Meally Mouthed Diversion
Talk about obfuscation. There should be criminal prosecutions.
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 …
"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.
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'.
"...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.
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.
"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.
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.
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
"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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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".
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.
"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.
> The system is allowed it to be done is devised and run by the civil service,
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 and it was purely coincidental that it eliminated cheaper competitors.
 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"I haven't seen reported what the actual problem was"
If you have time I strongly suggest you read https://www.private-eye.co.uk/special-reports/justice-lost-in-the-post (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.
> 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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...
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.
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.
... 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?
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?
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.
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).
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