back to article UK PM promises faster justice for Post Office Horizon victims

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to speed up the process of exonerating Post Office employees wrongfully convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud decades after faulty software led to one of the greatest miscarriage of justice in British history. An ITV television drama last week began broadcasting a …

  1. markr555

    No Justice

    There may be compensation, but I'm pretty sure there'll be no justice; not a single person/company/organisation will be held to account!

    1. BBRush

      Re: No Justice

      That is the way of modern corporate culture; I doubt that even those proved to be complicit will face a hint of justice. You only have to read Private Eye's extensive coverage of this travesty to see the way this is going.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        It also proves that widespread corruption in this country is very much legal.

        None of the three symbol agencies who job is to look into these things are interested in looking into it and yet they keep charging tax payer money becoming essentially fraudsters themselves.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: No Justice

          Shirley that can't be right. We are England (opps, UK, sorry). We are a proud nation and don't do corruption. That's for lesser countries such as those EU ones. They are all corrupt. Not us. Our political system is hundreds of years old and has evolved to be the perfect system it is.

          We are Ingerland (opps, got that wrong again). And to be clear, this is not a Mone.

          Yours,

          Little Englander

          1. Andy 73 Silver badge

            Re: No Justice

            Unfortunately, it's the smug management types who do parodies of "Little Englanders" who are at the heart of this. It's the people who bemoan the state of this country whilst racking up consultancy fees. It's Civil Servants and MPs on both sides of the house. It's people who'd rather defer to authority than push through change when it is needed.

            The last person involved is white van man with some (apparently) misplaced desire to be proud of his country - it's the people who are happy to talk about "professional standards" and "public duty" whilst quietly looking the other way when their own reputation might be damaged.

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: No Justice

              Well, now, we are certainly seeing the true upper class British values of hypocrisy, condescension, pomposity, self-entitlement, and sneering at the little people*.

              But don't worry, these are not the ones we expect all those foreign immigrants to adopt, they will be expected to doff their caps, tug their force-locks and and bow and scrape to their rightful masters.

              (You can tell I'm angry can't you?)

              *That is you and me, btw, in case you were wondering, 'proper people' do not waste their time reading web sites.

              1. heyrick Silver badge

                Re: No Justice

                "That is you and me, btw, in case you were wondering, 'proper people' do not waste their time reading web sites."

                That is you and me because we probably didn't go to Eton to have that sense of entitled superiority beaten into us.

                "(You can tell I'm angry can't you?)"

                I went to boarding school, it wasn't even one of the known ones. The class system was painfully apparent even there. Consequently, I'm not so much angry as fed up and disillusioned.

                I would say "vive la révolution!" but that sort of thing just isn't in the British psyche.

                1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: No Justice

                  Nobody who went to Eton is able to open a web browser, nor to log onto a computer.

                  Perhaps an application on their phone would allow them to read the content of the site, but there is a 99% chance they'll manage to erase the content of the phone instead (last figures based on recent investigations)

            2. sabroni Silver badge
              Coffee/keyboard

              Re: The last person involved is white van man

              someone call a Whaaaaaaaaaaambulance!

            3. Norfolk N Chance

              Re: No Justice

              I couldn't agree more.

              The victims are the epitome of decent normal people who eschew "vertical roles" - almost all were self-employed, quietly serving their community and minding their own business.

              As such it's indeed ironic that the Sub Postmasters/mistresses we have seen are now being paraded for self-effacing gains by all.

              However, I'm more surprised that the Reg readership isn't all over the obvious flaws in the Horizon software - there's evidence a-plenty at the enquiry site: https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/evidence/

              A quick trawl through the evidence revealed this nugget from 2009 (https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/evidence/fuj00080526-fujitsu-report-horizon-data-integrity-v10).

              I wonder if the author (with 10+ years involvement in the project at that point) would have liked to say more - it would have been interesting to have seen the first draft!

              The earlier emails discussing the development of the live system are damning.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No Justice

                MUST be some people who worked on Horizon on here

                1. Norfolk N Chance

                  Re: No Justice

                  No kidding.

                  It would certainly make a pretty good "Who, me?"

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: No Justice

                You missed all the previous articles on El Reg about that disgrace...

          2. Mike 137 Silver badge

            Re: No Justice

            "Shirley that can't be right"

            Who's Shirley, and what does she know about it?

      2. PhilipN Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        The Eye was not the first to blow the whistle - in 2011! - as Ian Hislop graciously acknowledged. The honour goes (if memory serves) to Computer Weekly - two years earlier!

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          https://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Post-Office-Horizon-scandal-explained-everything-you-need-to-know

          1. PhilipN Silver badge

            Re: No Justice

            Thanks - a must read.

          2. RingtailedLemur

            Re: No Justice

            Superb, just what I needed to be properly informed about this.

    2. CorwinX Bronze badge

      Re: No Justice

      Looks like Vennells is going to lose her gong though:

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2024/jan/08/post-office-horizon-scandal-petition-cbe-paula-vennells

      The petition to strip her of her CBE "For services to the Post Office" has hit a miilion signatories (incl me) so the Government are legally bound to respond in some way.

      If they come up with some excuse not to throw her under the bus as she richly deserves* then they may as well stay at home for the next election.

      * I followed the court case that found Horizon faulty and have been reading the transcripts of the ongoing Inquiry under Sir Wyn Williams daily since last year so I know of which I speak.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        That petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/strip-paula-vennells-of-her-cbe

        What is a little surprising, is that whilst every news outlet is reporting on the petition, none of them are providing a link to it.

        Whilst it can be found by a Google search, I suggest as there seems to be relatively few links to it,and there has been no links in my feeds, that gaining over 1M signatures is highly significant.

        Fingers cross she is stripped of her CBE, obviously, for justice to be done, she and other senior managers at the PO should also made to repay their bonuses + inflation…

        1. Chz

          Re: No Justice

          She can keep her CBE, for all I care. It's not like there is some shortage of truly awful human beings who have one. But she should have to serve jail time for every single person the Post Office wrongly imprisoned.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: No Justice

            Just been announced on the BBC Radio 4 News that she has handed back her CBE.

            This means that Alan Bates can now accept his highly deserved OBE!

            1. Mast1

              Re: No Justice

              OBE: that would be a poor reward for his efforts.

              What is your definition of a Middle-Age "knight" ? (non Hollywood)

              How about a person who fought to protect the weak, who fought for justice and for truth ?

              My vote would be for Alan to be called a true knight. And it is another "going" for which previous recipients have had to hand theirs back when some of the consequences of their actions came to public light.

              Unfortunately, after 20 years of campaigning, Alan is no longer middle-aged.....

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                Re: No Justice

                I believe that Mr Bates has already been offered an OBE but said he wold not accept it while Vennells still has her CBE.

            2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

              Re: No Justice

              "Just been announced on the BBC Radio 4 News that she has handed back her CBE."

              She will be getting another gong very soon - the Gerald Ratner "Protecting the Brand" award

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        The petitions have a role of sort of safety valve, where angry public can put a signature under one and that helps release tension.

        It gives sense of achievement and "doing something".

        But petitions rarely have led to any meaningful action.

        Most likely it will get a canned response that government is aware blah blah and is taking steps blah blah and it will help the victims blah blah

        1. Big Softie

          Re: No Justice

          Yep, it's the old old story...

          1) The public purse funds an incredibly expensive inquiry which drags on years longer than planned

          2) All the lawyers involved profit massively

          3) The outcome: mistakes were made, the culprits are very sorry, lessons have been learned

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          "The petitions have a role of sort of safety valve"

          This particular site seems to be one for gathering email addresses to "keep you informed".

      3. Old Tom

        Re: No Justice

        "so the Government are legally bound to respond in some way"

        No, the government can completely ignore 38Degrees petitions. If it were a petition on the UK Gov & Parliament petition site, it would get a response from the government at 10,000 signatures and considered for a debate in Parliament at 100,000 signatures.

        1. CorwinX Bronze badge

          Re: No Justice

          Ah, my mistake, thanks for the correction.

          Still, it'd take some serious gymnastics to ignore a million+ petition.

          I hope they do shoot themselves in the foot with both barrels by trying to wave it off.

          1. BebopWeBop

            Re: No Justice

            A mail lion signatures? They have ignored physical protests of the same order of magnitude. But Vennals is disposable, so….

            1. tip pc Silver badge

              Re: No Justice

              is she?

              depends how many skeletons are still rattling about.

          2. Big Softie

            Re: No Justice

            Apart from long standing incompetence and failure to keep the Post Office in check with respect to Corporate Governance, it is almost a certainty the Civil Service and UK Government were complicit in the ensuing cover up, so for sure they will do their best to bury it.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: No Justice

              It's worth noting that some MPs did their job and tried to intervene on behalf of their constituents, and the PO just lied to them and told them everything was fine.

        2. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          "considered for a debate in Parliament at 100,000 signatures"

          The keyword being considered. The commonest outcome of that consideration is a decision not to put forward for debate. The entire petition system is as effective as buying lottery tickets is to getting rich. It's there so the people have a sense of being listened to by govt.

        3. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          And even then they could ignore it.

          God knows why this petition site was chosen - but in the end the only thing that makes a difference is publicity. Which is why the TV series has the politicians scurrying for cover.

      4. Big Softie

        Re: No Justice

        Vennells has manoeuvred herself into the corner on this one...or has she?

        She would have returned it a long time ago if she had any hint of integrity whatsoever, and we all know the response to that one.

        If she had returned it in the early days of the inquiry, it would be interpreted by some as her admitting culpability of wrongdoing, which she continues to vehemently deny.

        But now the strength of public opinion on this gives her the copout of returning it under protest that she has done nothing wrong but is bowing to public pressure since she is such a good person and has the wellbeing of the nation and the Post Office in her blood.

      5. Aladdin Sane

        Re: No Justice

        Since you've been reading the transcripts I can only assume your heating bill is 0 as your piss is permanently on a rolling boil.

      6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        I followed the court case that found Horizon faulty and have been reading the transcripts

        great , quick question .

        When did the post office first become aware that perhaps the software was the problem?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          "When did the post office first become aware that perhaps the software was the problem?"

          That's an easy one. Earlier than they'll admit.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: No Justice

            ive just started watching the itv drama and the answer has become clear - day one

      7. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        Vennels has lost her gong

        https://news.sky.com/story/former-post-office-boss-paula-vennells-to-hand-back-her-cbe-13044576

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: No Justice

          handed it back before someone took it back

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No Justice

        "ongoing Inquiry under Sir Wyn Williams "

        I didn't know it was being livestreamed. Now I do. I watched a couple of hours this afternoon, live on BBC News channel (it were on t'web too but broadband connectivity here is carp... a different part of Fujitsu was/is involved in various aspects of the UK's broadband rollout). On the web you can find it via e.g. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-politics-67941754 and probably elsewhere.

        I didn't see much of Sir Wyn. what I did see was Stephen Bradshaw (Post Office investigator) being hung out to dry, extensively by inquiry counsel Julian Blake, then by Sir Wyn, then at around 16:19 an impressive few minutes with Edward Henry questioning Bradshaw on behalf of various subpostmasters (including Janet Skinner, sitting alongside Henry). I had to give up at that point.

        Powerful stuff, illustrating all too vividly the depths to which allegedly decent sections of UK scoiety have sunk.

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: No Justice

      Actually the petition to remove Paula Vennells' CBE has already reached over one Million signatures:

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2024/jan/08/post-office-horizon-scandal-petition-cbe-paula-vennells

      Feel free to add your 'signature'.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        I don't often do public online petitions. Because there are too many on issues that range from the significant to the trivial - so they can be safely ignored by the government (even when there are enough signatures to rate parliamentary scrutiny)

        Like with complaining to a company on Social Media it ceased to be of value when it became common place and the organisations in the cross hairs found ways to dodge the bullets.

        But I've signed this one.

      2. mikecoppicegreen

        Re: No Justice

        It appears that she has handed it back.

    4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: No Justice

      Certainly not Adam Crozier, who is curiously absent from this ITV drama, having been CEO of Royal Mail before becoming CEO of ITV:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Crozier#Royal_Mail

    5. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: No Justice

      I was only vaguely aware of the circumstances of this , until I watched the entire miniseries last night.

      Its absolutely shocking.

      I dont know which was worse , the Post Office or Fujitsu - if the part about them having teams of people logging into each account daily and correcting the accounting errors is true.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: No Justice

        It looked to me like Fujitsu was open with the po about remotely logging in as the postmasters.

        It also looked like the po deliberately mislead and withheld that detail.

        Not saying Fujitsu is innocent but it was po that persecuted the postmasters

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Hot air

    UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has promised

    It means it's going to be kicked into the long grass.

    It's funny though how UK justice system is ITV drama driven now.

    Seems like next time you have a burglary, borrow a phone from your neighbour and film a short TV series about it. Then once ITV airs it, maybe, just maybe, a PM busy doing nothing will come out to say some platitudes and police will start "investigating".

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Hot air

      They have delayed until it was impossible to continue to ignore it. Similar is happening with other scandals eg the Windrush people who were wrongly detained, deported, ... Will it take another TV drama for Sunak to suddenly become aware of this and expedite compensation ?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Hot air

        Don't hold your breath.

        How long has it been since Hillsborough? Successive governments have failed to deliver justice for the families of the 97. They've had reports done, public "apologies" from people now in office but not from those who actually did the crimes of covering it all up and molesting post mortem records. Remember the youngest victim was 10 years old and supposed to have had elevated levels of alcohol in his system when a police officer heard him cry out for his mother in the make shift morgue at the ground. They've had various reports etc, and towards the end of last year made some changes but failed to make the biggest change of all that would've gone some way to stop this sort of cover up happening again.

        This is an election year. That glorified Toby jug is going to latch on to anything in the zeitgeist to help keep them in power for another 5 years. And that wet weekend in the "opposition" won't do much either if they find themselves in power.

        Don't rely on the British justice system to deliver any sort of justice to people actually affected by something.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hot air

          yep not one person has served time for Hillsborough and Horizon will be the same I fear

      2. Recluse

        Re: Hot air

        Yes indeed and you can also add to the list the scandal surrounding the NHS and those unfortunate to suffer from haemophilia whom decades later are still awaiting meaningful compensation (a significant number having died from HIV)

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

      3. BebopWeBop

        Re: Hot air

        And tainted blood products.. a strategy based on making sure claimants have died before anything is done.

      4. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Hot air

        They have delayed until it was impossible to continue to ignore it. Similar is happening with other scandals eg the Windrush people who were wrongly detained, deported

        And then they delayed a bit more until it was possible to ignore it once again:

        Home Office Windrush ‘transformation team’ formally disbanded

        Jacqueline McKenzie, a solicitor with Leigh Day, who has handled more than 100 Windrush compensation cases, said she saw little evidence in daily casework-related calls with Home Office staff to suggest the department had introduced significant cultural change.

        “In terms of its attitudes towards asylum cases, deportation and refugees the department is as hostile as ever. Things have gone backwards in terms of poor decision-making and lack of humanity,” she said.

        In a further sign of a departmental desire to move on, the cross-government working group on Windrush, which was set up to monitor progress on the reform agenda, is due to hold its final meeting on Wednesday.

        Establishment's gonna Establish.

        1. Mike Pellatt

          Re: Hot air

          But of course Windrush is about furriners, especially those of a certain colour, so it matters less to far too many people in the UK.

          It's almost as if they're reliving the racism they encountered when they first arrived, and the intervening decades never happened.

    2. CorwinX Bronze badge

      Re: Hot air

      I generally agree with your points but the police are already investigating the PO (for perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice I think it is). Something like that, check the news.

      It's reported they interviewed two people under caution just this week.

      At the same time plenty of independent lawyers have been saying the Inquiry has already thrown up prima facie evidence for charges to be laid without it even finishing yet.

      So to some extent part of what Sunak's promised is already in motion.

      I think this is different from Grenfell and Hillsborough because there's reams of hard documentary evidence as to who did and said what and when (despite the PO being somewhat ... lacksadaisical ... with discovery).

      It's also important to note that it's a *judicial* inquiry - that means witnesses are issued with the civil equivalent of a subpoena (Section 20 Notice I think), are sworn in under oath and can be locked up for perjury if they tell porkies.

      Sir Wyn (a retired High Court judge) has already put the PO on notice he'll consider sanctions if they mess him around any more with discovery.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Hot air

        Ad I recall, anyone giving evidence to the inquiry gets immunity from prosecution (for what they reveal).

        1. Big Softie

          Re: Hot air

          No, wrong. The prime expert witness from Fujitsu whose evidence was crucial in a lot of the convictions applied for immunity from prosecution and the judge refused.

          1. StewartWhite
            Mushroom

            Re: Hot air

            Exactly. Which is why, just before he was due to appear before the inquiry in July 2023 the Fujitsu "expert" (expert in what exactly? Certainly not in being able to recognise an appalling piece of software when he sees it, or at least to be honest about it when questioned) the Post Office miraculously "discovered" a trove of documents that they somehow couldn't find previously such that the person in question had their appearance delayed until November 2023. At which point, again just before he was due to appear, the Post Office find another trove of documents.

            Despite the judge telling them that they could be subject to legal sanction under Section 51 of the Inquiries Act 2005 after the first delay, they've done it again and there's no sign of any legal sanction. Clearly they intend to keep on doing this as the judge's threat has been demonstrated to be completely empty.

            Public inquiries are oxymoronic in that the purposes isn't to be public or inquire but to run as long as possible to ensure massive fees are obtained by the lawyers and that the report is delayed for a sufficient amount of time to ensure that any recommendations are ignored and that the guilty parties are safely ensconced in the world's most expensive daily care home aka the House of Lords.

            1. tip pc Silver badge

              Re: Hot air

              "Exactly. Which is why, just before he was due to appear before the inquiry in July 2023 the Fujitsu "expert" (expert in what exactly? Certainly not in being able to recognise an appalling piece of software when he sees it, or at least to be honest about it when questioned) "

              they had the Fujitsu Architect responsible for Horizon as the expert.

              apparently PO lawyers changed some context of his responses and rehashed his responses from 1 case through many subsequent cases which convinced judges and jury's of the defendants guilt.

              Public inquiries are oxymoronic in that the purposes isn't to be public or inquire but to run as long as possible to ensure massive fees are obtained by the lawyers and that the report is delayed for a sufficient amount of time to ensure that any recommendations are ignored and that the guilty parties are safely ensconced in the world's most expensive daily care home aka the House of Lords.

              certainly a true statement.

      2. Big Softie

        Re: Hot air

        The fly in the ointment is the burden of proof. Many PO employees have already taken the stand and lied through their teeth. Their victims (the Sub postmasters) know it but without documentary evidence it is just hearsay for anyone to challenge and refute what is said under oath. And it has been shown that the Post Office started shredding documents once they knew that they had wrongly prosecuted people.

    3. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      Re: Hot air

      Police won't even bother with murder now, as I discovered last year. Weeks after the event it turned out they weren't investigating, though they didn't actually bother to tell me that. Scene was photographed, forensics did their stuff, CID came round, I handed them evidence and gave them a very long and detailed statement; and then, bugger all. I had to really pester them to find out what was happening and found out they'd decided it wasn't a crime. On the basis that I have a different opinion and think that murder is actually quite serious I complained to them, as directed by my MP, eventually got an acknowledgement and "we'll get back to you". That was a couple of months ago and nothing since.

      I'm not sure what it is they actually do nowadays, but it does seem very apparent that the UK doesn't "do" justice any more. I suppose I shouldn't expect any better since our gropey MPs have been clearly breaking all public standards, engaging in "conflicts of interest" which look a lot like fraud and repeatedly committing perjury, evidently with zero risk to themselves.

      1. vogon00

        Re: Hot air

        I suspect plod is too busy investigating some of the more bullshit laws in the statute books to indulge in any actual real-world policing. I may be doing them an injustice, but it looks to me as if there focus has been elsewhere for a long while now.

        He's another suggestion re culpability...the PO's legal team who still both recommended and proceeded with prosecutions despite knowing of the issues with Horizon. Last I heard, the body that polices solicitors (The Solicitors Regulation Authority? Industry body?) was investigation, but I bet none of these fuckers swing either.

        Still angry, and not placated at all by the response of one's MP a while back. Still, I had to try:-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hot air

        They do sod all. I live alone, over the road from a guy who is still claiming single person tax despite living with a lodger, now a partner. For months was driving an untaxed and unmoted car, have cctv footage of stolen goods being sold from the house (magically getting gifted over 20 Air Pods that were "a gift") each "gift" sold as a one off "gift" via Facebook market place.

        Not one person has been interested in any of the reports.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not one person has been interested in any of the reports.

          Why are you so concerned about the "illegal" activity of the guy across the road?

          Sounds like you're just pissed he's making more money than you.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Not one person has been interested in any of the reports.

            I think he is illustrating the complete inactivity of the police even when results are handed to them on a plate , and lamenting the fact that if he ever needs them nothing will happen.

            also having a dodgy mf like that across the road is a security risk in itself.

            1. andy gibson

              Re: Not one person has been interested in any of the reports.

              'I told police who my burglar was - but they did nothing'

              https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67861416

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Hot air

        I don't want to defend the shower of bastards, but police budgets have only faired slightly better than other public services in the last decade

      4. Lonpfrb

        Re: Hot air

        His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services

        HMICFRS independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces and fire & rescue services – in the public interest.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hot air

      More like he we wants to be seen to be doing something that's popular with more than the rightwing of the party and associated voters and therefore will do something.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The possibilities are infinite

    Any news on Fujitsu being held to account seeing as it was their software at the heart of all this?

    1. myhandler

      Re: The possibilities are infinite

      The vendor of a faulty product is only liable up to a point.

      When the user carries on using it after learning it's faulty, dangerous and a potential killer the blame moves up the chain.

      The PO is in fact owned by the Government trade and industry department. That's right, it's owned by the Government.

      When the PO sacked the external forensic auditor - put there in the first place by a parliamentary committee - then the minister would have been informed.

      He would then have told his boss of the potential shitshow - and they all looked the other way.

    2. Bendacious Bronze badge

      Re: The possibilities are infinite

      It's one thing to have bugs in your software - there are always bugs. It's another thing entirely to testify in court that it doesn't when you know that it does, which it appears some Fujitsu engineers did. Some court cases involved Fujitsu engineers as witnesses long after they must/should have known about the issues. If no one from the post office executive team and no one from Fujitsu does time in prison over this then justice has failed miserably.

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: The possibilities are infinite

        Was there ever no due diligence performed? Running a test system against the same test environment of their live system? Their old live system did have a test system, did it?

        How the hell did such an egregious system manage to go live?

        1. dinsdale54

          Re: The possibilities are infinite

          Read this witness statement / watch the testimony. It's depressing.

          https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/evidence/witn00620100-david-mcdonnell-witness-statement

          TL;DR :

          The part of the system that was core to subsequent issues was known to be a badly written POS before launch.

          The guy brought in to assess the system and remedy issues wasn't allowed to rewrite it and was moved on when he complained.

          The was pressure from government to launch on schedule.

          1. Norfolk N Chance

            Re: The possibilities are infinite

            Thanks dinsdale54.

            A splendid dive into the chaos of software development driven by conflicted interests and mismatched abilities against an implausible schedule.

            Well worth a read IMO.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: The possibilities are infinite

          That's one of the aspects that's very clearly known.

          The Post Office deliberately chose to ignore the fact that the Horizon system was a pile of horse shit.

        3. matjaggard

          Re: The possibilities are infinite

          @RegGuy1 the old system Horizon replaced certainly didn't have automated tests since it was entirely paper based.

      2. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: The possibilities are infinite

        It is worse - they were bought in as "expert" witnesses, for which the costs charged to the defendants would have been swingeing.

    3. Big Softie

      Re: The possibilities are infinite

      No, and it is sad to see that for decades the Government and Civil Service have appeared incapable of handling these huge IT vendors who make massive profits from the public purse whilst producing deliverable which are not fit for purpose and both late and over budget.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: The possibilities are infinite

        The word 'deliverable' is weird at the best of times imo . smacks of management speak

        I'd have definatley gone with "products" there.

        but totally agree with the sentiment

      2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: The possibilities are infinite

        There are innumerable articles on the Register about failed government IT procurements, failures of commercial IT procurements, mismanagement, overpayment, over-promising and under-delivery. Remember the Lloyds - TSB bank 'merger' iT issues? HMG has made many competent IT procurements, but they do not make the news, but with the largest and most complicated ones they still often manage to make a complete and utter mess.

  4. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Justice should include prosecutions

    Justice should include prosecutions - not of the victims, but of the people involved in this scandal, who willingly allowed people's lives to be destroyed to protect their professional reputations.

    Senior management of the Post Office have suffered no consequences for apparently deliberately and knowingly allowing this to occur, and then perverting the course of justice when it threatened to come to light.

    Senior management at Fujitsu have similarly suffered no consequence (indeed, have continued to profit) from supplying a known defective system that should be held to the highest financial compliance possible given the nature of its use.

    A long roster of MPs and Civil Servants have been directly responsible for addressing this case - many of whom are still in service - and yet allowed it to drag on for decades. Indeed, Ed Davey was directly involved and is currently managing to be both leader of the Lib Dems, and completely invisible in the debate.

    Above all, this is not just a clear breach of trust and contract for all of the above, but it should be a national disgrace that the problems have been known for well over a decade, yet it has taken a TV show to actually move on the (piss poor) attempts at delivering justice. How anyone overseeing this case can justify sitting on their well paid backsides for years whilst people's lives have been in ruins is beyond me. In this case justice should not only be sure, it should be swift.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Justice should include prosecutions

      to protect their professional reputations.

      I can't see how this protects anybody reputation, but for sure it has protected millions worth of contracts, salaries and dividends.

      If it was about reputation, they would have investigated the system there and then.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Justice should include prosecutions

        No. They were protecting themselves having laid their reputations on this software. They would not admit that it may have been a massively expensive failure on their watch. They'd rather wreck the lives of hundreds of loyal and honest postmasters and postmistresses. They'd rather lie and deceive than accept responsibility.

        Note: The victims were told that They were the only one this has happened to, so it couldn't possibly have been the software.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Justice should include prosecutions

          > They were the only one this has happened to, so it couldn't possibly have been the software.

          What gets me is why only a “few” postmasters seem to have suffered from this system error. What were the ones “in the clear” doing differently?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Justice should include prosecutions

            The technical details I've seen point to synchronisation problems between HQ and branch computers.

            All sorts of ways the link to HQ can differ between branches, but very few of them would be within the sub-postmaster's control.

            Oh, and at least some of the ones "in the clear" were keeping parallel paper records. It seems attempts to prosecute them evaporated once they made that known....

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
              WTF?

              Re: Justice should include prosecutions

              AC: "some of the ones "in the clear" were keeping parallel paper records. It seems attempts to prosecute them evaporated once they made that known"

              But that was surely clear evidence that there were software problems, which should have been taken as requiring technical investigation by Fujitsu, not just ignoring it and carrying on prosecuting those without parallel paper records. IF that was indeed the case, then the PO had clear and strong evidence of an IT failure, and continuing to prosecute was conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury. Jonathan Aitken and (Lord) Jeffrey archer went to prison for that, and I never thought I would approve of building more prisons, but in this case ...

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                That is the point. They did the deed and they should get the consequences.So far they've benefitted from the general air of impunity for the Great and the (not so) Good that seems to be endemic in the UK. Until scandal means that the Greater and (er) Gooder start to panic.

                (Think PPE contracts)

              2. steviebuk Silver badge

                Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                Thats one of the big issues. It was known. They have the emails between execs attempting they knew. Which is why those execs need jail time.

                What pisses me off is I do a job well for 5 years then get passed over for the IT Manager role despite keeping the shit together on my own for 6 months. Yet you have execs like this over and over again fuck up, yet get to retire or leave and move to the same roles in other companies and do exactly the same. Drives me nuts.

                1. Big Softie

                  Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                  Yep, in the same club...

                2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                  (Condescending voice) 'But Stevie, my dear boy, you went to the wrong school. You should have gone to Eton, Winchester, Harrow, Fettes, Rugby or Marlborough if you wanted a promotion. Now, do be a good chap and get my G&T, the ice has nearly melted in this one.'

            2. CorwinX Bronze badge

              Re: Justice should include prosecutions

              The synchronisation used a third-party product called Riposte. This could "lock" files when it was doing housekeeping preventing syncing.

              The most egregious mistake however was something that became known (internally) as the Calander Square bug - for Lee Castleton's PO I think.

              Some incompetent widget programmer wrote some spaghetti code just to change a positive variable to negative. Obviously didn't know you just multiply by -1.

              This resulted in what was shown in the TV drama - trying to reverse a transaction/shortfall to zero sometimes doubled it instead.

              1. CorwinX Bronze badge

                Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                Reading the testimony from some of the Fujitsu techies on the Inquiry website is quite eye-watering. That's where I started when I started looking into the Horizon mess.

          2. Andy 73 Silver badge

            Re: Justice should include prosecutions

            Three and a half thousand people is not "only a few"

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Justice should include prosecutions

              Agree however, with over nine thousand postmasters, there seems to be a larger number who seemingly have not fallen foul of the vagaries of the Horizon system.

              I suggest a forensic audit of the system is needed, as suspect there are many thousands more who also had accounting errors but were not picked up for action. Also the police probably need to interview all postmasters about their experiences of Horizon…

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                Re: Justice should include prosecutions

                Roland6: there seems to be a larger number who seemingly have not fallen foul of the vagaries of the Horizon system

                That we know of. The stories are that Fujitsu Admins were gaining access to Horizon systems in post offices out of hours using the relevant postmaster's credentials and 'making corrections'. If they got most of these right, and the discrepancies were only a few pounds or pence than maybe the subplots masters did not notice.

        2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Justice should include prosecutions

          They were the only one this has happened to, so it couldn't possibly have been the software.

          Even if that was true, that it happened to one person I can't see how it means "it couldn't possibly have been the software".

          If someone has told such a line without any investigation to back it up, then it's simply gross negligence.

          They were protecting themselves having laid their reputations on this software.

          I disagree with this. The "reputation" angle makes it look like they were trying to save Post Office's face and try to put them in sort of a light of do gooders who just simply got it wrong.

          In my opinion this was simply greed and money chasing activity.

          You can't sell subpar product, tell everyone how great it is and ignore reports that it actually isn't and claim it's just for the reputation. Such thing is always done to get sales in.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Justice should include prosecutions

            @ elsergiovolador

            You seem to be arguing something that has no argument - we all know and agree that the Post Office executive should be locked up for a very long time.

            So your points don't seem to make any sense.

            1) That's what many of the victims were told . That it couldn't be the software because no one else had this problem.Which reduced their opportunity to defend themselves

            2) No one has been suggesting the Post Office executives were particularly trying to save the Post Office's reputation, rather than their own - though if they had been it still wouldn't change anything and more to the point no one is saying it would. So while undoubtedly protecting their cushy salaries, bonuses and future lucrative directorships of major companies, the Post Office executives weren't directly benefitting financially from the Fujitsu contract ( as far as we know). Only after they knew it was a sack of shit and still forced it on to their victims were they benefitting by the cover-up.

            3) Fujitsu had sold a crap product to the Post Office. But the Post Office bosses weren't selling anything. They were knowingly imposing a crap product they'd bought not selling it.

            1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

              Re: Justice should include prosecutions

              So you are saying that you are not defending them and then going on defending them?

              Are you trolling?

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Justice should include prosecutions

      Ed Davey has claimed he was lied to by the Post Office so was unaware. Seems bollocks to me as all he had to do was read the likes of The Private Eye then he could of done more digging but instead took the Post Office at their word.

      1. Big Softie

        Re: Justice should include prosecutions

        Ignorance, incompetence and arrogance is a powerful combination, unfortunately quite common in Government and the Civil Service.

  5. t245t Silver badge
    Holmes

    The Crown Prosecution Service bares equal culpability

    The decision by the CPS to go ahead with the prosecutions needs also to be investigated. Basically the Post Office and Fujitsu went after the sub-postmasters, rather than admit there were problems with the software. Are they going to also call Fujitsu software developers to give evidence.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: The Crown Prosecution Service bares equal culpability

      CPS weren't involved in the prosecutions. The Post Office used their own powers of prosecution to bring the cases to court.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: The Crown Prosecution Service bares equal culpability

        Yes, this is a big part of the scandal. The Post Office were/are allowed to investigate and prosecute their own cases. Police force, "expert witnesses" (with the aid of totally independent (!) Fujitsu ) and prosecutor.

      2. t245t Silver badge

        Re: The Crown Prosecution Service bares equal culpability

        @Admiral Grace Hopper: “CPS weren't involved in the prosecutions.

        ‘CPS confirms it carried out prosecutions linked to the Post Office Horizon scandal - but can't say if any happened when it was run by Keir Starmer’

    2. BoldMan

      Re: The Crown Prosecution Service bares equal culpability

      The Post Office is its own prosecuting authority so the CPS did not have a say in the matter. This power needs to be stripped from the PO as it has been shown now that they cannot be trusted with it.

      Even with the little faith I have in the CPS I don't think they would have kept prosecuting these cases.

  6. BoldMan

    His promises are worth as much as his future in British Politics.

  7. WanderingHaggis

    How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

    The cry out against the Post Office is loud and valid, what is terrible is the feeling that Fujitsu has only been named in passing when they are a central player. In my experience user don't understand the power of the sysadmin to access systems and over ride restrictions. That is why there needs to be audit trails so that "back door" access is at least logged. Management in the Post Office should have asked questions why the number of fraud detection increased so much once Horizon was deployed. The post office should have asked who had access though I suspect from experience if you tell management that you don't have access they tend to believe you. A person with sysadmin experience would ask what do I need to do to have access and how is it logged. Fujitsu should be front and centre here, and liable to compensate just as much as the Post Office is.

    1. WanderingHaggis

      Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

      Failed to edit in time -- did Fujitsu inform the PO that only the sub-post master had access i.e. PO management and employees didn't but not say that Fujitsu super users did because that was not what they were being asked. I saw that Fujitsu engineers are being investigated for perjury did they also mislead / lie to the PO as well. This is not an excuse for the PO as they should have realised that there was a change in the patterns of fraud and levels were not "normal". Odd behaviour is a sign that something is going on. The PO IT staff should have the awareness of opsec realities even if the board didn't and asked the relevant questions.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        The (internal PO) auditors were probably happy with the change in fraud levels, thinking that the IT system was detecting fraud previously hidden in the paper system.

        However, they didn't do their jobs properly, in forensically examining them to prove Horizon was not to blame.

    2. ibmalone

      Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

      Fujitsu should be front and centre here, and liable to compensate just as much as the Post Office is.

      I'm not so sure. Not that Fujitsu aren't culpable, my understanding is that they backed the Post Office and possibly committed perjury to support it and cover themselves, but that the PO is guilty of so much here. They were the prosecuting authority and used essentially unaccountable power to persecute (sic) post masters. Early on they should have (as you said) been suspicious about the apparent increase in fraud, later on there was reason to believe the system couldn't be trusted AND THEY KEPT ON PROSECUTING. Why didn't they attempt to properly audit these cases and instead kept relying on horizon data? One angle I've never seen properly looked at is that their conduct also surely amounted to extortion; there is at least one well documented case of a post master paying in money from the rest of their business to cover the "debt" the horizon system falsely said they owed. With prosecution threatened if that money isn't paid what else would you call it?

      And despite this being public knowledge and in the press for years, it takes a TV drama to actually get something done?

      1. Colin Bull 1
        Childcatcher

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        "Why didn't they attempt to properly audit these cases "

        What I do not understand through all this is why transaction logs were not requested by defence in these prosecutions.

        One example was a supposed 40K plus deficit in one day. Surely this would have shown up on a transaction logs for a sub post office.

        Every system of any size I have worked on has transaction logs of some kind.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          Maybe it was the transaction logs that were faulty and were causing the discrepancies?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          I expect the logs for some strange reason would have "gone missing"! don't forget the uttery housery these see you next tuesdays are capable off, including the sigining in book at fushitsu's office going "missing" and the fact they tried to get the judge in the case of Bates and others v's PO replaced by saying he was bias!

        3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          Its my understanding from the various technical stuff thats been published about horizon, is that its the transaction logs that are the heart of the failure and the way the system recovered from a transmission failure during the uploading of the transaction logs from the postmaster's systems.

          ( I've spent most of the day explaining about this subject as i'm the 'techie whizz' at work)

          I also seem to remember that a case was dropped when a sub-postmaster(or his lawyer) demanded the horizon transaction log covering his case.

          But the depressing factor in all this (which has been covered by computer weekly, Private eye and this estemed publication over the past TEN YEARS) is the way its taken a prime time TV drama to finally force those in charge to get off their collective arses and behave like they are in charge.

          As far as I'm concerned the senior managers at the PO and Fushitshow should be in the dock answering questions such as

          "At what point did you know horizons data could not be trusted?"

          "At what point did you sign off on prosecutions based on what you knew to be faulty evidence?"

          "At what point did you think it a good idea to stand up in court and give evidence stating that horizons data was to be trusted yet you had e.mails and memos on your desk saying horizons was returning faulty data?"

          Hopefully followed shortly after by a judge sentencing them each to 10 years in jail for purjury and malicious prosecution

          (dont forget the judges in the case took the PO's word that horizons data was good... making them look like fools too)

          1. Fred Dibnah

            Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

            Wonderful as this esteemed publication is, it is only read by a few thousand people. It’s the same with Computer Weekly and Private Eye (although PE now has a higher circulation than the Torygraph). The politicians have felt able to ignore the reports in the ‘specialist’ press, but the TV documentary had millions of viewers so now they have to appear to be doing something to redress the injustice. Whether they will, of course, is another matter.

            I suspect Sunak will simply cancel Vennel’s gong, and the Sun & Mail will declare everything sorted & go back to footballers & celebs.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

              PE will have been ignored on the basis that "They're always saying things like that. Just ignore them." Meanwhile the technical press is too difficult to understand for chaps with PPE, classics or English litt and history.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        "And despite this being public knowledge and in the press for years, it takes a TV drama to actually get something done?"

        Knowledge of a very limited public, I'm afraid, and for that part of the public that might have done something about it, it probably looked too much like hard work.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

      Having worked with POCL/RM as a sub-contractor around the Horizon implementation era (on a vastly different system, to be clear), the project managers didn't have a modicum of technical knowledge to ask the right questions, so they were never going to understand what capabilities sysadmins had.

      However, it's emerged in the last couple of days that a pre-implementation report stated that Horizon was "not fit for purpose", a report presented to the IT strategy board, yet the go-live was issued regardless.

      One potential measure for holding people's feet to the fire is the surcharge, which was levied against 'Dame' Shirrley Porter for her part in the Westminster Council gerrymandering scandal. This could usefully be applied to Paula Vennells, who doesn't have the option of buggering off to Israel to escape justice.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        "doesn't have the option of buggering off to Israel to escape justice."

        I'm sure other places are available.

    4. Andy 73 Silver badge

      Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

      I suggest you watch the TV program which will explain a lot of the details.

      Fujitsu had remote access that they used to "fix" the data on Postmaster's terminals, and a team within the company that did this on a daily basis for hundreds of terminals. Both Fujitsu and the Post Office denied that any such access existed or that records were being altered - despite clear evidence that it was happening from the Postmasters themselves, and it proven that both the Post Office and Fujitsu shared knowledge about these incidents.

      Fujitsu overrode any audit trails, and the both they and the post office subsequently chose to delete documents where they conflicted with the version of events being used to prosecute individuals.

      Further, the Post Office chose to prosecute individuals even when they knew internally that there was no evidence of wrong doing. There is even some suggestion that particular Postmasters were targeted to discourage any more protests.

      Remember, the Post Office (for historical reasons) can prosecute and jail someone themselves, without reference to the Police or the normal judicial process. They actively pursued hundreds of Postmasters "just because" - this was a scandal that BOTH they and Fujitsu manufactured, and BOTH they and Fujitsu chose to lie about when challenged.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        Minor point, the Post Office has the right of prosecution without recourse to the Police or the CPS, they do not, as far as I know have the right to jail anyone, that power still rests with the courts.

    5. CorwinX Bronze badge

      Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

      Just mentioning this to help with exactly where fingers should be pointed - ie what is actually meant by "Fujitsu".

      Fujitsu, as it's normally thought of (ie the Japanese company), did not write or supply Horizon (at least originally). It was developed and sold to the Post Office by a British company called ICL.

      At some point, can't remember offhand without checking, Fujitsu bought ICL and renamed it Fujitsu Services. Same people, British, working in the UK, just with a different sign outside their HQ. The Japanese parent company had little to do with any of this mess.

      Just saying this out of fairness in case people think it was the Japanese lot who created this s/show.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        In my experience, Japanese business people have a certain sense of integrity, probably higher than any other nationality I've dealt with.

        So - they SHOULD have exposed ICL's shortcomings once it became known internally.

        To not do so, is a good reason to fall on your sword.

        1. CorwinX Bronze badge

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          From reading the Inquiry transcripts I don't think the parent company DID know. ICL were telling them everything was OK (ie lying), just like everyone else.

          ICL/Fujitsu Services seems to have operated as an entirely separate entity, Fujitsu only in name.

        2. MrMerrymaker

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          Weird logic. So the uninvolved Japanese team are at fault for not catching the errors.

          I'm not saying you're wrong, but you appear to be letting the actually guilty people off scot free.

          Nobody is a winner here.

        3. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

          ICL was bought by Fujitsu while the project was being developed so the chances of there being corrective action being taken at that early stage after a visit from Fujitsu were minimal.

          I'm sure we're all pretty familiar with the idea of foreign outposts belonging to multinationals where nobody at the parent company has any clue what's going on apart from a look at the balance sheet every quarter and an office tour and slap-up meal every year or so.

          Fujitsu management are probably annoyed that no UK management committed Seppuku around 2013 though, after the Post Office first admitted there had been problems for a decade.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: How is Fujitsu not in the dock?

        That's a fair point. But only if the Fujitsu parent was ignorant of the workings of their new ICL acquisition.

        There's room for wriggle there.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why these utter shisters at fushitsu are still allowed to bid for government contracts God only knows(Tory funders I suspect). If you haven't watched the ITV program than do so, it is shameful what went on. And there must be some fushitsu staff on here that worked on horizon it would be interesting to know what REALLY went on, its bound to be worse than what was portrayed on the telly. How those degenerates in senior positions at the Post office and fushitsu haven't served time is another is a disgrace. Still there is a real groundswell of opinion mounting and I believe the police are investigating possible criminal charges, but I expect it'll be another Hillsborough where no one is actually punished.

    And a question for the Rev Vennells, what would Jesus have done?!

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      are still allowed to bid for government contracts

      That's a well trodden path. The road to success in UK government contracts seems to be fail spectacularly, walk away with billions of public cash, and then do it again. And again.

      This applies corporately and individually or any combination..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: are still allowed to bid for government contracts

        "How much did we pay them for the last contract?"

        "Five billion Minister"

        "They must be good then!"

    2. Big Softie

      The religious aspect is well covered...you only have to say you're sorry and appear remorseful and you are forgiven

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        what would Jesus have done.......?

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    This wasn't just one scandal, it was a whole stack:

    1. The initial PO/RM prosecutions. I don't know if the problems were known from the start but it's clear that prosecutions continued when it was known.

    2. That PO/RM didn't. of their own initiative, promptly seek to get the early convictions quashed as unsafe, once they became aware of Horizon's errors, including those where there were guilty pleas and drop all pending cases.

    3. That when Fujitsu realised that there were problems and that PO/RM were conducting cases on faulty evidence they didn't alert defendants and make defence witnesses available.

    4. That PO/RM didn't, on their own initiative, promptly seek to compensate those convicted, awaiting trial and who had paid to settle without prosecution.

    5. That, when it became publicly known that Horizon was in error and that PO/RM had been carrying out prosecutions knowing that, the Ministry of Justice or any other official body didn't step in to get the convictions quahed as unsafe.

    6, That, when it became publicly known that Horizon was in error and that PO/RM had been carrying out prosecutions knowing that, no official body stepped in to insist that PO/RM compensate those convicted, awaiting trial and who had paid to settle without prosecution.

    7. That, when it became clear that PO/RM had been prosecuting cases knowing that their evidence was faulty, that prima facie cases of false prosecution and/or perjury were not investigated with dispatch and, where appropriate, prosecuted, possibly related to ...

    8. That in place of 7 the government's attitude seems to have been that it preferred a public enquiry with not powers to prosecute

    9. That, as those who have followed the saga of the public enquiry elsewhere will be aware, the enquiry has been appallingly dragged out by delays in making evidence available.

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

    1. ibmalone

      All of this. Any time I talk to people about it their focus often seems to be on Horizon itself, some computer issue that lead to all this. But, while the particular events arose from issues with Horizon, the real issues and guilt are institutional ones. Look at that list: right from the start, "prosecutions continued when it was known." Every item is something that happened at a point at which somebody knew the system was in error and chose to ignore that (or, you might suspect, in some cases took their actions precisely to avoid it becoming more widely known).

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      @ Doctor Syntax,

      Sir / Madam, you seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that in the UK 'Justice' equates to 'fairness'*. This is not the case. Whilst the convicted post office managers have been terribly treated, they have, on the whole not been treated as unfairly as other recipients of British injustice such as Mr Andrew Malkinson**, who was sent to prison for a rape he did not commit for 17 years, because he refused to confess and maintained his innocence. He was released some months ago, but is living off benefits because he has to apply for compensation for the false conviction, the fact that the Criminal Cases Review board ignored DNA evidence that another man was present after only a few years. So if you think British Justice is about fairness, think again.

      * Justice as Fairness, John Rawls, revised edition ISBN-13, 978-0-674-00078-2

      ** Andrew Malkinson wrongful conviction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful_conviction_of_Andrew_Malkinson :

      "Malkinson was identified by the victim in a identity parade line-up, despite several key details not matching with the description of the perpetrator. For example, she described the attacker as being 3 inches shorter than Malkinson, with a hairless chest and no tattoos. Malkinson had chest hair and prominent tattoos on his forearms. She also said the attacker would have a "deep scratch" to his face, since she'd scratched him so hard she had broken one of her fingernails. Malkinson was seen at work the next day with no scratch to his face. He also didn't have the Bolton accent the victim said the attacker had.

      There was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime at the time.

      At trial, he was presented as a drifter and was found guilty of two counts of rape and attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle with intent to commit rape but found not guilty of attempted murder after a jury at Manchester Crown Court (Crown Square) spent nine hours considering their verdicts.[5] He was convicted by a 10–2 majority jury verdict and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 6½ years."

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I'm labouring under the experience of having spent about a third of my working life in the 70s & 80s as a forensic scientist. I am probably even more appalled than you at that case and struggle to understand how it could have even got to court. I can only report my own experience but I think everyone I knew - colleagues, police and medical examiners - as well as myself were well aware of the difficulties involved in allegations of sexual assaults, the possibilities of miscarriages of justice in one direction or the other and anxious to avoid them. Personally I think the stress of that job affects me to this day.

        Possibly the DPP/CPS are less aware and are sometimes under political (and even less aware) pressure to increase conviction rates as measured against complaints. I can only think of one case in my career where the local DPP's office seemed to have had a rush of blood to the head despite the police having located an eye-witness who demolished the complainant's story; the case was dealt with by the Crown counsel calling the witness but then handing proceedings straight over to the defence to take her evidence.

        However whataboutery gets us nowhere.

  10. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    FAIL

    Remote Access

    Watching the four part series, and the following documentary, as a former SysAdmin I was struck by one particular thought. The Post Office insisted that there was no remote access to the horizon terminals in each post office and sub-Post Office, but no one asked how the System Administrators, located in Bracknell (I actually used to work in the building when it Was ICL) administered the system without remote access. I have used Post Offices all over Great Britain, in Scotland, Keswick in Cumbria, Penzance in Cornwall and even in Reading, Berkshire (I know, I live an exotic life). Why did no one ask how these systems as managed for updates if not remotely? Sending an engineer to each Post Office for each update every month or so would have been horrendously expensive, not to say time consuming, and clearly is nonsense. Therefore Fujitsu must have had remote access.

    Another thing that worried me was the apparent complete ignorance by the judiciary and lawyers of IT Security Standards such as ISO 27001, Check and Crest technical security assessments (AKA Penetration Testing) and standards for the admissibility of computer evidence in court none of which seem to have been met by the Post Office prosecution teams. Personally had I been ware of these prosecutions when they were happening I do hope I would have had the courage to inform the relevant defendants and judges of these essential things.

    Appalling ignorance by the judges, and even worse vindictiveness by the PO.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Remote Access

      Almost a decade ago I had a contract replacing post office counter hardware, and digging out my backups, the installation documentation is full of:

      "stay on the phone until the Network Operations Centre remotely configures...."

      "If the NOC cannot remotely resolve the issue, escalate to...."

      It's not in the documentation I've dug out, but the final test was (along the lines of):

      Test the system by doing a dummy transaction. Print a system balance. Enter a transaction using "VOID ITEM" as the product. When completed, void the transaction by doing X, Y, Z... Print a system balance to confirm it has reverted to the previous balance. Note in sign-off sheet.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Remote Access

        Please contact Alan Bates or the inquiry and ask them if they would like to see your notes regarding installation and remote configuration. They would prove that the PO were lying about the absence of remote access. Better still, take a photograph and send it to Private Eye or Computer Weekly.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Remote Access

      Vindictiveness by the Post Office yes. But the judges, at worst, can only be accused of naïvety I think.

      Naïvety because they trusted the Post Office to give honest evidence. But it's not a judge's job to be an expert on anything other than the law.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Remote Access

      "Appalling ignorance by the judges"

      The judges can only go by what evidence was presented to them. If they're presented with biased expert witness on one side and none on the other that's what they have to go on. To an extent if they think something needs clarification they might question a witness but they don't have previous careers as Sysadmins to know that that would need clarification. They may well, along the way, have picked up knowledge of police procedures, criminal MOs, even (regrettably rarely IME) forensic science and have a typical users knowledge of PCs but not ystem administration

  11. Martin Gregorie

    Project management by those ignorant of IT systems?

    I'm quite surprised about the way the HORIZON enquiry is proceding. I've listened to the Radio 4 series enquiring into this and to the Private Eye article about it and one thing stands out: the apparent ignorance of HORIZON investigators about the way bespoke sortware is specified, built and checked as fit for purpose before it is put into live operation.

    My point is that the terms 'Project Definition' and 'Acceptance Test' don't appear in any account of the rise and fall of HORIZON that I've seen, so I'm left wondering if these documents were ever created. If they were not, then this indicates that both Royal Mail and Fujitsu project management are horridly incompetent: after all, ICL systems had quite decent system definition software available as a standard feature.

    I think it follows that both companies should be liable for the costs of replacing HORIZON and of undoing the harms, both financial and reputational, done to all the sub-postmasters who have been affected and HMG (and hence us) should not covering the costs incurred by either the Royal Mail or Fujitsu..

    1. matjaggard

      Re: Project management by those ignorant of IT systems?

      Agreed but sadly that can't happen because 1. Anything you try to make Fujitsu pay would have to have been in a contract with them or they'll just wriggle out of it and 2. The post office will just go bankrupt if we make them pay and then we'll have no universal postal system - fine if you're in London less so in Scourie.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Project management by those ignorant of IT systems?

        "Anything you try to make Fujitsu pay would have to have been in a contract with them or they'll just wriggle out of it "

        If their staff were giving evidence that they knew was wrong then they might find such wriggling harder than you might think and they might wish.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Project management by those ignorant of IT systems?

      HMG (and hence us) should not covering the costs incurred by either the Royal Mail......

      Problem there is that the Post Office is responsible here and it isn't owned by Royal Mail. And saddling it with even more debt won't help anyone, least of all the postmasters that are still doing the job in the (remaining ) Post Offices.

      And if it was, we'd be paying it anyway. Because the Post Office and Royal Mail are both public services event though the Royal Mail was privatised.

      And it's individuals who committed these criminal acts. Not their staff or franchisees.

      Fining public services always means robbing the public to account to the public. Because the fine takes money away from our services.

  12. adam 40 Silver badge
    Alert

    Keep an Eye on this!

    I've been following the story for ~10 years.

    I see comments above such as "But the depressing factor in all this (which has been covered by computer weekly, Private Eye and this esteemed publication over the past TEN YEARS) is the way its taken a prime time TV drama to finally force those in charge to get off their collective arses and behave like they are in charge."

    NOTE THIS: once the furore about the TV programme has died down, Sunak and the Govt will close ranks again, and we will hear little about this again.

  13. matjaggard

    What actually went wrong?

    I've not seen much technical detail into what went wrong with the Horizon system. Specifically how can a double entry accounting system (which I read somewhere that it is) be so far out, if it's reporting systems that were wrong then surely they'd have found that while investigating, and how can you get it wrong always in the same direction with the subpostmaster out of pocket? All of that smells like a really bad or possibly even malicious system.

    1. James Anderson

      Re: What actually went wrong?

      From what I can glean the actual bug seems to have occurred when there were two or more terminals connected to the box. It seems the system got confused and entered duplicated transactions as if they had been entered on both.

    2. Random person

      Re: What actually went wrong?

      See this article for the general reader for some information.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/jan/09/how-the-post-offices-horizon-system-failed-a-technical-breakdown

      Also see the large number articles in "Computer Weekly, here is an example

      https://www.computerweekly.com/news/366537376/Fujitsu-staff-had-unrestricted-and-unauditable-remote-access-to-Post-Office-branch-systems

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call me cynical

    As soon as one person killed themselves because of a known false prosecution this should have been picked up as a manslaughter case

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worked on PO systems for years (non UK)

    I have nothing but sympathy for these victims of abuse by poor management.

    Take back the CBE and issue, in its place a CEI (Commander of Extreme Incompetence). If not picked up in person, shove it through the mail.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once convictions of the postmasters are quashed prosecutions at the corporate board levels of those responsible wouldn't go amiss. Nothing like jail to clear the mind of ideas designed to skip due diligence. Destroying lives shouldn't go unpunished.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Balls of steel

    Many years ago when I was reading about the early stages of this scandal, I recall reading about some Fujitsu person who, under oath, in court, stated that there were no bugs in the system. Would any of us say the same?

    More recently, I discovered that there is a presumption in law that in the case of a dispute, the IT system is assumed to be correct. WTAF?

    1. KarMann Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Balls of steel

      I don't know why Charles Babbage even bothered. It's not as if they've learned from him, even over 150 years later.

      On two occasions I have been asked, — "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Balls of steel - 'IT System assumed to be correct'

      See the Crown Prosecution Service web site: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/computer-records-evidence

      "Rebuttable Presumption of Correct Functioning of a Computer

      Prior to the repeal of section 69 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 by section 60 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, it was necessary to prove that a computer was operating properly and was not used improperly before any statement in a document produced by the computer could be admitted in evidence.

      Computer evidence must now follow the Common Law rule, that a presumption will exist that the computer producing the evidential record was working properly at the material time and that the record is therefore admissible as real evidence.

      That presumption can, however, be rebutted if evidence to the contrary is adduced. In that event it will be for the party seeking to produce the computer record in evidence to satisfy the court that the computer was working properly at the material time. For detailed guidance as to the law, see <Archbold 9-11 9-15>."

      I'd say that the PO stating no remote access and there being remote access was 'evidence to the contrary', but then I'm not a lawyer.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Balls of steel - 'IT System assumed to be correct'

        "That presumption can, however, be rebutted if evidence to the contrary is adduced. In that event it will be for the party seeking to produce the computer record in evidence to satisfy the court that the computer was working properly at the material time.."

        Superficially, where the evidence is being provided by the prosecution in a criminal case it makes it look as if the burden of proof is on the prosecution - which is part of the long tradition of Common Law. In practice, of course, it places the real burden on the defence in providing rebuttal. It's that repeal that opened the door to this whole mess. I wonder how many less notorious cases have been brought to court by the same means.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Balls of steel - 'IT System assumed to be correct'

        The legal rule that computers are presumed to be operating correctly – unforeseen and unjust consequences

        The fact that a computer has failed may well not be obvious. Even when a failure has been identified, it may be infeasible (that is, not possible) to discover whether it was caused by a software bug or improper operation. As a result, a person challenging evidence derived from a computer is unlikely to know what documents or records might show whether a relevant error has occurred, and so cannot request they be disclosed. They will typically not have been privy to the circumstances in which the system in question is known to fail or may have failed.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Balls of steel - 'IT System assumed to be correct'

          This is going to have massive ramifications over AI and self-driving cars…

  18. Cynical Pie

    While the Post Office are clearly at fault I find it interesting that Fujitsu seem to be getting pretty much a free pass for the absolute trash they designed and provided.

    Yes I know the system is only as good as the spec and what was requested etc etc but its inconceivable that Fujitsu didn't know the system was an absolute car crash and didn't work as intended.

  19. shawn.grinter

    Tragic

    How do you compensate being dead?

    Once more a classic case of those in power getting away with it, they sit around with their ill gotten gains and gongs whilst the little people are in the ground.

  20. James Anderson

    Off Topic

    Exactly how did the at very least incompetent Vennels get a job on the board of Imperial College NHS trust?

    The NHS is by far the biggest spender of tax payers money but the management and particular how its “trustees” are appointed is completely opaque.

    And it is astonishingly badly managed. The whole thing is held together by the dedication of its exploited and under payed

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the Post Office

    I suspect that institutional reliance on and defence of deeply flawed systems is everywhere.

    I recently retired from a Very Large UK University. Three weeks before I left I was told that my final pay would be docked by three weeks because I had taken too much leave last year. Every time I booked leave I was told that my balance was positive. Every time I booked leave it was approved. And yet months afterwards they decided that I had been shown false information and owed them a few thousand quid as a result. I tried my union and was told - I summarise - "They can afford more expensive lawyers than you can.Let it go. Sorry."

    That's an HR system used in many companies. I wonder in how many of them it is giving similar financial benefits to employers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just the Post Office

      iTRENT?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just the Post Office

        Further south.

  22. Big_Boomer

    Dither and Delay

    "If we manage to drag it out for long enough, then enough of the victims will die and that will cut down the costs, or maybe we can blame it on Labour. Oh wait, did we think that out loud?"

    This entire episode is criminal on the part of The Post Office, Fujitsu, and the UK Government (Civil Service and both Labour and Conservative governments), for aiding and abetting the cover up. If an individual did these things they would never get out of prison. Heads (PLURAL) need to roll for this and that includes those at The Post Office, Fujitsu, and in the Government.

  23. GreyWolf

    The stink of corruption

    There is more to this scandal than meets the eye. Why was there such a drive to deny fault in Horizon, to blame the victims, to cover up what had happened?

    I smell a corrupt procurement - just how exactly did ICL Pathway/Fujitsu get selected? Who paid whom off?

    Vennells is just the patsy/sacrificial lamb - there is someone else in the shadows.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: The stink of corruption

      I think in one of the BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the implication was that if HMG made a fuss about the Horizon system failures, Fujitsu would sack a lot of its UK staff and that would cause political problems.

  24. rd2d

    Appalling

    This sordid affair is appalling. Anyone with any experience of software suspected that that was where the problem lay from the outset.

    Arrogance, coverups, the untouchability and abuse of the 'special powers' of the Post Office, it all needs looking at.

    Unfortunately this kind of activity will continue to happen until human beings are rendered genetically incapable of lying and deceipt.

    Computer Weekly has a great summary of 'the story so far':

    https://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Post-Office-Horizon-scandal-explained-everything-you-need-to-know

    What we must not have is a quick blanket pardon and then a 'the matter is closed' type sweep-it-under-the-carpet scenario.

  25. Binraider Silver badge

    Did someone need a good news story and therefore were holding back on taking action until a timely moment?

    Cynicism aside; it is good to finally be getting results on this front.

  26. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I see that Vennells has now given way to public pressure and handed back her CBE but intends to make no further comment until her evidence to the enquiry*. I'm not sure that this is enough to be described as doing the decent thing.

    * If the PO's foot-dragging keeps going it might never get to this point.

  27. MrGreen

    This Isn’t an Isolated Incident

    Isn’t it funny how the Horizon system only showed ‘deficits’ on postmasters books?

    Money was always being taken off them but no one got an overpayment. Isn’t that strange.

    This isn’t an isolated incident. That’s why it’ll get swept under the carpet.

    Many companies IT systems only work in directing money from employees to the business. Obviously we can’t have the little people making too much profit or commission.

    The IT systems are blamed and manual changes are made if you flag up a discrepancy. However, the system is left to keep taking money off people. But where does the money go? In to the company profits because that’s what the C level people get paid on.

  28. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Mr Bates' question - "If the subpostmasters didn't take the money, where is it?" seems like a very good one to me. Is somebody at Fujitsu or the Post Office gloating over a bulging offshore bank account?

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      it disappeared into PO profits

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        And now their money + compensation will not come from the PO's accounts but from the taxpayer.

  29. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    No Place to Run, No Place to Hide .... All Know What You Done and Didn’t Do Too

    There has been very little said and asked of the UK Justice System [judges, barristers, solicitors etc etc] regarding their disgraceful false criminal sentencing and admittedly egregious malicious prosecution on the one side and the totally inept legal defence on the other side of totally innocent and serially wronged parties .

    Are they blameless and expecting to bear no responsibility for one the greatest miscarriages of justice ever, anywhere?

  30. Badbob

    Time is of the essence

    Sunak needs this cleaned up so he can get rid of Fujitsu and put Infosys in place before he pisses off to fellate Musk later this year.

    It’s a compressed timetable, but thankfully, a Brexit Benefit is that we can simply ignore EU procurement rules.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like