back to article Brit MP demands answers from Fujitsu about Horizon IT system after Post Office staff jailed over accounting errors

A senior Brit MP has written to Fujitsu demanding answers from the company over its role in the Horizon IT system scandal that has rocked the nation's Post Office. Darren Jones, Labour MP and chairman of Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, wrote to Fujitsu and the Post Office on Wednesday to raise …

  1. batfink Silver badge

    WTF?

    "Fujitsu and Post Office technicians remotely accessed accounts to correct the balances, unknown to the sub-postmasters"

    Has nobody heard of security? Access controls? Audit trails? FFS.

    Who is responsible for the design and sign-off of this system? IANAL but this sounds like something wide open to civil proceedings to me.

    1. John McCallum

      Re: WTF?

      If you want to hear all about this sorry saga the BBC are running an interesting tale on radio 4 at the moment catch up on BBC Sounds but mind the blood preasure.

      1. robidy Silver badge

        Re: WTF?

        Quite, what happens for those that are dead? That's the worst part, those that chose to go to their graves knowing the were innocent but no one believed them...anyone in the Post Office or Fujitsu & co who stood by and let it happen needs to explain why they should avoid prosecution.

        1. Rhuadh

          Re: WTF?

          Private Eye has been running with the story for years. They had a large 4 page in depth spread a couple of issues ago, latest one mentions that another case is coming forward as apart from the original 550 EX-PO masters and sub-PO masters, there is another 350 cases to be considered = 900 in all, plus many others probably coming forward.

          1. DCdave
            Joke

            Re: WTF?

            900 is wrong, the Horizon software clearly shows that only 42 people were affected.

            1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

              Re: WTF?

              The latest number stated in the BBC Radio 4 documentary series at 12:45 weekdays (available on BBC Sounds) states that over 900 cases have been or are being referred.

              The thing that gets me is that although they knew they were dealing with a potentially badly created IT system, they went for investigation by forensic accountants instead of IT system or security specialists.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: WTF?

                The Post Office commissioned a well respected accountancy firm to perform an audit of Horizon in the early stages of it's rollout. When the Post Office got wind that the report was not going to be positive, they paid for it but tried to bury it - but the accountancy firm concerned published the report on their website. They listed numerous serious issues, many of which they considered made the Horizon system not fit for purpose.

                If I can find a copy of the report, I will try to upload it and post a link.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: WTF?

                IIRC the forensic accountants were great at their job actually. So good in fact, they had to be "retired" from their job just before they accessed certain systems and made certain information public/legally available to the courts. Amazingly, this "retirement" happened one day before their report was published and the Post Office "lost" the report the next day.

                Wonder why that happened? And I assume the same would happen with an IT systems specialist... basically, no way to win!

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: WTF?

                  Lost in the post, mate. It happens, you know.

          2. gwp3

            Re: WTF?

            You can read that report at:

            https://www.private-eye.co.uk/special-reports/justice-lost-in-the-post

        2. PeeKay

          Re: WTF?

          My mother worked in a local post office and both she and the postmaster were accused of theft based on Horizon and Fujitsu evidence. Both lost their jobs because of it - but both proclaimed their innocence until they passed.

          They will never know about this sadly - however, the families who remain do - and cannot do anything about it either.

        3. mark4155

          Re: WTF?

          There were a lovely kind and generous couple who ran a sub post office in a suburb of Lancaster.

          One day the Post Office investigators walked in to their business and their home to investigate shortfalls in their business.

          The couple were innocent, honest as the day is long, I miss them both. They had to sell their home and business.

          The post office and their cohorts should be totally ashamed.

          Mark.

      2. Cynical user

        Re: WTF?

        The Private Eye was also covering this story for many months/years before the mainstream media showed any interest - and did an in-depth blow-by-blow special on it a couple of months back now.

      3. tony2heads

        Re: WTF?

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jf7j/episodes/player

        1. Colin Miller

          Re: WTF?

          Postmasters were prosecuted using unreliable evidence

          https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52905378

          1. jason_derp Bronze badge

            Re: WTF?

            @Colin Miller @tony2heads

            Holy crap I just waded through ALL of that. The British certainly don't do things half assed, do they? When you guys have some sort of secret scandal you make sure it is either as wide-reaching or as time-spanning as possible, at least from what I've seen. Crazy.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: WTF?

              Most of us were in Pizza Express at Woking at the time.

    2. Steve Channell
      WTF?

      Sloppy reporting

      The Underlying technology behind horizon was reposte a distributed message store with asynchronous replication in batches between centres and branches (originally ISDN) with UDP between computers in a branch. Like TIBCO rendezvous, all messages have a sequence number, and dropped messages are re-transmited - not especially different to a distributed ledger like bitcoin - but quicker

      It's sloppy reporting to imply that data might be hacked by some delphic oracle, rather than bidirectional replication. Originally benefit payment were sent pre-authorised to a number of branches so that payments would not be delayed by network latency (pre-authorisation being cancelled during replication).

      Cash Account summaries were compiled in branch at the end of and sent (by paper post) and electronically.

      Architecturally the cash account should have been produced by summarising all transactions in the host database because the branch file was a system (and commerical) boundary, but.because of the branch paper report calculation was distributed.

      People weren't prosecuted because of the system failure, they were prosecuted because the political imperative to justify the cost of the system

    3. JeffB

      Re: WTF? Harold Shipman

      "Fujitsu and Post Office technicians remotely accessed accounts to correct the balances, unknown to the sub-postmasters"

      Shipman was, in part, convicted on computer forensic evidence, having found to be modifying patient records post mortem. Was forensic evidence presented in these (now discredited) cases, and if so, how accurate and truthful was it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF? Harold Shipman

        It was buried. Plus how can a single person defending themselves either afford or gain access to government and financially private and restricted access to information?

        They were even partially thrown out of the court by the Post Office denying legitimacy of the judge taking the current cases! Rather than hear it out, they fought every. single. step.

  2. Scott Broukell

    Computers seldom make mistakes, they just respond to a series of commands and carry out those commands without giving them a second thought, in fact no thought goes on at all. Humans on the other hand are very good at making mistakes and worse, very good at putting the blame onto some one or something else, in order to draw attention away from their errors. This is such an absolutely disgusting tale of blindly putting computational results above the human level that I believe many people involved actually began to think that they had indeed made errors! What I can't understand is that testing the system thoroughly, proir to release, should have shown up the system errors that led to this sorry mess! So, to my mind at least, whomsoever commited the system to go live, without having a thorough enough testing regime to spot such errors, should carry the can in this case.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Results depend on questions asked

      I’ve got a wonder pill that will extend your life exactly 10 years

      Would you buy it if I marketed it that it kills you 10 years later?

      When the product is running late and over spent delivery becomes all about semantics, snagging items, sign off milestones, forward fixes, acceptable variance etc etc. The strict world of the post masters honed over decades couldn’t cope with the sudden lax expectations of the Horizon solution.

      People where jailed unnecessarily, lives ruined etc because a computing system cocked up and it’s managers where unwilling to accept blame for its deficiencies.

    2. SloppyJesse

      "Computers seldom make mistakes"

      At a very low level you might be correct (certain pentiums excepted), but computer systems make mistakes all the time.

      2 of the errors highlighted in these cases were the till not communicating correctly with lottery machines and horizon magically duplicating transactions.

      There should be a full enquiry to not only see who deceived the courts and Parliament ( Post Office executives consistently towed the 'Horizon is perfect' line with select committees and in courts) but also how the courts allowed themselves to be manipulated for so long by the P. O. At the heart of most cases was an accounting system which never seemed to be openly audited. The P. O. behaviour suggested they knew the system would not stand scrutiny and found ways to achieve prosecutions without the accounts coming under the microscope.

      1. hoola Bronze badge

        The computer system may not make the mistake but the software it is running can easily makes mistakes, it has been written by a human.

        Everything in this sorry episode has been about two big corporations trying their best to hide their mistakes at the expense of Post Masters lives.

        1. damiandixon

          CPU/GPUs are designed by humans and mistakes are made.

          I've run into issues with sin/cos on Intel GPUs while running mathematical formula's. Had to fall back to min/max polynomials and MAD instructions.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "There should be a full enquiry to .... see who deceived ... Parliament"

        And then enoble them, and put them in charge of something like, say, a Covid-19 tracking project.

        Coz that was the consequence of the CEO of TalkTalk lying to a select committee.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      I'm confident that the system was tested before it was released.

      But the problem with corporate testing is that software is always tested to show that it works.

      It's a big mess if you propose testing it to show that it doesn't work. If you are testing a large corporate system like this and you show that it has problems then you get moved to another project, demoted, and stashed somewhere else. The "problems" might be fixed but then nobody will test the fixes because of the problems that you caused.

      Been there, done that, it happened to me.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Once upon a time I was (peripherally) involved with some software testing. In which a set of criteria for success were established, agreed and written down. As far as I remember there were a few issues that were resolved and it was sent out.

        I've a nasty suspicion, based on stuff I've hear/been told over the years that that sort of regime is less common than I thought it was.

        How they test instead is beyond my experience, but I'd hazard a guess that the suppliers demonstrate the flashy bits they know will work and sort of sideline the dull but essential bits that maybe...don't.

        1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

          I too worked for a while in software testing for a large company. The criteria for rating test failures as minor, medium and major were agreed, the criterion that the software would not be released with more than a certain number of major bugs was agreed. The day before release a miracle occurred - lots of the major bugs became mediums and medium bugs became minor, so the software was ok to release!

          This is an example of Goodhart's law, once you start using a metric to determine what happens next, it sops being a metric and starts being a target. See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law

          1. Numen
            FAIL

            Just don't allow bugs!

            I worked for a company in the 70's and 80's where the QA group returned a product release literally 10 times due to all the bugs. The development managers were livid, of course, so they got the SW Dev VP to declare that the QA group could not run any tests that the developers themselves had not run. Problem solved!

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Just don't allow bugs!

              As is often the case this is a problem that's not unique to the IT world. But the nature of computery stuff is that there is far more complexity and far greater consequence than some ordinary businesses running the same shoddy practice.

              In the 80s or thereabouts my late father was managing quality control for a coat manufacturers - mostly supplying M&S who were notoriously demanding (quite rightly).

              He'd reject a batch of garments - his bosses would override him and dispatch the stuff with the ones that had passed ( they actually used to try to hide the duds inside the batch thinking M&S' people wouldn't spot them ffs!) rather than fix or remake them or sort out the quality issues. M & S would find the duds then reject the entire delivery. And of course not pay for it,. Time after time. The company began to get into problems, (not just due to this, but since M&S were practically their sole customer......) so they started to fire various middle managers, one after another - no senior heads rolled of course.

              Dad got out before he was pushed out. Within six months the company had gone belly up.

            2. CujoDeSoque

              Re: Just don't allow bugs!

              I worked for a vendor in the late 90s that did much the same thing only they fired the person in charge of QA as well. The speculation at the time had to do with upper damagement getting quarterly bonuses based on the software shipping. About 3 months later the vendor upper damagement was investigated and they were later successfully prosecuted for stock fraud.

              Draw your own conclusions.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peregrine_Systems

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How?

        How can a new recruit in a store/office environment like me, know a computer system is going to fail the i moment the boss reads out our days training system goes live.

        I sit there and don't move. "Why are you not going to log into the training system." I reply "because it does not work." They looked at me like I'm an idiot.

        Yet, with no experience, but hearing what was read out, and putting 2 and 2 together, it was instantly obvious they had allocated the entire business to log into the same system at exactly the same time, all accessing content rich media, all on the system that a week before was obviously "lowest cost, just about fit for current purpose." So yes, it instantly died the moment our work meeting finished and someone tried to log in.

        How can I, like that, make that conclusion, and have the confidence to make the statement, yet everyone else in the chain would have grovelled, dodged and head in the sand run straight for the end result? Was it deadlines to meet? Company bullying and the culture not to question or change? Was it lack of skills and actual inability to function as a working team or system?

        I've no idea. I do know it continues on in massive bigger parts of that company. Just glad I was not there for the bigger failures.

    4. James Anderson Silver badge

      er studies suggest that there are approx. 15 bugs per thousand lines of code.

      Not all of these get caught during testing. Its just good professional practice as a coder to assume that its your fault when something goes wrong.

      1. CujoDeSoque

        True story. I once wrote something that had no bugs at all. But due to my assumption that it must have bugs, it took me much longer to verify it worked than if it had bugs.

        The real point to all this is that I expected bugs but had I found one or two, I would have declared it a success when in reality it may have had more than that.

        I'm not sure if I should always assume it's perfect or that it will never be perfect.

        Sorry to go all Zen on y'all but I thought it a unique learning experience.

  3. genghis_uk Bronze badge

    Heads ought to roll

    I followed this in the Private Eye for many years. What the senior post office management did to the sub-postmasters was truly criminal

    This podcast tells the story https://www.private-eye.co.uk/eyeplayer/play-367

    There ought to be prison sentences for the directors that brought this about but, once again, there will be no comeback. It is looking less likely that there will be a proper enquiry

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Heads ought to roll

      ‘Misconduct in a Public Office’ seems appropriate.... unless it’s just for bent coppers or dodgy councillors.

      I’m sure they will try to hide behind Crown Immunity though.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Heads ought to roll

        IANAL but I was informed online by someone who claims to be, that where people's lives have been impacted, from stress to suicide, Crown Immunity does usually not apply. He taught me two things I didn't know: there is a thing call crown censure and also that protection from prosecution does not extend to Crown employees (and, in the process, convinced me that he quite possibly was a laywer!)

      2. Nick Porter

        Re: Heads ought to roll

        The Post Office is a private company.

        1. CliveS
          FAIL

          Re: Heads ought to roll

          Until 1969, Post Office branches and the Royal Mail delivery service were part of the General Post Office, a Department of State. In 1969 it became the Post Office, a statutory corporation owned by the State. In 1986, Post Office Counters Ltd was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Post Office, still effectively owned by the State. While the Royal Mail was privatised in 2011, Post Office Ltd is still owned by UK Government Investments.

          tldr; The Post Office is not a private company, but remains State-owned.

    2. FordPrefect

      Re: Heads ought to roll

      Given the time that has elapsed, in all probability given the turnover of directors and senior managers in corporate Britain those responsible will have either retired or moved onto pastures new at least 10 years ago. When is the last time you saw someone at director level or above stay in post for more than 5 years in big business Britain ? They've already moved on to mess things up somewhere else...

      1. hoola Bronze badge

        Re: Heads ought to roll

        Just because they had moved on should not exempt them from investigation or prosecution.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Heads ought to roll

        Given the time that has elapsed, in all probability given the turnover of directors and senior managers in corporate Britain those responsible will have either retired or moved onto pastures new at least 10 years ago.

        The average tenure of a FTSE 100 CEO is 5.4 years. That, however, should have absolutely zero bearing on the criminal investigation that should now be taking place and the charges filed once conducted.

        In the UK there is no statue of limitations of the kinds found in other legal systems.

        1. a_builder

          Re: Heads ought to roll

          It isn’t any bar under health and safety legislation.

          The postmasters were owed a duty of care by PO. And even in prosecuting them they were owed a duty of care in the same way the police have a duty of care to people they lock up.

          There is no Crown Immunity to Health & Safety.

          The directors are the ‘controlling minds’ and there is a reverse presumption of guilt. You have to demonstrate that you discharged your duties - they didn’t - they just lied to MP’s Courts etc.

          1. FordPrefect

            Re: Heads ought to roll

            As most Post Offices are franchise type businesses not entirely sure health and safety laws and a duty of care would apply in most cases ? What might apply is if the people in the relevant positions in Fujitsu and the post offices were aware of the problems and actively covered things up "Attempting to pervert the course of justice" or potentially for post office position holders as they were technically at the time a public body "Misconduct in a public office"? Maybe even perjury although for that they would have had to given evidence in the first place and lied in court.

  4. Blitheringeejit

    Background listening

    Any rightpondians who haven't been paying attention to this astounding piece of corporate fuckery can catch Radio 4's account, broadcast as a series of five 15-minute programmes throughout this week. It's not just a story of poor software design and inadequate testing, but also of senior post office managers telling barefaced lies to their sub-post-people and in court, and innocent people losing huge sums of money, and being fined and jailed, as a result.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jf7j

    1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

      Re: Background listening

      Just wondering who downvoted your post.

      As for going to prison, don't forget, one sub postmistress was pregnant at the time. I'd be amazed if no-one had committed suicide because fo their treatment.

      1. Andrew Dancy

        Re: Background listening

        Unfortunately there was one in 2013 as a direct result, and at least one more is known to be very likely to be linked to this scandal.

    2. Falmari
      WTF?

      I sure rightpondian corporations are Jealous

      I am sure corporations in the USA are jealous that they don't have the right to bring their own private criminal prosecutions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I sure rightpondian corporations are Jealous

        I think you may have missed a lot of "public" services in America that *are* private corporations. See schools and universities as one example of having their own legal standings.

        1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

          Re: I sure rightpondian corporations are Jealous

          True, but in order to jail someone, the police needs to be called, an investigation conducted, and charges filed by the District Attorney. Then there's an arraignment where the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty.

          If not guilty, then the case has to be tried in court. Here in the U.S. we have two different types of trials: A bench trial in which the presiding judge makes the determination and the jury trial where your peers judge your innocence or guilt.

          Private corporations must involve law enforcement if a crime has been committed and they want to jail the person.

  5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Any chance

    of criminal proceding again post office managers.... ohh they've all retired.... well best not to

    Meanwhile, old squaddies who commited crimes in Northern Ireland are still being chased by the police/law for events 40 years ago

    Sorry but post office managers committed crimes by having innocent people jailed.

    If we as a people are prepared to let those guilty go free, then what the **** is the point of the law... just like cummings and his lockdown eyetest.

    1. genghis_uk Bronze badge

      Re: Any chance

      Unfortunately Paula Vennells (CEO during the scandal) got a CBE for services to the post office! She was paid something like £4.5M during her 7 years of service and now runs the Imperial College Healthcare Trust. Oh, and she was a member of the Cabinet Office for a while too.

      Not very likely that she will be prosecuted - in the meantime, the post office are reviewing 900 prosecutions that may have relied on dodgy data from the Horizon software

      https://www.postofficetrial.com/2020/05/post-office-reviewing-900-prosecutions.html

      1. Nifty Bronze badge

        Re: Any chance

        I was born with a a suspicious mind. To this day I'm thinking: Computer errors or was there a systematic syphoning of money to a 3rd party miscreant going on?

        Something like this

        https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100628/1718299993.shtml

        But on a more blatant scale.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any chance

          Any business or individual without morals, will have no incentive to fix the things that benefit them, but will fix the things that harm them.

          So, if a company only fixes the software bugs that take money out of the accounts, but leaves the ones that deposit money, how do you prove it? More to the point, how do you stop it!

          1. Nifty Bronze badge

            Re: Any chance

            I am wondering if there was auditing of financial IT systems in the UK like Sarbanes-Oxley, this would have been caught earlier. Some UK and European companies already implement an audit to SOX standards.

            https://boardagenda.com/2019/12/16/frc-is-working-on-a-uk-version-of-sarbanes-oxley/

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Any chance

        It should not be up to the PO to review them - they have demonstrated that they lie and will probably carry on doing to.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any chance

      “ what the **** is the point of the law... just like cummings and his lockdown eyetest.”

      Still this?

      Next You’ll be saying that the horizon system is infallible And it’s the post masters that where cooking the books and caught with their hands in the till.

      Your comment is a clear indictment of the fact that people see what they want to see and some like to be sheep and follow the populist crowd regardless.

      A guy got CV19 and was scared he might die, after recovering he went for a drive with his family and you want him sacked because it may have infringed some guidance.

      FFS the pettiness of some people!!!!!

      How about you come down here and sort out the kids and yobs, who’ve been intentionally breaking lockdown since it started, first, then the labour luvvies hitching up with their partners and driving hundreds of miles just to sit on their parents driveway.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Any chance

        Dominic! Is that you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any chance

          "Dominic! Is that you?"

          No, it's the Irish Premier, just returned from his picnic in the park where he was playing meet-and-greet with all the other people breaking Ireland's lockdown rules which had only recently been announced by... the Irish Premier. Oops.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Any chance

        Ok lets translate my scribblings into something you may under stand

        The accounts dept spots a difference between the amount tallied up by each branch vs the amount tallied up by the software.

        Manager decides "The branches are stealing money" and gets branch managers sent to jail.

        IT department comes along with "hey boss , the software is crap and full of errors in the tallying"

        Manager responds with a robust sending away message and carries on jailing people

        Several years later we find out the software WAS crap, and that innocent people were being jailed

        Manager responsible walks away with a huge pay off and wont be jailed himself.

        Would you be happy if you'd been falsly imprisoned?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Any chance

          "Would you be happy if you'd been falsely imprisoned?"

          As a regular expert witness over many years a constant worry was that I might despite best efforts get caught up in a miscarriage of justice. It's a concern every expert witness should have, at least one appearing for the prosecution. I can't help wondering if the witnesses who appeared in these cases had that concern.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any chance

            It's a concern every expert witness should have, at least one appearing for the prosecution.

            Expert witnesses are not supposed to be appearing for the prosecution or defence.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Any chance

              Witnesses are called by either the prosecution or defence. That includes expert witnesses. I can't imagine any situation where a witness just walks up and plonks themselves in the witness box unbidden.

              1. DavidRa

                Re: Any chance

                I was given to understand that an EW is there on behalf of the court (and therefore "called" by the presiding judge), not either of the parties to the action. It seems that would be the only reasonable way to have someone who is impartial in their role as the EW (and specifically that's because they are _seen_ to be impartial as well).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any chance

          Translate all you want, I was fine with your comments about the post office story and agree the postmasters have been unduly blamed, harmed and had their lives unduly impacted.

          “ what the **** is the point of the law... just like cummings and his lockdown eyetest.”

          Do you still want to bang on about this guy?

          He thought he’d be ok to drive but wanted to make sure before a really long drive.

          The police didn’t charge him.

          A short drive gave him confidence to drive back to London and go back to work.

          I had to see a hospital eye specialist once, I was told I was ok to drive with the steroid eye drops I was given, I didn’t drive for a few days once I got home as I wasn’t happy, I certainly wouldn’t have driven 250+ miles despite the specialists assurance I was ok to drive. I’d had not known had I not driven the short distance home. Had he said don’t drive home I’d have got a lift or cab home.

          1. Timbo

            Re: Any chance

            "A short drive gave him confidence to drive back to London and go back to work."

            *IF* he was unsure of his eyesight, then why didn't his WIFE drive them back to London - she can drive and has a driving licence.

            PS: She also wrote an article in the Spectator magazine that implied she was in London observing "lockdown" rules, when in fact she was in Durham...

            Cummins has basically been "caught out" by not following Govt guidelines and wants to deflect attention away from his "control" over BoJo. The little arse didn't even apologise or show any remorse whilst giving his statement...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any chance

            Urgh, the facepalm is strong in this one

            "He thought he’d be ok to drive but wanted to make sure before a really long drive."

            He had his wife in the car with him - she has a driving licence. Also, the golden rule of driving is (and has been for a long time), "if you're unsure of your ability to drive, don't". The fact that the journey was to a town on his wife's birthday has also led to obvious conclusions being drawn by some (rightly or wrongly).

            "The police didn’t charge him."

            If you actually listened to what Durham Police said, they do not prosecute breaches of the lockdown regulations after-the-fact. They did say that had he been stopped by an officer he WOULD have been sent home.

          3. Tony W

            Re: Any chance

            Cummings not being prosecuted over his apparently clear breach of the law (the drive to Barnard Castle could not be called leaving home for an essential reason) is normal, probably not special treatment.

            But that doesn't excuse him giving an explanation so idiotic that it is beyond satire, and an insult to any intelligent person. He has aroused huge rage among many Conservative voters - see the Daily Mail coverage - and if he had been a mere cabinet minister he would have been forced to resign. So either he has some sort of hold over Johnson, or else it suits Johnson to subvert his own message about the need for strict adherence, not to the letter of the law, but to government guidelines. Or both.

            1. Blitheringeejit
              Black Helicopters

              Re: Any chance

              Of course he has some kind of hold over Johnson - he knows where the Brexit campaign money came from, because he arranged the deal. It would be awfully embarrassing for everyone concerned if that came out.

              <cough>rubles<cough>

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Any chance

              It's more that;

              * Johnson has no idea what to do and say without Cummings

              *The Old Etonian buddy ideology guides his decisions and that

              *There's a culture of impunity (and probably promotion) for the incompetent or dishonest Great and Good. They screw up and move on to better things when us little folks get sent to the knackers.

              The latter holds for corporate failures as much as individuals. Probably why the likes of Crapita keep getting new contracts.

          4. Outski

            Re: Any chance

            Mary, shouldn't you be back writing more bullshit for the Spectator?

        3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Any chance

          herself in this case.

      3. Jonathan Richards 1
        FAIL

        Re: Any chance

        > you want him sacked because it may have infringed some guidance

        No. One wants him to be relieved of giving advice to [1] the Prime Minister, because of a demonstrable failure of judgement. He didn't say he "[went] for a drive with his family", because of what the PR people call 'optics'. Maybe that's why he ascribed the outing to being an eye test. <sfx>rimshot</sfx>. So, that's either a lie, or a demonstrable failure of judgement: "Jeez, I don't think I can see well enough to drive. Let's load up the wife and bairn, and take a trip to Barnard Castle to find out".

        [1] Or operating the PM with his hand up Mr Johnson's back, depending on who you believe.

      4. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Any chance

        '...labour luvvies' ?

        By now that sounds positively Edwardian in antique abuse.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any chance

        A guy got CV19 and was scared he might die and thought “how can I share this experience with people 260 miles away“

      6. Jon Smit

        Re: Any chance

        Is it necessary to remind you and other Cummings socks that he and his wife, also took and collected his child from the local hospital while both of them were suffering from the virus. Apparently neither of them told the hospital they were ill.

        Due to privacy constraints, the hospital has not been allowed to give details about the incident. We will never know if Cummings spread the virus during his trip to a cottage that apparently doesn't officially exist.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Any chance

          "he and his wife, also took and collected his child from the local hospital"

          And this despite the fact that the entire flit to Durham was so that his nieces could look after the lad.

    3. Eclectic Man Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Any chance

      Remember that _nice_ William Waldegrave, the one who changed the 'interpretation' of the rules preventing arms sales to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, without changing the wording, so he didn't have to tell Parliament. The one who was letting the directors of Matrix Churchill be prosecuted for selling arms to Iraq and then had to admit it when they threatened to tell the court that they had the approval of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka M.I.6), and through them a certain Mr William Waldegrave? Well, he is now Baron Waldegrave, and chancellor of the University of Reading (the 'Visitor' is that upstanding gentleman who would never treat anyone with any disrespect, or slouch on the front bench of parliament, Jacob Rees-Mogg).

      Well , I am sure that the senior managers at the Post Office who allowed this travesty to happen can look forward to similarly strong punishment in the future.

      So there!

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The episode has also triggered a wider review into corporate private prosecutions brought by companies who are "victim, investigator and prosecutor

    In the UK, the prosecutional role was removed from the Police into the CPS years ago because of problems. Why on Earth have private companies been allowed to continue when this system has shown to be broken?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Because thats the whole point of a private prosecution, and for the most part its a valid way of getting justice when the CPS won't take action.

      This part of the system is fine, whats not is that there is no comeback (afaik) for a retrospectively malicious private proscecution which is now demonstrably what the Horizon ones were.

      T

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Private prosecution is one thing. Being the investigating police, and the prosecution, as well as the expert witness testifying in front of a lay judge - when you are in effect under judgement yourself if you lose the case (i.e. have a vested interest in the outcome beyond simply righting the specific alleged wrong) is very different.

    2. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

      According to the BBC Radio 4 documentary, the UK's Post Office is the oldest organisation in the world permitted to carry out formal investigations (who knew?). I wonder how many other organisations there are in the UK with similar powers.

  7. IGotOut Silver badge

    Pointless letter.

    Why has this MP even bothered to write this?

    I'll translate it into Fujitsu terms.

    Dear Fujitsu, are you willing to admit you knowingly produced software that led to false imprisonment's and failed to act on this.

    Please put it in writing so we can use it in court against you.

    Yours

    Naive MP

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Pointless letter.

      Well it can't hurt to ask, even if Computer says No.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pointless letter.

      "Why has this MP even bothered to write this?"

      Publicity to maintain pressure?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Pointless letter.

        Exactly...The PO and Fujitsu would love it to all go quiet and let the public forget. The culture of impunity to claim another score.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          re "culture of impunity"

          Yes, the establishment do seem to get away with a lot... herd impunity?

    3. Paul Shirley

      Re: Pointless letter.

      Ignoring questions from a parliamentary committee is unwise but doable, lying to them much worse. Fujitsu have been given a choice between looking guilty or very guilty. Innocent is long gone.

      Unfortunately the current gov will ignore the whole affair whatever happens but creating doubt might help get justice for the victims.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Pointless letter.

      Sometimes, getting a denial in writing or recorded in some official capacity can be very useful further down the line when it may well come out that they DID know. It's all up there with "our customers data security is our number one priority", "it was a highly sophisticated hack"

    5. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

      Re: Pointless letter.

      One has to give the miscreants an opportunity to own up to their errors. They cannot now say, when questioned "you never asked."

  8. bruceawilson

    Therac-25 meets Terry Gilliam's Brazil

    What a nightmare! Depending upon the body part I might prefer a searing beam of electrons to getting entangled in this fiasco.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "While Fujitsu was not a party to the litigation..."

    Whilst that's true they provided participants in the form of witnesses. One aspect to look at here is how well informed those witnesses were.

    Were the problems known the the witnesses? If they weren't but were known in Fujitsu who was responsible for sending ill-informed witnesses?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'll repeat my comment on an earlier article about the trial outcome:

      Worth repeating (if only for the search engines) the Judge's comments at the conclusion of the case that he had ‘very grave concerns about the veracity of evidence’ given by Fujitsu employees during not only this trial but the previous ones involving individual postmasters.

      The judge said that he had sent a folder to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration: "I wish to make it clear that the specific subject to which I will drawing the specific attention of the DPP relates to the evidence on previous occasions of Fujitsu employees.". He also said, of two Fujitsu people, that one had "expressly sought to mislead" [the court] and that the other had given "wholly unsatisfactory evidence".

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > One aspect to look at here is how well informed those witnesses were.

      The Post Office were taken to court by the sub-postmasters and a settlement was reached. The trial judge, Sir Peter Fraser wrote in his official judgement:

      "Based on the knowledge that I have gained both from conducting the trial and writing the Horizon Issues judgement, I have very grave concerns regarding the 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. These previous proceedings include the High Court in at least one civil case brought by the Post Office against a sub-postmaster and the Crown Court in a greater number of criminal cases, also brought by the Post Office against sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.

      After very careful consideration, I have therefore decided, in the interests of justice, to send the papers in the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Max Hill QC, so he may consider whether the matter to which I have referred should be the subject of any prosecution."

      Basically the Judge is confident the Fujitsu witnesses lied in court on multiple occasions.

      1. Falmari

        This requires some sort of Judicial review of all convictions.

        Seems to me that all convictions that involve this software are unsafe due to recent evidence.

  10. Ex IBMer

    Sue the crap out of them.

    How about a Gazillion pounds for every day in Gaol.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      As previously mentioned, what about the poor souls who took their own lives when convicted of crimes they did not commit? No amount of money can bring those innocents back from the dead.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Agreed but their families deserve compensation.

    2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

      Sue

      Haven't they already done that and settled?

      Enriching lawyers but not fully compensating themselves.

  11. Alistair Dabbs

    MP's letter

    I hope it doesn't get lost in the post.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it meet specification?

    Having seen some dreadful crap delivered at great expense to customers who got exactly what they specified, a couple of questions spring to mind.

    Who wrote, owned and managed the specification of Horizon?

    Who accepted the system into live service? In particular who had responsibility for saying that it met specification?

    Who had responsibility for the audit of the system?

    When issues were found, who had responsibility for investigating and remediating any issues found?

    I am sure these things are all covered by the contract between Post Office and Fujitsu. I wouldn't be surprised if t the moral duty of many parties got lost in a contractual struggle to apportion and avoid blame.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Previous Register Coverage

    For those who have missed it, The Register has some previous coverage on this (the judge was particularly scathing of Post Office, especially after they tried to have him removed on the grounds of bias, and stating that it would endanger national security if he ruled against them)

    https://www.theregister.com/2019/12/12/post_office_horizon_case_settled/

    https://www.theregister.com/2019/12/18/post_office_trial_fujitsu_horizon_judgment/

    https://www.theregister.com/2020/03/10/horizon_it_scandal_post_office_fujitsu_parliament/

    Basically: be very annoyed.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People died

    People died because of this, yet no one is being held accountable. But tell a joke on the internet, or swear in public....

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My 2 pence worth

    ...and I'll probably get shot down, but this is based on my experience, not observations:

    Cummings, whilst a sh1t show, and can be blamed for many things but has naff all to do with this, arguing off topic with things like that trivialise the grief and horrendous events that occur to the people, who through no fault of their own, but because a company couldn't admit their product was at fault.

    The judges comment at the in the sixth judgment on the Bates v Post Office group litigation are quite telling.

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

    I have worked with Fujitsu indirectly, either as a customer and along side FJ teams to deliver things for many years and I shudder when I see some of their stuff. They have some great people, but, as they tend not to pay well, they have a lot of people in positions purely because they need filling.

    It's like

    Manager "You want to work in London?, what do you know about messaging?"

    Staff member "Nothing"

    Manager "That's fine, you'll learn it, can you get there tomorrow?"

    And thus, an email specialist is born, and they've done this in many roles, in many locations, Basingstoke is full of people who are in roles they have no experience for, and this isn't an issue if they put some effort in or are interested, but if you're put in a role that you don't know, don't care, won't get training for and you're not interested because you're getting paid anyway, I don't blame them.

    Fujitsu, are not alone, but they are the worst for this, and the amount of issues they've cause, but still win work, is amazing, they are either massively cheap, of there are some seriously back handers going on

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: My 2 pence worth

      The judges comment at the in the sixth judgment on the Bates v Post Office group litigation are quite telling

      Thanks for that link, his comments sum up all you need to know really - the PO and FS were a bunch of liars who'd rather send people to prison than admit that their precious system could be flawed.

      One very interesting avanue is mentioned at the end of that piece : "If these cases are overturned, claimants could bring charges of malicious prosecution against the Post Office"

      Now that could be interesting, if each person did that as soon as they were acquitted, that in itself would cause something of a new sh*tstorm for the PO. Not only that, but absent any action from government, I believe a judge in such a case would be able to declare the PO as a vexatious litigant which would in practical terms bar the PO from making it's own (unsupervised) prosecutions in future. But I bet that doesn't happen either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My 2 pence worth

      This explains a lot.

      I'm the same AC that posted 'Never work with Fujitsu if you can help it' below you.

      A few years after the original HORIZON work, we had another unrelated project with the PO, and of course that involved Fujitsu again.

      Fujitsu were responsible for writing up the specifications, this included a lot of custom XML formatted data this time, which originally did not include schemas (or DTDs)!

      On reading the specs, it was obvious that who ever wrote them had no idea how XML should be used. It was basically just a simple list of 100s of elements, all in one large block, with dozens of XML attributes being used in most of them. A complete mess, and as mentioned, not even any DTDs or schemas'!

      Due to our past experiences with them, we insisted (internally with RMG) on XML schemas being required, otherwise we should refuse to allow them to interface into our system, and used all the previous evidence of them constantly messing with, and breaking, the HORIZON interface, as the primary reason for this. Which was accepted, and so RMG insisted PO, and therefore Fujitsu provide schemas.

      We also insisted that the interfaces include a data validation step, against the schemas, at both the sending (PO/Fujitsu ) and receiving ends (RMG). (They were using FTP/S, so no built in validation like you could do with say AS2, or a modern web-service). This also included sending any validation failure reports back to the sending system, where they were required to take action to fix their broken data and then resend. As such we would not raise alerts on our system, for their bad data, we simply generated the reports, logged the issue, and ignored the data. And all this was agreed.

      Some months after we'd gone live, we get a report from a very irate PO representative, that no data had been processed by RMG for something like three or four weeks! And demanded to know why.

      Of course I investigated, found we'd been failing data against the schema validation, and passing the reports back to Fujitsu to investigate, all logged, but silent at our end, as that was the agreed process.

      Fujitsu claimed all was well at their end, and it turned out they had been ignoring the validation failure reports from us, as it was passing their validation without error!?

      We confirmed the data was bad, but they insisted it was good, so we asked Fujitsu for a copy of their Schema. Sure enough it wasn't the same as ours. Same version number, but with new elements added!

      Seems they'd changed the data contents, then just manually edited their schema till the data passed! Never even thought to ask us to do any changes at our end!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never work with Fujitsu if you can help it

    Much of the technical side of this doesn't really surprise me when Fujitsu is involved.

    I worked at the Royal Mail Group at the time the HORIZON system was going in. As you likely know, quite some history between Royal Mail, and the Post Office, although the PO had been separate for some time by this point.

    Anyway I was one of the people responsible for an RMG Integration platform, and we had a lot of feeds between us and the PO (for things like parcel and package deliveries, tracking data etc).

    HORIZON went in, and we got some specs from Fujitsu regarding new data formats. They'd implemented everything as custom fixed width flat-file formats! This was early 2000s', things like XML were in wide use by that point, or even something like EDIFACT, tradacoms or some other standard EDI format, but no, lets use a custom flat file instead!

    Some time after it all went live, the PO, with RMG, decides to start adding new products and services to HORIZON. Various over-the-counter services, many of which required data being sent to either directly to RMG (so Royal Mail or Parcelforce), or that needed to go to RMG customers.

    Fujitsu decided to use XML this time, but due to technical limitations in HORIZON (or just sheer incompetence) Fujitsu didn't want to create a new interface, so they literally just tagged the XML data straight onto the end of the flat-file records! So you ended up with something like...

    ABCD...(about 200 chars)..XYZ<tag1>data</tag1><tag2>moredata</tag2>

    No XML header, no real structure, and no schema. Also Fujitsu couldn't confirm the order in which any of the elements would be provided, so this could be different from one line to the next. Apparently another limitation of HORIZON (I got the feeling they were just processing everything as plain text internally, and HORIZON literally just couldn't cope with actual real XML).

    None of the existing RMG systems processing the flat-file data could handle the XML, so we had to strip it off for those systems, and the one that was built to handle the XML data, needing it to be well structured. So being the Integration platform, we had the dubious job of cleaning this data up, and making it into proper XML compliant data, with a schema.

    Unfortunately Fujitsu had a habit of changing the XML elements on a regular basis, such as removing old elements, adding new ones, renaming them etc. They would then simply implement these changes into the live HORIZON system, without testing the changes, or even letting us in RMG know that this was going to happen. This would often break either the transformation process in the Integration platform, or break the receiving system, as they either didn't know what to do with new elements, or an old element it was expecting suddenly didn't exist any more!

    Fujitsu became known as Fidgitsu internally.

    1. Outski

      Re: Never work with Fujitsu if you can help it

      AC perhaps you might like to contact Mr Jones and share your experiences:

      https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25637/darren_jones/bristol_north_west#profile

  17. vishal vashisht

    How is no one in JAIL?!

    Both Fujitsu and Post Office Board level Management should see people in jail for this. How Fujitsu can be allowed within a million miles of ANY Government contract after this as well amazes me. They should be stripped of ALL contracts that are currently running AND should pay compensation to all the families of the sub post masters involved, including those "feelings and hurt" compensation.

    ANY public sector procurement team that uses Fujitsu should be fired on the spot. These kind of things make me REALLY angry. Ordinary peoples lives literally destroyed so that management in an outsourcing firm can keep their bonuses or meet their SLA's.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Bronze badge

      Re: How is no one in JAIL?!

      It isn't clear at this point how much responsibility Fujitsu actually carry. Some, at least, clearly, but it appears it was the PO who were driving it all, and that they simply wouldn't listen to anything Fujitsu might have tried to tell them.

      As I understand it, the root cause of the whole debacle was that a PO manager looked at the manual reconciliations being carried out and thought they were costing the amounts corrected, so put a stop to them. It appears no-one with even half a brain ever looked into it after that.

      1. Lyndon Hills 1

        Re: How is no one in JAIL?!

        They were also trying to gear up for privatising the business at the time. Probably hard to do if you have to admit that all the branch accounts are in doubt due to a faulty computer system.

        Certainly various people knew this, as I think I recall reports of errors at the branch being 'corrected' by transactions entered at head office.

        1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

          Re: How is no one in JAIL?!

          Well, they are well-connected members of the establishment, jail is for 'little people', you know, people like sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses. If we start holding our 'betters' to account for this sort of chronic incompetence then our top business-people, politicians and civil servants might have to answer for their own mis-deeds and criminal activities(*), and then where would we be?**

          (*Alleged)

          (** That would be almost like a fair and ethical democracy, where it is actually illegal to unfairly discriminate against people due to race, sex, sexuality, creed or just being more competent that the chap you were in the Bullingdon Club with.)

  18. Jon Smit

    Correcting balances

    What are the legalities of "... remotely accessed accounts to correct the balances, unknown to the sub-postmasters..."

    What kind of person does that and never says a word when hundreds of post masters are being prosecuted?

    1. Falmari

      Re: Correcting balances

      They probably didn't know.

      The people that were told to correct the balances were probable told to correct errors that had been found.

      They don't see the bigger picture and that higher ups are covering their arses.

  19. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    In following this I've been reminded of a film that I can't remember where something similar was happening in a bank. The denumount was somebody saying in exaspertation:

    It's as simple as two (cranks adding machine) and two (cranks adding machine) makes... (reads adding machine) five?

    Why on earth was there no human observation of the system working in operation to pick up these flaws?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That sounds a lot like "Brazil" as others are mentioning in other threads about current world events.

  20. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Time for the lawsuits

    I'd say it's time for the victims to sue Fujitsu BIG TIME, sue the Post, and sue whoever falsely imprisoned these people rather than doing their jobs and realizing a brand new, buggy as hell, computer system is brand new and buggy as hell. The people faslely imprisoned should get LARGE settlements, the others (who reimbursed, or were slandered against) should get a healthy check as well.

  21. Andrew Dancy

    Investigative journalism at it's best

    This whole sorry saga does show the importance of good, solid, long-term investigative journalism. In this case there are a number of people who have doggedly pursued the truth over many years. The real heroes in this are Computer Weekly and Nick Wallis. Computer Weekly first picked up the story in 2004 and have run with it ever since then. The then-editor Tony Collins is also instrumental in exposing other disasters relating to software, including the Mull of Kintyre crash.

    Nick Wallis picked up the baton in 2010 and has steadfastly pursued the story ever since. He's the source of most of the BBC articles, he's the co-author along with Richard Brookes of all the Private Eye coverage, and his regular blogging all throughout the legal process is absolutely compelling reading (https://www.postofficetrial.com/) . He's also the presenter of the Radio 4 series that's just ended and will also be presenting a Panorama about the scandal in a couple of weeks.

    In the mainstream press although it will pain many to hear, the Daily Mail have been solid in pursuing and keeping this story in the public eye for a number of years now and actually have a pretty good track record in campaigning/investigative journalism.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Investigative journalism at it's best

      And Private Eye who brought it to a wider public than Computer Weekly could have alone.

  22. steviebuk Silver badge

    Can...

    ....Darren Jones also ask why the Post Office management that was involved in this have now been promoted to other government contracts, instead of severing jail time or at least being blacklisted from any senior position again. We have Paula Vennells who still has her CBE and now the chair of Imperial College Healthcare Trust.

    All mentioned in The Private Eye recently.

    Its all fucked up, considering people went to jail and others died. All we're hearing again is "Lessons have been learnt". What? That appears people in senior positions are void of prosecution.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Can...

      Yes, the lessons learned seem to be that if you are sufficiently well connected and have had a senior establishment job you can slide from a fiasco in one major organisation to an even more senior job in another and so on.

      And also that if you are one of those above you can lie and cheat with impunity and still get that plum establishment job.

      1. Martin
        Unhappy

        Re: Can...

        ...you can lie and cheat with impunity and still get that plum establishment job.

        Witness the current Prime Minister.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Can...

          Yep. Just the top of a pyramid of skulls.

      2. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

        Re: Can...

        That would certainly fit with Chris Grayling's career

        Privatisation of the Probation Service (cancelled).

        Sorting out the railways (in the way that they are even worse than when he started).

        Hiring a ferry company for emergency freight transport in case of a hard 'no deal' Brexit, that unfortunately did not have any ferries. Then having to pay out loads of money to Eurotunnel for failing to have a proper public tender.

        I wonder if he'll get a peerage.

  23. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Amongst other things, this affair shows an appalling lack of ethics in the programming and IT world. Dozens if not hundreds of people must have known what was going on, and yet not a single one had the guts to blow a whistle at the time or has had the guts to do so since. Maybe it's too much to expect in an occupation (the word "profession" is not appropriate) which uses and defends tax evasion so stridently.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Boffin

      I work in aerospace engineering, one of the lowly 'face' workers, we have customers who send us a spec for a part and any blind man can see it wont work eg a fuel pump bearing having a particular size specified, yet the part is plated by the customer and we know that the size will change out of spec.

      We can point this out to the manglers here and their attitude is "we're making it to the customers spec, now get on with it"

      Of course the customer then calls us a few days later and says we made them wrong because now the fuel pumps seize up(if they can get the bearings in at all), shit then rolls downhill and lands on us.

      In that situation , its easier to keep your head down and keep quiet about problems you see, because the manglement dont like uppity "I told you so" employees that call into question their own competence.

      Its not a lack of ethics in the guys actually doing the job, because they can yell "it wont work" as much as they like if the manglement just ignore the problems because they want to hit the delivery targets in order to get bonuses etc.

      "Send the program, we'll blame the programmers for any show stopping bugs, even though the programmers have told us there are show stoppers in the customers data format"

      "hmm what that... the plane did a 180 roll 30 seconds after take off and plunged into the ground... must be the pilots fault...."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This. If your floor sweeper can see your company is failing, and you fail to take action, what hope is there?

    2. Maelstorm Bronze badge
      Flame

      As a developer, I take offense at your insinuation that software development is not professional and lacks ethics. When I went through my computer science degree, I took a mandatory course called Ethics in Business and Computer Science. According to the Association of Computational Machinery (ACM), there are a set of rules that all professional software developers. You can read it here: ACM Ethics. Fujitsu is not an American company and I have no idea what their ethics are. One of the major violations here was do no harm. In this instance, considerable harm was done with people going to jail, getting their pay cut, and committing suicide.

      I find it ludicrous that in the U.K. legal system that a private entity can haul you before a judge, present evidence, and then have you jailed even though you are innocent. Not only that, because money is involved, there should be audit trails to trace where the money came from, and where it went. Here in the U.S., every transaction is logged. A private entity can call law enforcement and have an official investigation conducted to find the truth. Only then can a prosecutor (on the government payroll) can bring the defendant before the court on formal charges. Furthermore, if they actually took the time to do it, a proper manual audit would prove the computer was in error. The issue is that most people believe what the computer tells them, even in this day and age with all the crap on the internet.

    3. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

      Not just IT:

      Anyone remember Piper Alpha or Deepwater Horizon? Lots of warnings from 'minion' level staff about incredibly unsafe working practices, but no action until things literally blew up. And, of course, more recently the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, where the residents complained for years about unsafe electrics in the block, and poor building safety levels.

      This idea of management 'knowing it all' and ignoring the genuine concerns of the people doing the actual work* has killed a lot of people in many industries.

      I used to work for a major UK communications company. I got a low mark in one of my periodic appraisals and had to do some 'training'. Part of the training was about 'Change Management'. NONE of the courses (Computer Based Americana) included ANYTHING about whether the change the management wanted was correct, or sensible or would even work. It was all about implementing the change, and assuming that it would work. In fact in one of the quiz questions, one of the -wrong- answers was apologising for having got something wrong.

      There was no option at all for informing the management that there was any problem at all with, for example, replacing the electric heating in the building on the Isle of Wight with gas (because gas is so much cheaper than electric) because THE NEAREST GAS MAIN IS TWO EFFING MILES AWAY which was why they had electric heating in the first place. (True story.)

      Apparently a manager who admits to the team the he or she made a mistake reduces morale.

      Oh well, I'm (reasonably) happily retired now.

      (* See the excellent book 'On the Psychology of Military Incompetence' by Norman Dixon for how this sort of thing happens again and again and again.)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Not just IT:

        I've posed this before, but probably worth repeating in this context.

        The management consultant that used to come to us was convinced that management was a self-contained profession and that you didn't have to know about the specific business.

        The stuff he recommended and the stuff I had to study in my educational Leadership qualification was pretty much the same. And it was all about getting compliance - mostly by being manipulative. Very explicitly, in the lectures etc. doing the right thing by your staff was seen as a management method to obtain outcomes. Not something you did because it was the right thing, as such. Working with staff to determine appropriate outcomes was not seen as being of any relevance. We, as managers ( Head teachers, advisors etc) were there to manage the (highly qualified and experienced professional) minions. There is no doubt that the staff are meant to be cogs in a well regulated mechanism - according to modern* management ideas.

        *Might have changed, but I see no signs of that. I did this 10 years ago and educational management is always about 10 years behind the outside world anyway, so that we are made to take on the nuttier ideas after they've failed already.

        1. Eclectic Man Bronze badge

          Re: Not just IT:

          @ Terry 6

          Ahh, that would explain a lot of things.

          I once considered doing an MBA, but all of the brochures and ads for the courses seemed more about career progression than actually learning things to help your company succeed. But that was along time ago, so maybe things have changed.

  24. Mike 125

    still up...

    'Over 3.5 million lines of programming code were used tocreate Horizon's sophisticated functionality.'

    "Wow. I mean like. WOW. I gotta get me some of that." thinks the suit.

    Horizon

  25. adam payne Silver badge

    The Criminal Cases Review Commission is slowly referring convicted sub-postmasters' cases to the Court of Appeal, 47 having been sent to senior judges for review so far.

    This saga has gone on far too long and all cases need be reviewed with the upmost urgency.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Broken By Design

    As ex-Fujitsu field engineer that worked on the Horizon systems in post office premises, we knew the kit was rubbish, the software didn't work properly and the things got covered up. Needs a full investigation and those at the top of FJ/PO and those who signed off on the deceit put in front of a judge.

  27. Nick Porter

    One sub postmaster's story

    This is a major scandal that has resulted in the jailing of innocent people - the Post Office has powers to bring prosecutions against it's own staff that the CPS wouldn't touch with a bargepole.

    One of our local postoffice's got caught up with it and it has resulted in years of harrassment and threats to the subpostmaster. Luckily he has the support of the entire community including local solicitors and barristers who helping him - many are not so lucky. Sid's story is here: https://www.postofficetrial.com/2019/09/chirags-story.html

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a special place in hell

    For people that cover up and let others go to prison or have their lives ruined.

    They should be prosecuted and have everything taken from them.

    I would prefer to walk out if a job and tell the truth than sit taking the money with my head down.

    SHAME IN ANYONE WHO WORKED THERE AND KNEW THIS WAS HAPPENING...

  29. Torchy

    How do you compensate the family and loved one's of those that took their own lives because of this?

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