back to article UK government resists pressure to hold statutory inquiry into Post Office Horizon scandal

The UK government has resisted calls for statutory public inquiries into the Post Office Horizon scandal in which subpostmasters were wrongly prosecuted over accounting flaws in Fujitsu-built software. Following last week's Court of Appeal ruling which quashed 39 convictions of Post Office employees, MPs today pressed the …

  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Flame

    Statutory inquiry

    "Speaking for the government, Paul Scully, minister for small business, consumers and labour markets, told MPs that a statutory inquiry, under the Inquiries Act of 2005, would take too long as the average length for such proceedings was nearly three-and-a-half years."

    If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system. We need to hold those responsible for this appalling travesty of justice to account.

    Why did judges not know about software evaluation, CHECK or CREST certified technical testing of software, how System Administrators manage user accounts and query the PO lawyers on them?

    Why were the accounts of customers not reconciled with both Horizon and the SPM accounts to check which were correct?

    Why were the repeated statements of the Post Offices own lawyers and barristers that what was being done was illegal ignored?

    These questions have to be answered. If it takes 3.5 years so be it: 'Though the mills of God grind slow, they grind exceeding small."

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      I think you are misunderstanding the role of the judge in the proceedings. The question you should be asking is how the PO was able to deny/bury material that should have been available to the defence team.

      I suspect but don’t know that a number of cases did not proceed when a savvy defense solicitor or barrister was involved and it was dependent on luck of the draw and financial resources for the SPO’s involved.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        Maybe, but (at least) one defendant was convicted despite the judge noting that there was no direct evidence of guilt. The judges just accepted the Post Office's insistence that Horizon recorded transactions accurately.

        The judges decide what evidence is admissible in court, and I would be interested to know whether a more IT literate judiciary would have allowed the Post Office assertions to be presented in court without supporting evidence.

        1. colinb

          Re: Statutory inquiry

          The legal profession, and any review, needs to take a hard look at how it operates, it seems that the 'presumption of innocence' apparently a core legal principle, did not exist for the PostMasters in these cases.

          Once they were accused by the PostOffice, (a large body only existing for the public good, funny), multiple judges failed to question or research their assertions in any detail, in their defense its hard to imagine why a body would persecute people for the hell of it.

          On the other hand the barest research anybody would known a bug free system is virtually non existent unless done to military/nasa levels of definition and validation.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            Well, even military grade software can go wrong:

            https://www.theregister.com/2007/02/28/f22s_working_again/

            "Significant new capabilities have been added to the US Air Force's latest superfighter, the F-22 "Raptor". The USAF's Raptors cost more than $300m each, and are generally thought to be the most advanced combat jets in service worldwide. However, until recently they were unable to cross the international date line owing to a software bug in their navigation systems.

            A group of F-22s heading across the Pacific for exercises in Japan earlier this month suffered simultaneous total nav-console crashes as their longitude shifted from 180 degrees West to 180 East."

            The comments section for that article makes interesting reading too.

            1. Danny Boyd Bronze badge

              Re: Statutory inquiry

              The programmers were Flat Earth theory adherents?

              1. ToddRundgrensUtopia

                Re: Statutory inquiry

                Nah just used to dealing with civil service dumbos

          2. onemark03 Bronze badge

            ... why a body would persecute people for the hell of it.

            To uphold the lie that its software was shonky, perhaps?

            1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

              Re: ... why a body would persecute people for the hell of it.

              I wonder if god knows. I presume he put in a good word for them to appoint the vicar of Dibley's sister into the top job. I wonder what skill set a vicar brings.

          3. ToddRundgrensUtopia

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            and still not so

          4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            On the other hand the barest research anybody would known a bug free system is virtually non existent unless done to military/nasa levels of definition and validation.

            I wouldn't place too much faith in NASA's ability to verify software; in this case from a subcontractor, Lockheed Martin:

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

            The primary cause of this discrepancy was that one piece of ground software supplied by Lockheed Martin produced results in a United States customary unit, contrary to its Software Interface Specification (SIS), while a second system, supplied by NASA, expected those results to be in SI units, in accordance with the SIS. Specifically, software that calculated the total impulse produced by thruster firings produced results in pound-force seconds. The trajectory calculation software then used these results – expected to be in newton seconds (incorrect by a factor of 4.45) – to update the predicted position of the spacecraft

          5. Potemkine! Silver badge

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            The legal profession, and any review, needs to take a hard look at how it operates

            I don't know how it works in UK, but here in France the legal profession generally whitewashes its mistakes and judges or prosecutors are never made accountable of the laws they broke for instance.

        2. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: Statutory inquiry

          Any judge allowing a conviction with no evidence should be jailed... However long ago it was

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            Any judge allowing a conviction with no evidence should be jailed

            No evidence is given when the accused pleads guilty. As some of the postmasters were bullied into doing: cop a plea for false accounting (=> no jail time) or plead not guilty to fraud and risk a few years in prison.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: one-sided plea bargaining

              "some of the postmasters were bullied into doing: cop a plea for false accounting (=> no jail time)"

              And even that turned out to be a lie from the Post Office team in some cases - some victims were bullied into pleading guilty and yet still got locked up.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Statutory inquiry

            Evidence was produced. By the prosecution. What was lacking was evidence to refute the prosecution's case.

            It is not the judge's role to investigate and seek out evidence.

            What seems to have happened here is a failure (for want of a better word) of the PO to provide the defence with information about the flaws in the system. This disadvantages everyone else involved in the trial from find out the fact.

        3. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Statutory inquiry

          We need to hold those responsible for this appalling travesty of justice to account.

          Quite. The government has no problem with an inquiry into the Prime Minister's wallpaper yet baulks at the idea of an inquiry into why software glitches let to the suicide of sub-postmasters.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        "The question you should be asking is how the PO was able to deny/bury material that should have been available to the defence team."

        That's only one of the questions that has to be asked and answered. There are plenty of others. Some of these are for Fujitsu and the government. An obvious one for every one of these lying weasels is what did they know about Horizon's defects, when did they know it and what did they do about it?

    2. BJC

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      I absolutely agree that the full weight of the law (inquiries, or otherwise) should be put against those that contributed to this.

      However, on the specific point about software certification, I believe that the problem was that a change to the law in 1999 was introduced to presume that computer systems operated correctly, unless there was evidence to the contrary. If such evidence was available (and there would seem to be a strong suggestion that it was, at some point), it was not available to the defendants.

      I believe that the change to the law was introduced as a result of a large number of cases where it was questioned whether the operation of speed cameras could be proven. I expect that all this qualifies as unintended consequences.

      I would absolutely recommend the BBC Sounds series (The Great Post Office Trial). It is despairing how this was allowed to happen but remarkably uplifting how those involved fought back (and still are).

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        BJC: "I would absolutely recommend the BBC Sounds series (The Great Post Office Trial). It is despairing how this was allowed to happen but remarkably uplifting how those involved fought back (and still are)."

        They are working on a new episode to bring it up to date with the recent quashing of the convictions. This should be broadcast at the end of May, the existing series is on BBC Sounds, or at 09:45 Monday to Friday mornings on Radio 4, just before 'Woman's Hour'.

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        I think that law needs reversing immediately. Convicting on speed camera evidence should require proof they work properly, this should be possible because the test cases and test results must be there along with the reviews designs and other artifacts, anything less than this is another scandal waiting to happen. Hell it's not as if speed camera code can be that hard

        1. AlbertH

          Re: Statutory inquiry

          I've yet to see a properly calibrated fixed speed camera. Also the imbecilic coppers who hand-hold their speed guns rather than use the provided tripods mean that NO speed camera convictions are "safe".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system

      Judges, senior police, civil servants know perfectly well that once the precedent of public figures being held accountable is set, they are all next, and they will fall like dominoes. So they are dragging their heels as hard as they can.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system

        Firstly, public figures are accountable if evidence exists against them. Secondly, were the management of the Post Office public figures - had you, for instance, ever heard of any of them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system

          Someone in a position of authority in a publc servce - a post office manager for instance - is a public figure even though they might not be known to the general public. And if you're working for the public, in principle you can be held accountable for that.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system

            Principle and reality don't seem to have anything in common here

    4. The Axe

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      And how long did it take for the court cases to progress through the judicial system? Another 3.5 years is nothing.

    5. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      The minister is clutching at straws, and definitely doesn't want you to look at the revolving doors between Whitehall and the PO.

    6. Flywheel Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      "minister says it would take too long"

      For those poor people that died, or took their own lives, I don't consider a couple of years will make any difference given their current circumstances: they need justice and the people "responsible" should be brought to justice!

    7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      "Why did judges not know about software evaluation, CHECK or CREST certified technical testing of software, how System Administrators manage user accounts and query the PO lawyers on them?"

      These were, or should have been, facts brought to the attention of the juries. It is the juries who determine facts, not judges although the latter do sum up the evidence for the jury as well as acting as referees in terms of application of the law.

      The juries (and, for that matter, judges) didn't know because they were not resented with evidence of it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        Dammit. "not presented"!

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        Not all trials happen in front of juries. Some just have a judge, others have magistrates. It depends on the court, the severity and type of the case involved, and so on.

        Here is what looks like a good explanation of when and how a jury is used:

        https://www.inbrief.co.uk/legal-system/when-are-juries-used/

        It is my understanding, that due to the complexity and perceived seriousness of these cases, they were all heard as "summary cases" in front of a judge, not a jury. IANAL, and I stand to be corrected, etc.

      3. stungebag

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        Once again you ruin a good rant by introducing facts. For shame.

        When I'm in charge Im going to force everybody to read The Secret Barrister's books. Maybe then there'll be fewer postings that are so ignorant of how the legal system operates.

        1. Nicodemus's Knob

          Re: Statutory inquiry

          When I'm in charge Im going to force everybody to read The Secret Barrister's books. Maybe then there'll be fewer postings that are so ignorant of how the legal system operates.

          No sooner said than done.

    8. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      If statutory inquiry takes too long, that is a fault of the statutory inquiry system. We need to hold those responsible for this appalling travesty of justice to account.

      .

      Every British government Inquiry takes three years.

      By the time of 'recommendations' people are supposed to have forgotten all about it.

      1. AlbertH
        Flame

        Re: Statutory inquiry

        You mean "Lessons must be learned" - the "result" of every "Government Enquiry".

    9. Numberjack

      Re: Statutory inquiry

      Apart from the damage done to the Postmasters one of the most extraordinary and shocking aspects is that, having already cost the taxpayer £254million in legal fees and compensation (according to the Daily Mail) the PO is now paying huge legal fees to the likes of Peters and Peters and other legal firms to correct what should never have happened in the first place. For the government to continue to ignore calls for a statutory judge led enquiry is to my mind indefensible. Justice and accountability are paramount

  2. Fazal Majid

    It's not just an IT scandal

    I don't know why so much emphasis is put on the IT side of things. It's a gross miscarriage of justice that has shown gaping flaws in the UK's judicial system and its unwarranted deference to the establishment.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: It's not just an IT scandal

      You need to be clearer on where to direct your ire. Which is on the current Government who are failing to enact a series of recommendations to clean up Private Prosecutions made by the relevant Parliamentary Committee 6 months ago. I encourage you to Google for it - makes good reading.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: It's not just an IT scandal

      You are right, it is much more, considering this is a legacy of the Blair government and has continued to be kept as low key as possible by all subsequent governments.

      In addition, the scandal extends to the procurement systems used by government departments and ministries that seem to be forever inadequate, failing to ensure sufficient specification, failing to write contracts that protect public(taxpayers) money and failing to enforce fully the contracts that are written.

      Add to those failings the current fashion in government procurement at local and national levels that sees officials giving blatantly off the cuff reasons for awarding or extending contracts without even paying lip service to the tendering process, one could be forgiven for thinking it is all deliberate.

      A full public inquiry could go some way towards highlighting some of those failings and perhaps encourage some remediation but I won't be holding my breath.

      1. matjaggard

        Re: It's not just an IT scandal

        This isn't even a failing of the normal British judicial system, the post office had their own prosecutors rather than the Crown Prosecution Service - who knows why - who broke the rules to force these convictions.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: It's not just an IT scandal

          They had their own police before...

          .

          See:

          https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/28410/response/73875/attach/html/4/Brief%20History%20of%20Security%20in%20Royal%20Mail.pdf.html

      2. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: It's not just an IT scandal

        If procurement was independent if gifts of shares or flat refurbishment it would help. The civil service procurement is massively and inexcusably corrupt

        1. AlbertH
          Flame

          Re: It's not just an IT scandal

          The civil service procurement is massively and inexcusably corrupt

          It always has been. Labour governments tend to be worse troughers than the Conservatives, but this present lot seem to be taking the biscuit!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not just an IT scandal

        "this is a legacy of the Blair government"

        No it isn't. Cover-ups and self-preservation have been an essential part of the British establishment for hundreds of years.

        Politicians never do anything about this because they're the ones who have the biggest need for cover-ups and self-preservation.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: It's not just an IT scandal

          I was referring specifically to the Fujitsu scandal a a legacy.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's not just an IT scandal

      " It's a gross miscarriage of justice that has shown gaping flaws in the UK's judicial system and its unwarranted deference to the establishment."

      Could you please take us step by step through your argument here, paying particular attention on why deliberate concealment on the part of the prosecution is a flaw in the whole system or the result of deference. It would help if you could illustrate this from your experience of trial procedure.

  3. Luke Worm
    Unhappy

    No accountability. Ever. This seems to be the standard mode of operation for this government.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      "Standard mode of operation for this government"

      "Sandard mode of operation for government"

      Tftfy

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lobbyists

    Would be interesting to know if the lobbying company Paul Scully set up, and still has a large interest in, has done any work for The Post Office...

  5. Sparkus Bronze badge

    Best way to start speeding this up

    would be to presumptively jailing a large number of 'suspects' as flight risks.

    There aren't a lot of hidden names here. We know the people at the PO and Fujitsu who made statements in earlier trials. Even the prosecutors who failed to do their job are known.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Best way to start speeding this up

      Best way to start speeding this up

      would be to presumptively jailing a large number of 'suspects' as flight risks.

      There aren't a lot of hidden names here. We know the people at the PO and Fujitsu who made statements in earlier trials. Even the prosecutors who failed to do their job are known.

      Absoloutely. Arrest them all on charges of suspected perjury and contempt of court, then release them on bail whilst investigations continue. Confiscate their passports. Ensure they are unable to get meaningful employment whilst under arrest for the 3 1/2 years a proper enquiry will take.

      This absolutely has to be the biggest scandal of the last 50 years (that we know about) and it needs a thorough investigation. Every single person in the UK is a customer of the post office, we deserve to know what went on.

      1. matjaggard

        Re: Best way to start speeding this up

        1. We don't prevent people from getting meaningful employment for years in this country. Innocent until proven guilty is an incredibly important principal. We just don't know for sure who knew what when and what people did.

        2. I don't think I've been a customer of the post office for several years.

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: Best way to start speeding this up

          We, no, the postmasters were considered guilty even without evidence. This principle should now extend to all involved in these prosecutions including the judges themselves

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best way to start speeding this up

        "This absolutely has to be the biggest scandal of the last 50 years"

        As a long-running and widespread conspiracy you're right.

        However there have been other scandals and miscarriages of justice that were far, far worse in terms of loss of life: HIV-tainted blood transfusions, policy failings that lead to the Falklands War, the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four, Hillsborough, Piper Alpha, Aberfan, Herald of Free Enterprise, etc. Nobody has ever been held to account for these or (Hillsborough aside) even been prosecuted, let alone convicted.

        In all these examples the establishment figures who were responsible walked way unscathed, unlike the victims of their incompetence and criminal negligence. History is sure to repeat itself for Paula Vennels and her cosy circle of satan's little helpers.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best way to start speeding this up

        "Arrest them all on charges of suspected perjury and contempt of court, then release them on bail whilst investigations continue. Confiscate their passports. "

        I like the sound of that idea.

        I've got £50 to start a crowdfunder for The Good Law Project or similar outfit to take it on, if it's money that's holding it back there shouldn't be a big problem.

        ps anyone remember the Nolan Sisters? anyone remember the Nolan Principles aka The Seven Principles of Public Life? If anyone's got a copy can they send a copy to Downing Street and maybe to Fleet Street, and not forgetting Laura Kuenssberg at the BBC.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best way to start speeding this up

        This absolutely has to be the biggest scandal of the last 50 years (that we know about)

        Er, Brexit?

        Pandering to the elderly, white retired racists. And the rest of us just have to suck it up.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Best way to start speeding this up

          Erm...

          I'm 'elderly' and white. I'm not a racist, and I voted to stay in Europe.

          I could see clearly what was coming, just not the extent.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Best way to start speeding this up

            You weren't the one being pandered to then. You didn't vote for it, presumably because you're not a racist.

            1. Claverhouse Silver badge

              Re: Best way to start speeding this up

              To be fair there were a lot of cogent, thought-provoking reasons presented that were neither racist, nor the more proper term, xenophobic. Just gibberish.

    2. The Axe

      Re: Best way to start speeding this up

      Gareth Jenkins and Anne Chambers from Fujitsu have been referred to the CPS for possible perverting the course of justice charges.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        postofficeretrial web site

        I cannot find a reference to that, but have just found the website:

        https://www.postofficetrial.com/2019/01/articles.html

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: postofficeretrial web site

          This is a surprising factual, punchy document from the Justice Parliamentary Committee. Worth an end to end read. It covers the recommendation for prosecuting Fujitsu staff.

          https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmjust/497/49702.htm

  6. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Who needs an inquiry?

    We don't, we know who is responsible... The CEO who takes the credit when deciding they need a huge bonus, the CTO who apparently knows about the technology, the supplier (CEO again and the project manager), the post office purchasing, the entire post office legal team in loved and i am sorry to say the it department in the post office and the development staff in the supplier that cowered under their desks without saying anything. To this long list the original defence team for not coming out with defence about the supposedly flawless computer system not being a verifiable statement where the existence of bugs in such systems is a fact of life. The only issue left us to decide on appropriate jail sentences but no one on this list should spend less time in jail that the longest jail time of any of the sub postmasters and not one should have a fine less than the percentage of income taken from the worst affected post master.

    The disgusting antics, the lack of guts in failing to be professional and come forward needs massive punishment and this needs to be repeated in every organisation who have done similar

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who needs an inquiry?

      You don't know the IT team didn't say anything. There could be plenty in there that has no way of getting their side of the story out as no one wants to listen.

      I've asked private eye before if they accept encrypted emails, they don't. I've mentioned a story to The Register before as I wished to expose a company, I got no reply.

      When you keep getting dismissed you finally get to breaking point where you realise you have no power, no one wants to listen yet you want to expose all sorts.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Who needs an inquiry?

        I was surprised to see that PE appears to have no easy way to contact its journo's. Contrast that with the Grauniad which has Signal addresses coming out of the wazoo.

  7. Plest Bronze badge

    Digusting and shameful.

    Honest people were imprisoned.

    Honest people lost livelihoods.

    Honest people's families torn apart.

    Honest people took their own lives!

    Now they say it's not worth the time to find out why so many people's lives were ruined.

  8. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

    "Paul Scully, minister for small business, consumers and labour markets, told MPs that a statutory inquiry, under the Inquiries Act of 2005, would take too long as the average length for such proceedings was nearly three-and-a-half years."

    Translation - "We know what the result would be, but, because the result would come in after the next election, it wouldn't be us that get the good press."

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      And in the meantime, we can be said to be 'doing something. Se similar approaches to Johnson's behavior and that of much of his cabinet over everything from Track and Trace to PPE procurement by way of Downing Street refurbishments.

  9. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    When the establishment has already screwed you over

    Having a “Sir” take charge of the enquiry is a bit rich.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    This seems to be a serious lack of political judgement. It's become a public scandal. There are brownie points to be gained by clearing it up. Failing to do so could lead to suspicions that BoJo or some of his henchmen had some involvement. On the assumption that they didn't there seems to be no good argument for digging their heels in. Being dragged kicking and screaming into giving in, as seems possible, looks like a lack of authority; setting up a statutory enquiry in the first place would have looked like wielding it.

  11. Charles Smith

    Health & Safety

    The whole process was deleterious to the Health and Safety of the Postmasters as a direct consequence of the negligence of the Post Office executive. Let's see some heavy corporate fines and maybe with a taste of jail time for the key decision makers. All nicely topped up with substantial compensation for those affected.

  12. Spawn of Seaton

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear

    If this principle is good enough for the rest of us, why not those in power or authority?

  13. TimMaher Silver badge
    Mushroom

    GPO

    It has been a while since the GPO needed to have an investigatory and enforcement arm.

    When it owned the Royal Mail.

    Now it doesn’t.

    Time to take the prosecuting powers away.

    Oh, and prosecute the Post Office management, Fujitsu management and all of the people who did their bidding, while knowing full well what was going on.

  14. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    That it will take too long is the excuse? I am not sure that really works in this situation where many lives have been ruined by a serious abuse of power and careful 'managing' of evidence. This would seem one of those situations where an inquiry would be necessary to get justice.

  15. Cuddles Silver badge
    WTF?

    It will take too long

    But somehow waiting around even longer before thinking about doing anything will make it happen quicker? Here in the real world, if something will take a long time it's usually best to make a start as soon as possible.

  16. TedF

    Depressing

    I find it rather depressing that the common sense question "Why do think that suddenly scores of Post Masters have become criminals" was succesfully countered with the declaration fron Fujitsu that this was proof that their software was really working , by exposing decades of fraud.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Depressing

      This is my view as well. Bearing in mind that the burden of proving the guilt or "crime" would have been on the Post Office, at what point did the defendents legal teams not reply :

      1. Defendants (presumably) all had historically correct accounts up to the point they started using the new system?

      2. Defendants (presumably) all started to find and then be accused of accounting discrepancies at the point of starting to use the new system.

      It's just too big a coincidence and I'm surprised it even passed the legal sniff test.

  17. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Accountability?

    Fault here rests not with defective software but rather with how the Post Office dealt with contracted postmasters when anomalies suggestive of fraud arose. Either by accident or design a blind eye was turned to possibility of glitches associated with the computer system and with underlying records managed by the system. Some Post Office senior-management-tier people were responsible for this mess. The nature of attachable blame may range between indolence/incompetence and direct complicity in a cover-up.

    The buck stops at the CEO and board of directors just as it must for the captain of a vessel sunk through ineptitude of the 'officer of the watch'. However, apart from chosen scapegoats all may hide within the amorphous nature of corporate governance.

    Perhaps responsibility rests with the shareholders? They elected board members and ratified appointment of the CEO. They collectively are chartering the corporate vessel because they set/approve broad policy for its course.

    In reality shareholders of major corporations are merely there for the ride. Perhaps stockholders with major stakes can individually or together exert influence. When shareholdings are distributed more evenly (e.g. as when Building Societies morphed into banks) one ends up with a fairly easily manipulable 'democracy' as in political context.

    Obviously, 'democracy' is an ideal state for the titular chairman, CEO and board because of their control over information and setting meeting agendas. Paralleling the 'political class' at Westminster - one such that members across political parties have more interests in common than with their constituents - is a corporate governance class consisting of chairmen, CEOs, and board members, who rotate among companies. Companies of long standing are no longer entrepreneurial or particularly beholden to an individual with emotional and financial stake. Entrepreneurs take a long view. Business school graduates slotted into major companies take the short term self-interest view as seen through bonus culture and share buybacks permitted by USA law.

    In the case of the Post Office the hit for irresponsible actions, possibly deliberate malfeasance, shall be taken by shareholders facing a tiny drop in dividend to cover compensation of victims, fines against the corporate entity, and legal fees.

    What's lacking is clear individual accountability. When dire matters come to light the responsible chairman, CEO, and board members, may have retired or rotated to a position elsewhere.

    How to achieve a moral and legal ethos for corporate entities which demands accountability of individuals is a conundrum. If the Post Office scandal gives rise to a public enquiry then the most worthwhile outcome would be a general framework for accountability to be considered by Parliament for inclusion in statute.

    1. nonpc

      Re: Accountability?

      Surely the normal process for such events were there was a discrepancy that was challenged would be for the auditors to go through with a fine 'human' toothcomb (yes, I do subscribe to the Terry Pratchett view on Death's auditors, but do have a software test/QA/audit background myself. If I haven't found a fault, I haven't looked hard enough...). There should have been transaction logs that would have shown that something was amiss. These have presumably been long deleted, or were never adequately implemented in the first case. All financially mined software that I have been involved with has been almost crippled with the requirements for detailed audit logs and reconciliation of the same. The fact that such a prevalence of queries and cases passed without comment is unbelievable, but reminds me of the phantom ATM withdrawals in the '80s...

  18. peterw52

    Read what a judge actually said

    For those attacking the judges read the report from Judge Fraser from the Civil trial, he's the one reporting the people for perjury. He shows a vey impressive grasp of what's going on and the procedures involved and really attacks the PO and to a lesser extent FJ.

    Follow the link to judgement from here

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

  19. Colin Bain

    Credit where credit due please

    All of the scandal was documented early on, almost as soon as it started, by Private Eye who have been banging on about this injustice for years. Long before anyone/business/journalist/ cottoned on to it.

    The least you could do is give credit to worthy journalism. Possibly the only real investigative journalism going on in the UK.

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