back to article announces review – not proper inquiry – into Fujitsu and Post Office's Horizon IT scandal

The British government is to launch a review into the Fujitsu Horizon IT system used by the Post Office in its years of persecution against sub-postmasters held responsible for fictitious accounting shortfalls. The review was announced by junior business minister Paul Scully, who published its draft terms of reference in a …

  1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Meally Mouthed Diversion

    Talk about obfuscation. There should be criminal prosecutions.

    1. CAPS LOCK

      "There should be criminal prosecutions." Absolutely and, not...

      ... of low level minions. The buck should be stopping with those at the very top.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "There should be criminal prosecutions." Absolutely and, not...

        "The buck should be stopping with those at the very top."

        Except, as is often the case, the "people at the top" have either retired or moved on because the investigative process has take so many years. The "people at the top" now are not the people who were in charge at the time. And of course, we normal people are left wondering why the "people at the top" are not held to account even though they have retired or moved on. It's not like a gang of burglars would be "let off" because they've since left that gang and retired or joined a new gang.

    2. NeilPost

      Re: Meally Mouthed Diversion

      It’s absolutely Fucking shocking beyond belief.

      Plain and simple ‘Misconduct in a Public Office’. A criminal offence not just for bent coppers and dodgy councillors.

      Judicial review anyone ?!!

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Meally Mouthed Diversion

        "Judicial review anyone ?!!"

        People throw that one around. It doesn't mean what you think it does.

        All a judicial review does is establish whether procedures were followed correctly. Nothing else - and it expressly does not establish any liabilities

  2. batfink

    Well that's a relief

    Making sure the Post Office won't make the same mistakes again and "lessons have been learned". Excellent. Just what the sub-postmasters who were hounded and prosecuted want to hear.

    1. Chris G

      Re: Well that's a relief

      Clearly the current government would not want a judicial enquiry, the setting of real regulations to govern such rollouts as Horizon or meaningful penalties to those who in this case maliciously pursued innocent people in order to cover up their own shortcomings, because that would interfere with ' business as usual'.

      1. nematoad

        Re: Well that's a relief

        "...meaningful penalties to those who in this case maliciously pursued innocent people..."

        I don't think that all this political theatre is going to be the end of the story much as certain parties might wish.

        There is something called "Malicious prosecution" in English law which could be used against The Post Office and senior managers, to seek redress for the PO's appalling treatment of their sub-postmasters. Added to which are the cases that have been referred to the Court of Appeals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

        Senior arses may well be kicked and I note with some pleasure that Paula Vennels the sometime PO CEO has been dropped from her position on the Cabinet Office board and it seems that those in high places are edging away from her due to the toxic nature of this affair.

        Oh, I nearly forgot. The judge in the case brought by the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance, which they won hands-down, has referred Fujitsu to the Director Of Public Prosecutions over evidence given by its staff in the trials of a number of sub-postmasters accused of theft and false accounting. So there may well be consequences for people involved in all this.

        1. MadAsHell

          Re: Well that's a relief

          Agreed. Time some folk from Fujitsu who gave evidence under oath faced Perjury charges.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: Well that's a relief

            Judging by the BBC Radio 4 documentary and the Panorama programme, I would have thought 'Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice' should be considered. Senior people at the Post Office and Fujitsu knew there were serious bugs in Horizon and yet it was claimed in court that Horizon was correct. In addition, as they got people to 'make up the deficits' themselves by coercion and deceit, that is also a crime.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Well that's a relief

          "There is something called "Malicious prosecution" in English law which could be used against The Post Office and senior managers, to seek redress for the PO's appalling treatment of their sub-postmasters. "

          nematoad is being too circumspect. AIUI, this is still being actively pursued - and the fact that Post Office settled for £60 millioon is a substantive admission of wrongdoing. People want their names (or names of now-dead family members) _CLEARED_ and they see this as a path to exoneration.

  3. Da Weezil

    Once there were several claims of problems with the system any prosecutions must have been based on evidence of which witnesses CANNOT have given with absolute certainty which must give rise to suspicions of perjury by the management of the organisation and its witnesses. Officers of the company have to face the same ordeal of legal process as they subjected the innocent sub postmasters to for there to be any sense of justice.

    It is becoming all to regular in the UK for companies to buy their way out of situations like this. Given that the courts were used as an instrument to try to cover up this issue The courts themselves should have those responsible from with Post Office management (and that includes those who were part of the issue but have now moved on) bought before them for due process. Clearly in certifying the evidence that was given in court they were playing fast and loose with facts and truth.

    No prosecution = No Justice.

    1. genghis_uk

      The Post Office were swearing under oath that there was no way to access Horizon remotely.

      However, there was a lot of evidence that multiple access points were available - internal discussions prove this.

      In one case, the prosecution team were given details of remote access a few days before the case went to court - they continued the case anyway and stuck to the argument that it was impossible while witholding the new evidence from the defence team. This alone ought to result in people being held to account

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "must give rise to suspicions of perjury by the management of the organisation and its witnesses"

      Not just that, but their lawyers stated in court that the system was without fault, despite the fact that they had been sent internal memos stating that there was a known bug causing the issues the sub postmasters were facing (possibly "professionally interesting"). They also failed to inform the defence of this (a breach of disclosure requirements according to a QC).

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        If the prosecution Barrister knew anything about this they'll be facing career (& liberty) ending charges in front of a very unsympathetic judge.

    3. NeilPost

      The Post Office is not any old ‘company’, it’s a public (state run) body.

      So in this case ‘Misconduct in a Public Office’ also comes very much into play.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sigh of Relief

    Paula Vennells will be praising god on this decision.

    1. Commswonk

      Re: Sigh of Relief

      Paula Vennells will be praising god on this decision.

      I would like to think that God will find some way of reminding Paula Vennells of the Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness...

      Quite what form that reminder might take I don't know.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        There is every chance that, unfortunately, it will not be a bolt of lightning.


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sigh of Relief

        "Quite what form that reminder might take I don't know."

        Frogs. Or boils. Hopefully.

        1. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Sigh of Relief

          "Or something with boiling oil..." (The Mikado)

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The first things should be (a) any criminal prosecutions against the Post Office and/or Fujitsu and/or members of staff responsible and (b) a presumption that all prosecutions against the postmasters are unsafe, even those who pleaded guilty with the Post Office offered a strict deadline to object to any particular case before all convictions are quashed. (a) because until those are dealt with there would be an excuse for anyone called as a witness to an enquiry to object that the matter is sub judice; this might be why it's only a review being set up now. (b) because this shouldn't just hang on whilst things are drawn through a criminal review procedure. When (a) is out of the way would be time for a judicial inquiry.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      While i'm completely onboard with criminal prosecutions for people who knowing persecuted people who were innocent, presumably there needs to be some investigation into who knew what before criminal charges can be brought because at the moment nobody really knows who should be prosecuted?

      1. Commswonk

        presumably there needs to be some investigation into who knew what before criminal charges can be brought because at the moment nobody really knows who should be prosecuted?

        Perfectly true, but that investigation must be carried out by trained investigators with possible suspects interviewed under caution; a "review" is likely to fog the issue, and indeed gives the suspects the opportunity to fog it.

        Just look at the way Grenfell was/is going, with the next batch of participants wanting (and IIRC getting) immunity from prosecution on the basis of what they reveal to the enquiry.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Yeah, but what's happening with Grenfell is rather obvious.

          The fire service relied (and rely) on buildings being built to the fire code for their advice and procedures to be valid. Ergo, the problem is in approximate order:-

          1) The people who clad the building in flammable plastic.

          2) The people who demanded that be done instead of a safer alternative.

          3) The system that allowed it to be done.

          The system is allowed it to be done is devised and run by the civil service, and the people who demanded that it be done work for the civil service. The civil service are largely running the inquiry and always appear to protect their own. Therefore, neither 2 or 3 are likely to get blame attributed to them, which leaves the available option as being 1. If taken to court and the entire blame is put on 1, they will reasonably point out the role of 2 & 3 and they would be drawn in. Ergo, 1 has to be protected to protect 2 & 3 and so nothing happens.

          Yes, my political education comes from "Yes Minister". Assuming things work something along the lines of how the civil service is depicted there though tends to be more accurate than assuming that they work as they are actually supposed to though!

          1. Fred Dibnah


            Shirley the system is devised and run by the civil service, under instruction from the government? I know that Yes Minister portrays things as being the other way round, but if the government isn't ultimately responsible then what is it actually for? Shovelling money to itself and its friends?

            I've just answered my own question so I'll get me coat.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: 3.

              The "under instruction from the government" part is an interesting issue.

              "The Government" meaning a dozen ministers are therefore responsible for all of the civil servants. Figuring out how many there are is an interesting exercise. This site says Public sector employment totalled 5,442 thousand in September 2016. Which appears to be an appropriately Yes Ministery way of saying 5.4 million.

              How much control do you suppose a cabinet of a dozen people has over 5.4 million people?

              My personal take on it is "probably not enough".

              1. KBeee

                Re: 3.

                One of Margaret Thatchers "Big Ideas" before she was elected PM, was cutting down on waste in the Civil Service. She achieved this by de-classifying postmen as Civil Servants, thus reducing their numbers by about 150,000.

                1. Peter2 Silver badge

                  Re: 3.

                  Yes, and no.

                  Post WW2 the Labour government nationalised pretty much everything in an industry that had a union successfully combining well run (competing) profitable companies into loss making disasters that then went splat.

                  As a result in 1976 the UK was literally bankrupt and had to go with a begging bowl to the IMF who demanded serious cuts to public expenditure for the loan.

                  In return, the Labour government expanded their program of nationalisations, creating British Shipbuilders in 1977 and British Aerospace in 1977 and rows split the Labour party with unions taking the view that union owned monopolies that could strike for better pay bringing the only source of services to a halt were the way forward for the country, and everybody else in the country who didn't agree.

                  The "everybody else in the country that didn't agree" voted in Thatcher to deal with the resulting mess in 1979, who took pretty much the only option available of "make them all private companies, allow competition, and let them sink or swim"

                  The post office role was pruned back to just dealing with the post by splitting off their telecommunications arm as BT, which was then summarily thrown into the open market.

                2. NeilPost

                  Re: 3.

                  ... and flogging BT, British Gas, BA, BP etc.

            2. Wayland

              Re: 3.

              Just following orders is a poor defence when you know what you're doing is wrong. Yes someone else might do it but then they will be the one in the wrong, not you.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: 3.

                "when you know what you're doing is wrong".

                This is where you come to the junction of several things.

                Hypothetically, imagine that the system of fire testing (ie, set fire to an example and see if it does what it's supposed to do) is considered bad because of the carbon emissions, wasteful of otherwise usable resources etc etc etc and is expensive and so gets reduced to burning a single panel rather than a large mockup. This happens without much of a protest by anybody because arguing against that would get you unpersoned by a twitter hatemob who can follow the "CO2 bad" summary, but is incapable of nuance like "we need to do that for safety purposes".

                Things that then pass the requirements with a single panel pass, and are declared safe. They then make it to deployment instead of being weeded out by testing. Because they are crap, they are cheap. Because they are cheap and pass the new requirements on paper, they get widely deployed.

                Therefore with nobody actually deliberately being evil or individually doing knowingly doing anything wrong you end up with an entire system that works perfectly, and yet achieves absolutely nothing whatsoever of any actual use because previously safe buildings that limited fire spread to one room end up retrofitted with cladding to reduce carbon emissions which then turns the previously safe building into a funeral pyre.

                "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", not with people deliberately doing things that they know are wrong.

          2. Anonymous Coward

            > The system is allowed it to be done is devised and run by the civil service,

            Sort of.

            The system that allowed it to be done is supposedly controlled by civil servants. But they rely on expert companies to help devise the standards. But experts in something detailed and specific like construction cladding tend to work for the cladding manufacturers themselves. So you end up with the industry marking its own homework. After a couple of years, the civil servants move on and there is no longer any expertise with which say 'hold on, you can't do that'.

            A similar example has occurred over the years with abattoir rules. One particular rule requires a vet to be present on premises at all times during slaughtering. This is an utterly pointless waste of time for a skilled vet but has the benefit of being very expensive - so large abattoirs running at industrial scales can absorb the costs and small, family-run abattoirs have all been forced to close. These rules were promoted by the large operators ostensibly on grounds of animal health[1] and it was purely coincidental that it eliminated cheaper competitors.

            [1] And animal health is actually worse because the livestock have to travel a much longer distance from the farm to the abattoir instead of a short distance to a local place that previously may have only operated part time.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "So you end up with the industry marking its own homework."

              And it's not limited to the UK either. Boeing anyone?

          3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Sorry, how are the people at fault who clad the building with panels the building code said were safe?

            This is almost entirely a problem with the system for assessing the safety of building materials. That is a very hard problem to fix because we were already doing our best, and the system didn't work.

            It's also partly about inadequate fire safety training, which I mention only because that's something easy to fix.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Sorry, how are the people at fault who clad the building with panels the building code said were safe?

              Because IIRC the manufacturer was American, and their fire code said the stuff was for "single floor properties only" and it was marketed and sold on that basis where fire spreading to multiple floors wouldn't be a serious issue since the properties it would have been used on were tiny, and would have had easy access to being covered with lots of water from fire engines. They produced better stuff for multi floor properties.

              IIRC they were horrified that it'd been used as it had because they knew that use would be lethal, and they withdrew that product to ensure that nobody would ever be able to use it like that again. Blatantly, somebody that bought it knew that it wasn't safe by US standards, which people never tire of telling us are more lax than our safety standards.

    2. Commswonk

      The first things should be (a) any criminal prosecutions against the Post Office and/or Fujitsu and/or members of staff responsible...

      OK; IANAL but IMHO the Post Office & if appropriate Fujistu should be on the receiving end of a criminal prosecution for Malicious Prosecution, and the responsible individuals (as opposed to the bodies corporate) be on the receiving end of appropriate punishments.

      The prosecution of the sub - postmasters was pursued in the face of mounting evidence that something was wrong with Horizon but they pressed on regardless, even to the point of shutting down a formal enquiry that they themselves instigated when it was becoming obvious that the findings were turning out to be unfavourable to their case and even trying to get the trial judge to recuse himself because he seems to have spotted what was going on.

      Paula Vennells CBE "for services to the Post Office" should be put under immediate review because she headed up a course of action that actually brought the Post Office into serious disrepute.

      The government is the PO's sole shareholder and I have a strong suspicion that its proposed "review" is intended to prevent any serious investigation into the action that was taken, not facilitate it. At the same time, of course, it is allowing soldiers who served in NI during the troubles to be harried for events that took place 40 years ago with prosecutions being a distinct possibility as a result.

      The sub - postmasters deserve better than this; in fact we all do. Much better.

  6. stungebag

    Dodged a bullet

    Some years ago I remember a Post Office counter being installed in the office that I worked in. It was a dummy - we were bidding for the Post Office Counters business at the time, and we must have spent millions on the bid.

    We lost. Just as well, perhaps. But then our solution may have actually been able to count.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dodged a bullet

      No you didn't dodge a bullet because your employer appears to have taken the bid process seriously. If you had won then you would have had time to build and test your system properly and the whole sorry saga would never have occurred.

  7. Dunstan Vavasour

    Letter (email) Written to my MP

    Email sent to my MP expressing my disappointment with these terms of reference, saying that they should include the finding of wrongdoing in both PO and Fujitsu. He always replies, though often dodging difficult questions. I'll see what comes back.

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Letter (email) Written to my MP

      Indeed, everyone please write to your MP and demand a proper public enquiry - subpoena privileges, penalties for perjury, etc. Anything less is seen as an attempt to cover up the cover up.

      Off to do mine now ...

      1. nematoad

        Re: Letter (email) Written to my MP

        Why bother?

        Mine has just been in the news for blatantly breaking the lock-down by attending a barbecue with a friend who also broke the rules by relocating from London to his second home.

        Anyway he doesn't bother to reply when I have e-mailed him and to be honest I am not going to waste the price of a stamp to get some kind of regurgitated government bullshit.

        1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

          Re: Letter (email) Written to my MP

          For things like this, I ask my MP "please ask the minster responsible ..." - preferably naming the appropriate minister. That way, they have little to do themselves, but the ministers get a lot of queries from MPs. Ministers don't like this, and it takes (according to sources I had years ago) only a few letters from MPs to get their attention.

          But I understand your frustration. Our previous MPs were much the same - if the answer could be done by copy-paste of a party soundbite then you might get one, otherwise it was unlikely (especially as most of my queries conflicted with policies of his party). At one point I was intending to go and see him in person and ask direct - why don't you answer any of my letters ? Harder to ignore when you're sat across a desk from them, but I never got round to it, and I really didn't write many.

          The alternative is to not bother writing at all because "it doesn't change anything". That is a self fulfilling prophesy since if nobody complains, then TPTB can assume that everyone is happy.

  8. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Struggling to understand....

    I'm struggling to understand why this isn't being pursued criminally. These fucktards must have lied to the courts to get the postmasters prosecuted in the first place.

    A huge suit is needed to nail these arseholes to the wall prior to them being flayed alive.

    1. johnfbw

      Re: Struggling to understand....

      I haven't seen reported what the actual problem was - beyond missing money. Any lawyer worth his salt should have demanded supposed incoming cash vs actual incoming cash to see the values of differences. These should have been line item details so easily identifiable as erroneous.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Struggling to understand....

        Any lawyer worth his salt ...

        Please don't presume the victims were let down by their lawyers. This is a part of the terrible tragedy; that the courts chose to believe evidence which was in fact false, chose to believe lies and reject truth, found guilt where there was only innocence.

        There was a systemic failing in the justice system which let down, not just the victims, but all of us.

        This goes far beyond any one group being severely hard done by. This could have happened to any one of us.

      2. goodjudge

        Re: Struggling to understand....

        "I haven't seen reported what the actual problem was"

        If you have time I strongly suggest you read (and then start buying Private Eye on a regular basis ;o> ). Basically it was a tissue of lies from the start: large and unexplainable 'accounting errors' in post offices all over the country that couldn't be possible without either massive, wholesale fraud or a serious software bug or bugs. The Post Office and Fujitsu maintained all along, including in multiple postmaster prosecutions, that Horizon was utterly infallible and especially that it couldn't be accessed remotely so all discrepancies must be fraud by the postmaster / mistress from within their office.

        According to the PE report, internally the PO and Fujitsu knew their defence was a lie and some of each's witnesses knowingly perjured themselves, including at the big trial last year. The sainted Vennells did her best to keep at arms-length and maintain plausible deniability. Thus far she's effectively got away with it. Whether karma catches up with her remains to be seen.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Struggling to understand....

        > supposed incoming cash vs actual incoming cash to see the values of differences

        You're assuming that there was a second system to check against. There wasn't. Horizon did all the accounting and there are no independent bank accounts per branch - it's all through the PO's own bank.

  9. macjules

    Zuckerburg could not have written it better

    “The Post Office is committed to applying the lessons it has learnt.”

    They spent over £23m of public money on legal fees and all the while they knew there were “high risk” issues with the computer system, but did nothing about it.

    “In the past, we have fallen short.”

    They falsely claimed sub-postmasters stole hundreds of thousands of pounds, leaving a number of the wrongly accused in prison and some to take their own lives. If that is "fallen short" what is "made serious prosecutable errors"?

    “In the past, we got things wrong in our dealings with postmasters and we look forward to moving ahead now.”

    They drove people to suicide. Those people cannot “move ahead now”, so perhaps "moving ahead" should involve a criminal trial of those responsible, from junior to senior positions, and a formal apology with proper public settlement, not one engineered between barristers over claret.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Yeah but, you see, in the end it's the Government that is responsible, and we can't have the Government implicated in another scandal - especially when they managed to maneuver so well to ensure Mrs Vennells' future and comfortable retirement, right ?

      I mean, a proper enquiry would be such a nuisance. It might even draw attention to some friends in high places.

      1. macjules

        The last "proper "enquiry" IIRC was into the Balaclava Charge and subsequent destruction of the Light Brigade of cavalry. It stated that Lucan, Raglan and Cardigan were not fit to be in charge of remount charges in the stables, let alone several regiments of lancers.

        A hurriedly reconvened enquiry found the opposite.

    2. Wayland

      Re: Zuckerburg could not have written it better

      You can't have all these 'failings' by accident. Claiming there is nothing wrong with the system is an admission that it is designed and intended to defraud, possibly to land sub-postmasters in prison. Agenda-21, sustainable development, shut down rural post offices. This would explain why Fujitsu have been so bold, because they knew the Government had their back. Nothing is this bad by accident.

  10. not.known@this.address

    Can't wait to see how they will pull *this* one off!


    Which branch of the Judiciary deal with seances? Or will it be a case of "Well, those most affected didn't bother to complain so this can now disappear"..?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some senior Post Office executives and ex ditto, need to do jail time for things like negligence, perjury, false imprisonment, misrepresentation, etc, etc, etc.

    Serious jail time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But the chances are that they will just get moved to new jobs, there are some potential openings available to privatize the NHS.

    2. Wayland

      Why would they get jail time? It sounds like they did their parts well and should be rewarded for their bravery. There are other British institutions they can sabotage, I expect many of them will get appointed. Yes the enemy is within.

  12. vanman

    The post office have still not learnt anything and are still proceeding with private prosecutions like nothing has happened.

  13. Whitter

    I had assumed that private criminal prosecutions could not be started while there is a potential judicial review on the cards.

    Now there isn't, there's just a pointless committee.

    So can people now start to being actual prosecutions and ignore the window dressing?

    I don't really know

  14. Nematode

    Is it 2011 already?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Radio 4 coverage

    I recently heard the Radio 4 series about the issue and it was very informative. The way the Post Office dealt with the sub-postmasters was truly shocking.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's truly mind-boggling people have been accused and jailed based on the uncorroborated output of a computer program

    And that the situation persisted for TWENTY YEARS before anything got done about it

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nothing to do with the computer program. All to do with people covering up convenient errors in banking systems that found fault in their favour.

      Want to pump and dump stock and go public traded with under invested and buggy broken systems that thankfully deposit large sums into your business accounts that you can skim off the workers as you throw them in jail and wash your hands of it all? Then join the PO CEO team!

      1. Wayland

        It's a plan so evil that the government must be backing the criminals otherwise the Judicial System would have dealt with them long ago.

  17. heyrick Silver badge

    What this smacks of

    Is a government that wants to be seen to be doing something more that it's an issue, but wants to do it minimum possible in the hope that it'll all go away soon. Because there are more important issues at hand, like protecting Cummings and standing in long lines to vote on things...

  18. TonyJ


    Could they not also be prosecuted under corporate manslaughter for the postmasters who sadly took their own lives?

    People need to go to jail for this, pure and simple.

    If it is proven in court that senior members of staff and the prosecution knew about the flaws AND withheld this from the courts AND continued their flawed prosecutions (and one has to wonder why) then each and every one of them up to and including prosecution lawyers and barristers needs to be held to account.

    And I would even go so far as to say that they should be held personally financially accountable for victim reparation - they ruined lives and careers.

    Surely the Post Office and Fujitsu should have been made to repay any monies they extorted from their victims, to pay compensation AND to cover the victims legal costs?

    What a shit show.

  19. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I think we need a proper inquiry, with a view to prosecute. I've read that the Post Office is investigating over 900 prosecutions. They settled out of court rather than fight a case representing 500 of those cases. That makes me suspicious.

    In any case, hundreds of people have been prosecuted falsely. Some have taken their own lives as a result of this. This likely was caused by bugs in the software, or problems with the design of the system. Problems or bugs that *should* have been caught in pre-release testing and fixed before the roll out. They certainly should have been fixed within a few weeks of the roll out starting, and if they couldn't be fixed quickly, the roll-out should have been paused until they could.

    But, seeing as several government ministers from all three main political parties have had some involvement in the project, so I doubt any serious action will be taken.

    1. Wayland

      A proper inquiry could put the heroes who sabotaged the post office in serious jeopardy. I can't see that happening.

  20. cantankerous swineherd

    anyone who claims to have made a machine that never goes wrong should be laughed out of court. doubly so when computers are the machines in question.

  21. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    To be fair ...

    ... to the Post office, they, umm, hang on a minute erm, I'm sure they meant well. Umm. And, well, at least Fujitsu, umm, probably meant well too, didn't they?

    I mean nobody actually expects a computer system of that level of complexity (i.e., more complicated than an abacus) to actually work properly form day one do they?

    You know, now I come to think about it, defending POL and Fujitsu in this is actually rather tricky, any suggestions, anyone?

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Some people

    need to be charged

    1. withholding evidence.

    2. failure to disclose evidence.

    If there was written proof of the failure of horizons on someones desk , and they knew about the court cases and did not inform the defence counsel, then they are guilty of the above offenses, regardless of whether the accused was actually guilty of theft.

    If the prosecution QC knew about the horizons failures and did not mention it, then that will be a reason to throw him/her out of a job as a QC.

    The inquiry should have the following terms.

    Who knew about the failure of horizons?

    Did they disclose that the failure could and did materially affect the course of several court cases?

    What did they do about the said failures?

    And finally , the most important thing

    Will the inquiry be able to recommend that criminal charges of perjury, withholding evidence, failure to disclose evidence, and misleading the court be applied to those responsible within the post office and fujitsu organisations?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds like a typical despicable government cover-up, hidden behind lots of VERY LONG WORDS and waffle! All the accused should be completely absolved from any wrong-doing but that won't help the unfortunates who ended their own lives, presumably in sheer desperation after protesting their innocence and coming up against brick walls. The accusers should be held to account, with suitable punishments.

  24. Bitsminer Silver badge

    "Horizon, which is still in day-to-day use"

    No chance of lessons learned, then.

  25. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Cynical, moi?

    I am rarely impressed by the 'lessons' those in power claim to have learned from the disasters over which their friends or sycophants presided. Mostly they seem to learn the lesson not to be caught without being able to blame someone else (preferably deceased, or sadly suffering from Alzheimer's, or terminally abroad outside UK jurisdiction).

    The lessons that HMG and its senior civil servants and ministers will never learn include:

    1: Large, complicated computer systems which take years to design, build and implement never work properly if those commissioning them do not understand IT systems design, the actual requirements for the system, and ignore genuine user concerns.

    2: IT consultants' jobs at the level of interaction with senior civil servants include finding out what the Department's budget is and spending it on themselves. Their job description does not include delivering a working system on time under budget that is reliable and robust as they make most of their money running the system and making upgrades to it.

    3: Underlings who raise issues and problems with the design, implementation, timescales, preferred equipment etc. are almost always raising legitimate concerns, and not just trying to rock the boat or make the seniors look bad for missing a deadline.

    4: If you cannot draw the detailed flow-chart, you do not understand the objective sufficiently to write the code.

    5: No good programmer objects to their code being thoroughly tested.

    The lessons that will undoubtedly be reinforced are:

    1: Always claim to meet your deadlines to avoid looking bad.

    2: Make sure only to start projects lasting more than 3 years and move on after 2 years.

    3: Never take on a project from someone who has just moved on.

    4: Always have someone else to blame.

    5: Always claim it was a success, really.

    6: All the real work on getting the procurement to work to what is actually required (rather than the specification) comes after delivery when the guilty have moved on, the seniors have been rewarded and the innocent punished.

    Beer icon, because I need a drink... (although I' m more of a cider man myself).

  26. aaaashy

    sign the petition to help get this moving AGAIN!

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