious staff-retention problem, which isn't helped by the fact that vetting for the job takes three months, and then new staff require at least six months fo training to be up-to-speed.

                These are the hidden knock-on effects of austerity; a justice system that is pushed to near the point of collapse, that costs more to run as a result (recruitment costs for new staff alone negate savings). ironically, consts woudl be reduced by increasing the budget, employing more staff, giving everyone a manageable workload so people don't leave, and replacing the departments that have been cut and merged, so that division-of-labour efficiency returns.

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Court admin

                  "although the pay is so bad you'd think that was the case"

                  And this is the problem right across the entire public service spectrum, resulting in skilled people walking out for the sake of their sanity.

                  If anyone's seen "Brazil", it's worse than that in many areas.

                  1. Cederic Silver badge

                    Re: Court admin

                    "Public sector workers earned 1% less per hour, on average, than private sector workers with equivalent characteristics in 2016" - from the ONS in 2017.

                    Down, admittedly, from earning 4% more than the private sector in 2010.

                    I'd take a 1% pay cut for a gold plated pension.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ooooh first post....

      "I think this one will run and run"

      I hope not. The victims deserve an early resolution to this.

    3. Fatman

      Re: Ooooh first post....

      <quote>All the best to the SPM's, my advise is when your opponent is down on the floor, thats absolutely the best and right time to administer a damm good kicking.</quote>

      You forgot:

      in the nuts!!!!!!

      Then do it again, and again for good measure!

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Ooooh first post....

        Captain Vimes: “Corporal Nobbs, why are you kicking people when they’re down?”

        Nobby: “Safest way, sir.”

        Mines the one with the coshes, blackjack and brass knuckles sold by Mrs Goodbody at No.8 Easy Street, at a range of prices to suit all pockets.

    4. sabroni Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Ooooh first post....

      Grow the fuck up.

    5. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Ooooh first post....

      Anyone who seriously tries to claim that a major IT system has no bugs should be considered unqualified and incompetent.

      The only questions are how many bugs there are, and how much harm they do.

      I can think of few combinations more deadly than lazy, arrogant, dogmatic managers and programmers who cannot admit that they got anything wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ooooh first post....

        @"Anyone who seriously tries to claim that a major IT system has no bugs should be considered unqualified and incompetent."

        So, you are saying that the general quality of commercial code is untrustworthy therefore anyone in the know would have been cautious before stating that computer results were infalible.

        That it seems the non-IT managers shutdown the IT competent investigation before it could reveal the coding failures and the general IT incompetent belief that computers are infalible is at fault here.

        Much as I would like to put all the blaim on the selfserving IT incompetents it might be suggested that software vendors, the police and courts ( who are supposed to have access to competent IT opinions) also had some responsibility in this debacle .

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Ooooh first post....

          "

          ... and courts ( who are supposed to have access to competent IT opinions) ...

          "

          It is the lawyers (on both sides of a case) who are responsible for seeking and bringing as witnesses experts who then advise the court. If the lawyers do not provide such expert witnesses, then the court, through no fault of its own, will not have access to competant IT opinions.

          Unfortunately expert witnesses are very expensive, and legal aid will often no agree to pay, so defendents are often unable to provide the court with their opinion (and the CPS lawyers would obviously not want to present a witness who will almost certainly serve only to weaken their case).

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worse.

      As a few smaller post offices were run as franchises by owners, small individuals as a business, or family businesses, the inability and denial of the fault meant (non exhaustive and just from what I gather from news reports):

      1) Managers faced sackings, criminal charges and other fines for "cash irregularities" which now appear to not have existed.

      2) Managers may have used their own cash to "fix" the shortfalls, either through no other solution available, or as they were being blamed for the losses.

      3) Probably many many more!

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: Worse.

        Yes, but the Post Office will try and weasel out of this hiding behind Crown Immunity.

        Fuckers.

        Each SPM jailed or life ruined by this should receive a quashed sentence and minimum £1m + in compensation, funded by PO and FJ.

        .. and chance of some ‘Misconduct in a Public Office’ prosecutions for those Post Office mandarins likely to be behind the Crown and legal powers/status the PO still has???

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Worse.

          "The Post Office will try and weasel out of this hiding behind Crown Immunity."

          That won't go down at all well with the courts.

          Post Office might be OWNED by the crown in a convoluted route, but as a private company it doesn't have that immunity and nor do the directors.

          1. NeilPost Bronze badge

            Re: Worse.

            Done some digging.

            Apparently it was lifted ages ago..mentioned in this debate on similar for the NHS.

            https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1986/jun/09/lifting-of-all-crown-immunity

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Worse.

        Several SPMs lost their houses or life savings "making good" on losses that never occurred

        Several SPMs ended up being convicted and jailed for fraud on losses that never occurred

        Several SPMs comitted suicide due to the stresses of accusations about losses that never occurred

        Post Office thought it was going to get away with "just the Settlements" - which were far less than the total cost of litigation and losses for the individuals involved IN THE CASE ALONE - ie, it was effectively going to get out of it and still make an overall profit.

        This judgement means that it - and more importantly the management who kept pushing things even when it was clear the computers were wrong - is now facing criminal and substantially higher financial liabilities.

        What's likely to come out now is who gave the orders inside the Ministry of Fun (who own Post Office) and that person is likely to find hirself facing an extremely irate set of judges that won't be looking to take prisoners.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Worse.

          Yes, it's hard to see how any amount of compensation can adequately compensate people for what they've been put through. How do you put a value on losing your home and family, or on losing your good name in the community, or on the adverse health effects such pressures will have caused ?

          And obviously you cannot do anything for someone no longer alive.

          Lets hope we see those responsible properly hung up to dry.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Flame

    Good for them & the judge

    Hope both Fujitsu and the Post Office have more reckonings to come over this. Hold their feet to the fire.

    Look forward to seeing how many counts of malicious prosecution are brought - particularly since the litigation costs appear to be swallowing most of the compensation leaving only a few thousand for compensation of ruined lives and jail time. I wonder if there could be a campaign to get those convictions quashed and some more compo for the victims.

    1. Rob Willett

      Re: Good for them & the judge

      I think that if a malicious prosecution is brought and is successful, then it may well trigger a referral to a review board. Any lawyers here?

      1. hittitezombie

        Re: Good for them & the judge

        Innocent people got presocuted and jailed. There's no question about these being malicious.

        Heads need to roll, people need to go to prison over this scandal.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Good for them & the judge

          You can act in good faith and still get things horribly wrong, up to and including bringing/supporting a prosecution because you genuinely believe you have a major issue with fraud across the country instead of a broken IT system.

          So yes, there is a question about these being malicious. I would nonetheless like to see a full and in-depth exploration of the evidence and find the answer, and if people have recklessly ignored or even hidden evidence that the computer system had flaws, I think prison is a reasonable response.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Good for them & the judge

        I'm not a Solicitor, but for my sins I do work as an IT Manager in a law firm.

        This is not a malicious prosecution. A malicious prosecution is simplistically when you take out a lot of spurious cases just to force the target to expend resources defending them.

        So this isin't a malicious prosecution. This is a Miscarriage of Justice.

        The appropriate body to investigate is the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Applications to the CCRC need to be made by the people who have been convicted of wrongdoing, usually after they have passed the point of being able to just appeal the case via the appeal courts.

        1. Milton

          Re: Good for them & the judge

          "I'm not a Solicitor"

          You should have stopped right there, because that's obviously the only correct part of your statement. You appear to be confusing "malicious prosecution " with the looser concept of "vexatious litigation", the former being a criminal law issue, the latter being civil. For more, and accurate information—well, speak to your esteemed colleagues.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Good for them & the judge

            And indeed a malicious prosecution case could be brought should it be found that the SPMs were charged with theft etc with the primary purpose of covering something up. Obviously if the charges were brought in good faith, then there's no case to answer, but if someone, somewhere in the Post Office knew that SPMs were being prosecuted and that there was exculpatory evidence... different story.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I'd recon...

              99% of those accused knew something was up with the IT... but yeah, how do you prove there are 4 lights.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Good for them & the judge

            As I say, i'm not a Solicitor, and it appears quite clear that your not either.

            To claim malicious prosecution don't you have to have:-

            A) Won the case and;

            B) Be able to demonstrate deliberate malice on the part of the people bringing the case.

            Point A is an issue, because people unjustly lost cases because misleading evidence was presented which led to a miscarriage of justice being committed which would appear to bar this tort from being used.

            I'm not that bothered honestly; we'll see which avenue people end up going for. I'm guessing appealing the sentences and then going after the people for perjury would be the effective avenue.

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Good for them & the judge

              "

              To claim malicious prosecution don't you have to have:-

              A) Won the case and; ...

              "

              Well yes - but having a conviction overturned on appeal (which no doubt will now happen to those convicted) should (I should think BICBW), amount to the same thing.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: Good for them & the judge

                I'm not sure. But if you have won your appeal on the basis of a miscarriage of justice (based upon purjury having been committed) then once you've won that appeal then you use the fact that you have been found innocent on the grounds of them having committed perjury to you go after them for purjury, to which they have absolutely no defense.

                I would personally think that this is preferable to going after them for a malicious prosecution because they could claim the obvious defense that they weren't being malicious because they honestly believed their evidence. This would let them be found incompetent, but not malicious and so they'd be found innocent. Hence, that's a really bad avenue to go down.

                Hence, purjury would appear to be the more effective route.

                I'd personally go after the higher up people on the basis of concealing arrestable offenses [section 5 of the criminal law act] (Where a person has committed an arrestable offence, any other person who, knowing or believing him to be guilty of the offence or of some other arrestable offence, does without lawful authority or reasonable excuse any act with intent to impede his apprehension or prosecution shall be guilty of an offence.

                This is sufficiently vague to cover anything and the higher ups would appear to have no realistic defense against the situation as described.

                Failing that, you could go after them more generally for perverting the course of justice. But personally, I think that the malicious prosecution route is daft. We'll see how it turns out though; i'm sure that the people in question will deal as fairly with the post office as the post office dealt with them.

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Good for them & the judge

          This is not a malicious prosecution.

          The malicious prosecution is not about this case, it is about the other criminal cases the Post Office engaged in with individual SPMs. The Judge agreed to not bar the victims of those other cases from pursuing the Post Office for malicious prosecution in those other cases.

          A malicious prosecution is simplistically when you take out a lot of spurious cases just to force the target to expend resources defending them.

          As has happened with the in-excess of 20 criminal cases the Post Office has prosecuted in the preceding 15 years prior to this case that involve the Horizon software. Some of which they won and have had SPMs thrown in jail for fraud etc., all related to this Horizon software.

          The Judge in this case has referred the witnesses in some of those criminal prosecution cases to the CPS for investigation into whether they perjured (i.e. lied under oath, gave knowingly false testimony) themselves.

          So, how else but as 'malicious prosecution' could it be described to pursue more than 20 criminal cases that involve the Post Office allegedly perjuring themselves (via false witness testimony) to secure convictions?

          How is this not potentially "take out a lot of spurious cases"?

          All of this was explained in the article, did you actually read it?

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Good for them & the judge

          "A malicious prosecution is simplistically when you take out a lot of spurious cases just to force the target to expend resources defending them."

          Post Office steamrollered the SPMs by employing expensive QCs to use the attack mode in court of "We're a large company our computers can't possibly be wrong" to hoodwink judges. They also used threat of prosecution as the FIRST line of attack, to force settlements which cost many victim SPMs pretty much everything they had.

          When a judge puts "malicious prosecutions" in writing, he's not adding it as some flippant comment.

          This was a deliberate and pernicious policy by Post Office aimed at maximising damage and minimising the chances of SPMs being able to fight back by utterly destroying their reputations and building their own - being able to point to their trail of legal victories being one way of convincing judges in each NEW case that they're bringing solid charges to the table, when they're actually building a house of cards even higher each time.

        4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Good for them & the judge

          "

          This is not a malicious prosecution. A malicious prosecution is simplistically when you take out a lot of spurious cases just to force the target to expend resources defending them.

          "

          You appear to be referring to what is known as "Vexatious litigation" (which refers to civil cases) rather than "malicious prosecution" (which applies only to criminal cases).

          Malicious prosecution takes place when a criminal prosecution is instigated by a person or persons who know that there are no reasonable grounds for bringing such a case. Essentially, someone is charged with an offence by a person or body that knows that the accused is (most probably) innocent.

      3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Good for them & the judge

        Other media reports have suggested the convictions have been passed to the Criminal Review Board on the basis of this case.

    2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Good for them & the judge

      What I do not understand about the whole Horizon farrago is that many sub-postmasters apparently turned criminal as the new system was introduced. Was there no statistical analysis? If there was, was it ignored?

      1. maffski

        Re: Good for them & the judge

        I suspect the quality of data previously was so poor it was presented as '...the fraud was always there but Horizon lets you see it...'

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Good for them & the judge

      "

      ... litigation costs appear to be swallowing most of the compensation ...

      "

      That should not be the case. All costs are usually paid by the losing side, so the winning side should recoup every penny it has spent on its legal costs.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

    Not telling the truth to a judge in a trial ? What moron thought he could get away with that ?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

      "What moron thought he could get away with that?"

      Presumably about 50% of all people at trials. One side says 'innocent', the other says 'guilty', and they can't both be right.'

      1. vogon00

        Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

        That comment by Phuzz is a thing of beauty... concise, to the point, accurate and funny as f**k to those with a dry sense of humour.

        Well said, Sir.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

        Presumably about 50% of all people at trials. One side says 'innocent', the other says 'guilty', and they can't both be right.'

        I know you are making a joke, however some people do think that way, which is wrong.

        The pleading - innocent or guilty - itself is not taken under oath, therefore the pleading itself can never be a 'lie'. It is the position that the involved parties will be arguing under, as in a formal debate (Toastmasters debate for example).

        Only if the defendant testifies and in that on-the-stand testimony lies will they have 'lied to the court'.

        1. qwertyuiop

          Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

          This is what I don't understand about the criminal justice system. Once a verdict is reached then by definition surely either the prosecution or the defence witnesses must have been lying?

          Suppose I'm accused of carrying out a robbery. In court the prosecution witness says "Yes, I definitely recognise him as the man who robbed my premises".

          The defence witness says "It can't possibly have been my old mate qwertyuiop, we were at my place having a few beers and catching up on what we've been doing".

          If I'm found guilty then my mate who gave me an alibi must have been lying - I couldn't have been doing the job and been at his place at the same time. If I'm found innocent then the prosecution witness is lying because he said he recognised me when in fact he couldn't possibly have - I was at my mate's house.

          Obviously this won't apply to every witness: if a crime has genuinely taken place then somebody saying that the goods were there at close of business but missing the next morning is stating a fact, but otherwise both sides can't be telling the truth when their truths are contradictory.

          1. Killfalcon

            Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

            People can make mistakes: you "definitely recognised" that guy, sure, but cognitive science has shown that memories can be unreliable, and if pushed just right someone can be convinced that they *should* recognise that guy, and from there they convince themselves that they *do* recognise them. There a reason you need to also prove that the guy you recognise was definitely in the right place (DNA evidence, for instance).

            But then, really, that's a massive over simplification. Cases where someone robbed someone else and got recognised are easy , sure, but loads of cases aren't that. They hinge on details: maybe both parties agree that Dave cut down the tree, but Dave says it's on his land and Jeff says it's on his land and hell, they might even both have maps that say as much - until someone gets to the land registry files and found out that Jeff's great-grandad copied the map wrong 90 years ago. Neither was lying. One was *mistaken*, which is different.

          2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

            "

            This is what I don't understand about the criminal justice system. Once a verdict is reached then by definition surely either the prosecution or the defence witnesses must have been lying?

            "

            See my previous post. The vast majority of untruths are not lies, they are mistaken beliefs. Also, whilst a court's verdict is taken as being unquestionably correct for all legal purposes, in reality the courts fairly regularly get it wrong.

            When the Guilford 4 were found guilty (when they were later proven to be innocent), were the judge and jury lying?

      3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Wow, looks like Oracle and ICANN could find some board material here.

        "

        Presumably about 50% of all people at trials. One side says 'innocent', the other says 'guilty', and they can't both be right.'

        "

        Two points:

        1) Saying something that is later shown to be untrue does not make you a liar. It is far more likely that you were simply mistaken. If you phone your wife and say, "I'll be home in 30 minutes," but an unexpected traffic jam makes you an hour late, it does not make what you told her a lie. To be a lie you must say something that you *know at the time* is untrue. This is why Boris Johnson did *not* necessarily lie to the queen (not that I particularly like the man, but he should not be unjustly accused of something he did not do).

        2) A plea of "Not guilty" in a criminal court is a legal statement that basically means, "I demand that the prosecution prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that I am guilty." It does *not* mean, (as many people believe it does), that the defendent is officially stating that they are innocent. Thus you cannot be charged with perjury over your "not guilty" plea.

  4. The Mole

    Can anyone point to a good dissection of what the bugs actually were and how they resulted in such large discrepancies - it should be very hard after all to get a cashflow/stock system not to balance in some way (even if the amounts are in the wrong places).

    1. Andy Non Silver badge
      Alert

      Exactly my thinking. All accounting systems I've worked on required double-entry figures. Money has to go from somewhere to somewhere else, it can't just disappear. There should also be logs showing all transactions that occurred.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      How is it not easy to break the system?

      Transaction conducted locally, Mrs X walks out with her pension, server database not updated due to datacomms errors and no server database transaction log entry generated. If transaction logging didn't record that comms error locally and deleted the the local transaction record as complete, rather than retrying the transaction, neither the client side nor or the server database will have records for audit but the SPM's till is light ...

      I can't believe it's anywhere near that simple but, with the knots they're happily tying themselves into, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

      1. steveayre

        Which in itself is a design flaw of the system. It should log the transactions both server side and client side for longer than the transation, so that an audit can be made months or years later. That would have allowed investigations in each case to easily spot the problem by reconciling the two sets of logs. Similar to double entry accounting.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          Which in itself is a design flaw of the system.

          "

          I don't think there is anyone denying that the system was seriously flawed.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            I don't think there is anyone denying that the system was seriously flawed

            Apart from the PO and FJ ?

    3. Bonzo_red

      Bugs

      The bugs are listed in an annex to the decision:

      https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2019/3408.image2.pdf

      1. theblackhand

        Re: Bugs

        Thank you Bonzo_red - unfortunately, I can only upvote you once.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Bugs

        Thanks, although that only lists the names of the bugs (and you know it's bad when a bug gets it's own name), not their root causes, or a description.

        1. theblackhand

          Re: Bugs

          See Phil Endecott's post below where he has read through the rulings and provided paragraph references for more details of some of the bugs.

          They don't make pleasant reading for the Fujitsu (as the software provider) or the Post Office (that appear to have been happy to mismanage their supplier or at least not understand the impact of the issues AND the failure to address serious issues affecting the system)

      3. ArrZarr Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Bugs

        So the PO knew about the bugs but still litigated against those affected?

        I would like to think "That cannot be the case" but Poe's Law may be in full effect.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      £2000 worth of Lottery scratch cards entered on the system by a sub postmaster. Logs into system next morning to find entry has duplicated overnight and now shows he entered £4000 worth. Spends most of day on phone trying to convince PO that there's an error.

    5. JohnG Silver badge

      My understanding is that some errors were individual transactions being logged as multiple transactions on the central database (following a connectivity break). Others were apparently phantom transactions (possibly allocated from a different post office or even fraudulent activities of people running the central database), appearing in the central database after the post office concerned had finished for the day and completed their sign off from Horizon.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Malicious Prosecution?

    Definitely, and chuck every conceivable rule at them. And beyond all else make them personal prosecutions.

    1. short a sandwich

      Re: Malicious Prosecution?

      I suspect any charges of perjury should relate to the individual and not the organisation. Witnesses give a personal oath of " I promise. . .'

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Malicious Prosecution?

        Yup. You step in the witness box and you're personally responsible for what you say. You may think you're representing some big company but you have to be able to justify what you say on their behalf.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Malicious Prosecution?

        But if it can be shown that the individual committing the perjury did so at the encouragement - if not outright direction - of the organisation (i.e. their superiors), then the organisation - and those superiors - should be being charged with perverting the course of justice (or whatever the actual legal terminology for that is).

      3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Malicious Prosecution?

        But the person making the statement as "true" may well believe that to be true. If he's been told certain "facts" (such as, "we've checked, and the discrepancy was definitely not due to a software problem") then he isn't necessarily committing perjury.

        There will be some "interesting" questions as to who said what to whom ...

  6. Nish

    I'm wondering how anyone actually ended up IN prison for this. Surely part of the investigation has to be to prove someone either swindled the Post Office or that the software is dud and can't do maths. What evidence could have been used that the SPM did something dodgy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The majority of the evidence is provided by the Post Office as they managed Horizon. Based on the system bugs, the Post Office probably thought the SPM's were guilty and the evidence supported that view.

      Those being prosecuted only had their own records that didn't match the Post Offices.

      Add lots of lawyers and experts to the Post Office side and the result is almost inevitable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In one case they shut down a post office in a fairly small village as they were contemplating having the postmistress charged with fraud.

        The locals complained that they now had no post office so the post office opened a temporary PO in the village hall.

        The only person in the area who was capable of running it without training was the woman they were thinking of prosecuting so they gave her a temporary job there...

        And no - I'm not making this up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Auditors were not independant and I'm guessing there were no logs at the SPM to correlate the server logs against, so they only had an incomplete set of records to audit against but were treating them as 100% accurate.

      The PO did an in-house investigation that failed to find any problems.

      They then commissioned an independent investigation (Second Sight). They then obstructed that investigation by refusing to hand over key documents. When was clear it was going to declare the system "not fit for purpose" they shut down the investigation one day before it published (as revealed by Private Eye), destroyed all documents, and wrote and published their own report that declared the system was fine.

      Basically at that point they knew how bad the problem was and instead of dealing with it attempted to cover it up because they knew just how bad the damage to their business was going to be. Which is the same reason they used to try to get the case thrown out.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "they knew just how bad the damage to their business was going to be."

        They thought they did. They're now discovering how much worse it can get.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. dvd

      Seemingly some people were persuaded to plead guilty to lesser charges in return for shorter sentences.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Over the years, millions of pounds of discrepancies racked up. The Post Office refused to accept that Horizon could have been at fault and attacked the subpostmasters. Some were prosecuted. Some were found guilty of crimes and thrown in prison.

    ...As well as at least one documented suicide as a direct result, and numerous subpostmasters being forced to pay up the discrepancy out of their own pocket to the order of tens of thousands of pounds. And many being forced into minimum-wage jobs due to the circumstances of leaving the post office, resulting years of lost wages. It has killed at least one worker and put others into two decades of financial hardship.

    It's disgraceful.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      And made all the more disgraceful by the fact they have dragged this out for 20 years.

      Those in charge should face prosecution for malice, no doubts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Those in charge should face prosecution for malice, no doubts.

        ... and be fully liable of the amounts lost. Only when it hits their pockets will their behaviour change.

    2. a_builder

      Well it is a very sad post to make but if the suicide was as a result of a malicious prosecution then Post Office Directors will be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

      Corporate manslaughter has a reverse burden of proof.

      I hope there are some good long jail sentences both for the organised and orchestrated perjury and for the corporate manslaughter.

      It will be very interesting to see what comes out from the memories of the shut down enquiry as if this goes criminal the NDA’s won’t mean beans.

      I am glad this was exposed and kudos to the judge for doing a great job.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I'm mostly with you but I doubt it would be the directors personally who get prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

        OTOH any perjury cases will be personal. I wonder how many will try a defence of "my manager told me to say that.".

        1. a_builder

          Nope the Director responsible for H&S is the one on the line and/or any directors who gave instructions that damaged well being of employees / contractors or former employees.

          As I say it is reverse burden of proof.

          They have to prove they took reasonable measure(s) to protect the individual under corporate care.

          They can’t palm it in on some poor H&S sod with a clipboard and thick glasses with a nasal twang: you know him!

          This is Tony Blair era special law - guilty until proven innocent stuff.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I was under orders....

          ... didn't work out so well during the Nuremburg trials and there refusing an order got you shot ( I know not UK law but atleast a precident)

          "to the best of my knowledge" clearly doesnt not apply either since they stopped the investigation for a reason.

          Personally I see this as just another example of law only applying to the masses (assuming the police can be bothered) and none for the elite, we will have to wait for the final outcome since policy causing people to commit suicide might put the current government in the dock and they are definately not going to say "it's a fair cop Gov'ner"

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The real tragedy...

    Is how these "malicious prosecutions" succeeded, how it was impossible to convince a court of innocence when that was truly the case, why it's only now recognised that they were malicious prosecutions.

    It seems justice may finally be done, but it will be cold comfort to those who suffered through that, have had their lives ruined, and in some cases surrendered them in despair.

    One thing to bear in mind; this could have happened to any one of us.

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: The real tragedy...

      In many cases they pled guilty, to get a shorter sentence.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: The real tragedy...

        Given the reputation of the investigations the line of least resistance was seductive. Some made up the apparent discrepancy out of their own pocket and then made the mistake of signing the true record certificate. They were then sacked for uttering false document.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The real tragedy...

      "how it was impossible to convince a court of innocence when that was truly the case, why it's only now recognised that they were malicious prosecutions."

      Somebody has posted explanations above. Basically experts - but in effect PO/Fujitsu representatives - giving evidence and the accused not having their hands on sufficient documentation. An expert will be called by one side or the other but should still make an independent investigation. A strong desire to seek out the truth is the best qualification for an expert witness.

  9. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    how it was impossible to convince a court of innocence when that was truly the case

    It happens when you're up against an over-mighty state monopoly that will happily spend millions of other people's our money on lawyers. Governments are subject to democratic checks and balances, but an entity like the Post Office can get away with anything short of declaring war.

    One oddity here is the BBC's report of the outcome. When I heard about it on Radio 4 News, it sounded like a very modest and contingent victory, with no mention of malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment. Why is the BBC soft-pedalling this?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Why is the BBC soft-pedalling this?"

      The report on the BBC News website mentioned possible perjury charges. It might be a consequence of getting something on air quickly

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        BBC have been on this for years and blew the lid on the Second Sight Investigation in 2014.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23233573

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29130897

        Don’t forget the mire this scheme was left in by the Government flexing the DSS’s dropping out of it in the 1990’s ... and then went on to make an arse of CSA and Universal Credit.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizon_(IT_system)

  10. Andronnicus Block

    They thought it was all over...

    The news on this story is breaking so quickly it is hard to keep up. Read the latest post at https://www.postofficetrial.com/ referring to a statement issued today by the M.D. (Ron Warmington) of Second Sight - a company of forensic accountants that were commissioned by the PO back in 2013 to conduct an independent investigation They were then sacked at short notice when they obviously got far to close too the truth. Amongst other things, they believed that a lot of the so called losses at branch level ultimately found their way to the PO P&L.

    Quoting his statement

    "the Post Office has improperly enriched itself, through the decades, with funds that have passed through its own suspense accounts. Had its own staff more diligently investigated in order to establish who were the rightful owners of those funds, they would have been returned to them, whether they were Post Office’s customers or its Subpostmasters. When is the Post Office going to return the funds that, in effect, belonged to its Subpostmasters?"

    He adds:

    "It also seems to be clear now that some of those funds could have been generated by Horizon itself, or by errors made by the Post Office’s own staff, or by those of Fujitsu. They weren't "real" losses at all. They were phantom discrepancies."

    You can read their final report here...

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/262552400/Second-Sight-final-report-into-Horizon

    Not that long, but highly critical of P.O. I have just read a tweet from RW saying “...we were fired immediately after we demanded access to the PO Suspense Account records.”

    You can also watch the BES Select Committee hearings back in February 2015 - just my opinion but the PO team got absolutely skewered - link below.

    https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-innovation-and-skills/news/post-office-mediation-scheme-ev-session/

    Many observers of this lengthy case, thought it was all over when the mediation settlement was agreed last week. It now looks very much like that point marked the start of a whole new chapter, but this time the PO is going to have an awful lot of questions to answer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They thought it was all over...

      Their report got very close to the truth. It declared the system not fit for purpose and was shut down less than 24 hours before being published with the PO publishing it's own report instead that said there were no problems with the system.

      1. Andronnicus Block

        Re: They thought it was all over...

        So, let’s see if I have it right...

        PO, at the highest level, in the face of massive public and media interest engage forensic accountants (2nd Sight) to search wherever they want, to uncover the truth,

        2nd Sight start reviewing internal P.O. prosecution papers and find serious issues,

        PO senior legal counsel block all further access to said papers,

        2nd Sight request access to PO Suspense Account records

        PO (at the highest level presumably) terminate 2nd Sight commission,

        ... and for the next nearly 5 years, P.O. senior management continue to deny any knowledge or evidence of doing wrong.

        There are some serious questions to be asked, and yes having been close to this for many months, I truly believe that some senior P.O. people are going to find themselves in deep, deep s***t.

        1. Delusional

          Re: They thought it was all over...

          I seriously hope the scum in the PO, who hid their own mistakes while innocent people went to prison, go down for this. Would love to know their names.

  11. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

    OK, own up

    How many commentards have Fujitsu on your CVs, and what are you doing about it?

    (OK, not really any more shameful than EDS, Accenture, Crapita or others, but more topical right now).

    1. james_smith Silver badge

      Re: OK, own up

      I worked for a company that had traditionally used ICL, and then Fujitsu took over ICL. They provided shoddy, undocumented systems that seemed to use as many inappropriate bits of software as possible in order to rack up the license costs. Commands and ODBII are the two pieces of software that stick in my mind. The latter was a Object Oriented Database that Fujitsu had bought from an academic institution. It was incomplete, buggy as hell and incompatible with any existing tools.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK, own up

      Coincidentally I used to work with a guy called Gareth Jenkins, who is currently a Fujitsu employee...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: OK, own up

      Three tacit admissions so far in the form of downvotes. Actual followups all one-step-removed.

  12. dnicholas

    Shirly?

    At the every least you have a database at each end then you reconcile database rows by transaction ID IF your coding is that schoolboy level

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Shirly?

      In many distributed transactional systems.. Shirley not. Esp. If the go offline due to crappy comms - Horizon went to pilot in 1995 - ISDN would have been your go to connection method.

      That’s the job of the Sales Audit/Loss Prevention systems in the centre.

      1. dnicholas

        Re: Shirly?

        You wouldn't need such an accounting system if your transactional mechanism had validation built in, even over dialup this can be done periodically and at very least flag anomalies if it gets stuck

  13. Terry 6 Silver badge

    An honourable mention

    Also to Private Eye, which has been reporting on this for years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Private Eye has been reporting on this for years.

      It's at times like this that it would be really really useful to have content like this searchable online.

      Maybe one day.

  14. jonathan keith Silver badge

    The Post Office refused to accept that Horizon could have been at fault and attacked the subpostmasters. Some were prosecuted. Some were found guilty of crimes and thrown in prison.

    Let's not forget the subpostmaster driven to suicide by the Post Office over this.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The irony of the compensation deal......

    The cheque is in the Post.

    But the cheque never arrived

    We'll do a thorough investigation.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      The real irony

      £47,000 to £78,000 isn't much compensation for almost two decades of grief and a ruined life.

  16. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Bugs? Sure, we've heard of them.

    So the software was buggy, well what software isn't? That's what software testing is supposed to discover but, given the amount of bugs that they have discovered you have to wonder what the budget was for testing the system.

    Most likely the accounting system was written and then, as the management asks for more features, the timetable to complete the application slipped. Management then demands that the coders get it back on budget (yes, I've been there, I suspect that we all have) and the standard way to get everything back on budget and delivered on schedule is to back-off the testing phase. The product is delivered on time (bonuses paid all around) and then everyone says,"That's not a bug, that's a feature" or, "no problems, we'll fix that in a month or two" - has anyone not been there?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Bugs? Sure, we've heard of them.

      "That's not a bug, that's a feature" or, "no problems, we'll fix that in a month or two"

      That's yesterday's approach. The current version s WONTFIX. How many times is that going to come back to haunt the perpetrators in the coming years?

    2. Fading Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Bugs? Sure, we've heard of them.

      More likey - out for tender, large outsourcing company underbids to get contract, system found to be more complicated than expected during discovery phase, corners cut, delays, delays, delays, UAT concertinaed to less than bare minimum on a system that barely does the basics. Bugs raised during UAT ignored as "too late to do anything about" - system goes live..... profit.

      But what would I know....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what do you know

        There's another piece missing from your description: because of empires and stovepipes and spreadsheets and budgets and profits, it was more profitable for the Post Office to spend money "proving" SPMs guilty than it was to spend it fixing the Horizon system (including the people who were building Horizon).

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Bugs? Sure, we've heard of them.

      1 Thumb down? - I guess you got the bonus for finishing the software on-time and skipped the test phase?

  17. Huw D

    As a mate of mine who worked for the Infernal Revenue used to put it,

    Fucking

    Useless

    Japanese

    Information

    Technology

    Support (or Software, depending on context)

    Unit.

  18. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    What it looks like

    is that the designers of Horizon should have first settled down to read "Concurrent systems" by Jean Bacon (One of the dreaded course books on concurrent and distributed system design used by the Open University's honours level computering courses)

    Where she explains fairly well (ha) the whole logic behind designing a distributed computer system AND the steps you need to take to ensure that in financial transactions that you can make sure that the transaction goes through correctly even in the case of network or communication breakdown halfway through the transaction. ( and release any locks you've placed on the data while attempting to process said transaction very embarassing.. and cost me 10% on an assignment :) )

    I wont go into the details as the people with the technical knowledge will most likely say "For god's sake , shut up about that book" and for those people without the knowledge I suggest buying your own copy (first and second editions are the better ones).... but dont say you weren't warned..

    As for the actions of the post office in the matter, £10 says that the post office people behind the horizon system and the decision made that the "software could not be at fault" have all retired, or taken early retirement and thus beyond any sanction....

    Although will they still have criminal liability to face anyway regardless of age/employment status?

  19. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Nice one

    Top marks for the Computer Weekly ack. Private Eye has also covered the scandal at length over many years.

  20. Phil Endecott

    https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/bates-v-post-office-judgment.pdf

    Paragraphs of interest in the judgement:

    236-241

    337-359ish (it shouldn’t be possible to have duplicate entries with the same journal sequence number because it’s part of the primary key - oops, no, not if it’s inly PART of the PK!)

    402-416

    428 <—- read this para

    447-

    460 re windows nt migration

    480 - spurious transactions due to touchscreen

    (I’ve read about two thirds of it so far)

    1. Delusional

      Read para 429 “ The attendees at this meeting included at least one member of Post Office (rather than Fujitsu) personnel, Andrew Winn of POL Finance. There were obviously legal cases going on at the time, hence the reference in the underlined bullet point to “ongoing legal cases”. If these were criminal cases, the Post Office would be the prosecuting authority, with certain important duties. If these were civil cases, the Post Office would be a party with disclosure obligations. An affected branch would believe it had balanced its accounts correctly; it would not have done so. There is an evident concern amongst those at the meeting which is recorded in this document that this issue should not become “widely known” in order to avoid causing “a loss of confidence in the Horizon System”. Fujitsu do not seem to have been particularly prompt in either identifying the problem or reacting to it.‘

      So Andrew Winn... where are you now?

    2. Phil Endecott

      para 782- Fujitsu were manually fixing 10,000+ transactions per week!!!!!!!

      802 - funny!

      808 & 819 - P.O.’s expert’s analysis of the probability of these bugs resulting in these losses, in which he entirely ignored that the claimants are the ones who have suffered losses, not just a random group of postmasters.

      916 - keylogger (“audit”) data existed but was very rarely used. Timestamps on two different systems differed by an hour.

      921 - next change will be to ‘thin client’ with the existing horizon software now running in the “cloud”.

    3. Phil Endecott

      I’ve finished reading it. 313 pages!

      It does seem to me that Fujitsu was not being as open as it should have been with the Post Office about the extent or possibility of bugs, but also PO were to some extent guilty of not asking them the question. At least some in the PO probably really believed that the system was fine.

      There seems to have been a keglogger on the terminals and evidence from it could have given useful evidence in the criminal cases, but PO chose to instead rely on data from their management accounts system, which was much further downstream.

      The PO’s expert witness based his evidence on a totally bogus statistical analysis which assumed that the effects of the bugs would be distributed across all PO branches, ignoring that it was going to be the branches affected by the bugs that were the claimants in the litigation.

      The claimants’ expert witness got the bug database from Fujitsu (after much non-cooperation; PO claimed it was outside their control, but it turned out that the PO/Fujitsu contract had an explicit clause about supplying documents in this situation). The bug db entries are called “PEAKs” and “KELs” in the judgement. These were full of smoking guns like “do you think we should tell the affected sub-postmasters? No.” and “normally we deal with bugs like this by ....”.

      Originally the system was offline with periodic synchronisation with the main data center. The counter terminals seemed to create local SQL fragments which were eventually replicated to the data center using something called “Riposte” by a supplier called “Escher”. They would then be applied to the Oracle database. Apparently Riposte had a bug related to locking which could cause duplicate transactions to be sent; this was hard for Fujitsu to debug because it was in 3rd-party code, occurred rarely, and was perhaps related to power-cycling at the wrong time or a disk being full. They had a note in their support system saying “if you see this, get on the phone to the branch immediately and tell them to reboot”.

  21. zb42

    A minor IT angle

    So much horror in the blog.

    A minor IT aspect: The system ran on Windows NT until 2010 (according to Nick Wallis in a BBC interview), five or six years after the end of extended support for that OS,then after a 2015 deal with IBM collapsed it was upgraded to windows 8 (according to computer weekly)

    If it was locked down and firewalled appropriately then that may not have been particularly risky, and the upgrade cost would have been huge, but it's not exactly confidence inspiring.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prison is too good for Fujitsu senior management

    There are people in Fujitsu that should be imprisoned and stripped of their assets for this. But naming people like Gareth is wrong. He was a minion in the machine that was being driven by SLT egomaniacs and malevolent bureaucrats.

    An ambitious journalist could do worse than to dig into some of the deals that Fujitsu does and the ways it transacts its business and accounts for it all.

  23. Colin Bull 1
    FAIL

    IT - we have heard of it

    My belief is that all middle management at RM have come up through the ranks. The are knowledgeable about postal system but completely ignorant about IT.

    The postcode system has not been fit for purpose for 20 years. A house number and postcode should give a unique address, ie primary key. It does not. If 25 Station Road and 25 Station Court have same postcode the sorting machines will put them together. And after years and years of getting post for Station Court the bloke at Station Road will end up binning it. I have been there.

    When Fujitsu were asked by RM middle management if there could be a problem with system they would not have a clue how the system worked and what checks should have been in place.

    And once one or two prosecutions have happened it would be very difficult to back track and accept there is a problem And at this point top floor mandarins would put pressure on them not accept the possibility of a problem.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: IT - we have heard of it

      A house number and postcode *does* give a unique reference. S1 1AA/20 is uniquely house number 20 on the section of the street with postcode S1 1AA.

      And what's this got to do with the Horizon system?

    2. Chris Hills

      Re: IT - we have heard of it

      I wish my industry would standardise on using UPRN for referencing properties. It would make many things more efficient and accurate.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are people literally incapable of saying:

    "We were wrong. You are right. We're sorry."

    That they'd rather spend tens of millions of pounds of other peoples money, ruin decades of peoples lives, because they literally can't admit they were wrong about something. Nobody high up at the post office or fujitsu involved in this can seriously maintain that they were acting with a good faith belief that all the people they accused and prosecuted were guilty once doubts about the reliability of the system became proven.

    1. H in The Hague Silver badge

      "Why are people literally incapable of saying: "We were wrong. You are right. We're sorry.""

      Some people can. Menno Snel, the Dutch junior minister for Finance (and therefore responsible for the tax office) did just that last week. The tax office had wrongly accused folk of fraud relating to tax allowances for children. In a letter he stated: "... This is dreadful. Obviously I cannot undo what these parents have suffered, but I can try to remedy these past mistakes. This week the first parents will receive the repayments they are entitled to. ..... It is entirely justified that people look at the politician responsible - me. ..." And he resigned. But I guess he's operating in a different political climate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "That they'd rather spend tens of millions of pounds of other peoples money"

      One of those questions, that answers itself in the very first mention of the question. Other. Peoples. Money.

  25. Big Al 23

    But wait... the Flat Earth dot org folks have all sorts of reasons why the earth really is flat - according to their "research". In addition one well known accounting software provider when informed that their maths did not sum correctly advised that they would correct the problem in a future update. Apparently they didn't feel tax authorities would find the delay any issue? So how can the Horizon software be attacked? /s

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Court Reporting

    Court Reporting used to be the bread and butter of the many news agencies that used to exist - see Nick Davies "Flat Earth News". Now, if you want any reporting at all it must be crowd funded.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Law Enforcement is not there to help people

    It's there to protect big business and their wealth, aided by politicians.

  28. Marracuene

    Some possible consequences

    [This comment thread actually got me to update my Reg account... long dormant]

    I have read the whole of judgement no. 6 - generally riveting and notable for the number of ways the English language can be used to - every so politely - hammer someone. Also for glimpses of the judge's sardonic humour.

    Very sad to see, even after so much had already come out, the PO and its Lawyers still using Gestapo/McCarthy type tactics to browbeat and befuddle opposing witnesses... and the judge! Luckily he wasn't fooled.

    I live in a country where high-handed abuse by public-sector companies is almost routine, so I do hope that in my native land something can be done about the PO.

    One immediate development... which at leasts challenges the 'gilded pathway of those at the very top... is the following: https://www.postofficetrial.com/2019/12/is-paula-vennells-fit-and-proper-person.html?m=1

    Certainly there should

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