back to article Post Office slapped down for late disclosure of documents in Horizon scandal inquiry

The Post Office Horizon inquiry may be forced to recall witnesses after the company delayed disclosing evidence – some relating to communications to and from former chief executive Paula Vennells. Jason Beer KC, counsel to the inquiry, said the Post Office had disclosed thousands of documents just weeks before the inquiry …

  1. ShortLegs

    You may wish to edit the article to reflect that whilst PV handed back her "CBE honor", she was later stripped of it,

    Also, its an "Honour", not "honor"

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Devil

      De-Frocked

      The one thing I took away from Vennells over the weekend is she's apparently a ordained (part-time) vicar, her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values is now lower than whale shit dumped into the Challenger Deep.

      I look forward to seeing this POS finding a new role as live in prison chaplain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: De-Frocked

        She stopped being a vicar in 2021 according to this:

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56882496

        That article notes that she had been working in the St. Albans diocese. The bishop's father had been a sub-postmaster.

        This article:

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-67923190

        claims that she had been considered to become Bishop of London (the third most senior post in the Church of England).

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: De-Frocked

        "The one thing I took away from Vennells over the weekend is she's apparently a ordained (part-time) vicar, her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values is now lower than whale shit dumped into the Challenger Deep."

        Likewise < href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Flowers_(banker)">The Reverend Paul Flowers, running the Co-Op bank and convicted of drug possession as well nearly running the bank into the ground.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: De-Frocked

          Likewise The Reverend Paul Flowers, running the Co-Op bank

          aka the Crystal Methodist.

          1. Zoopy

            Re: De-Frocked

            Obscure pun. Respect.

            1. PhilBuk

              Re: De-Frocked

              Didn't expect to see a TCM reference here!

              Phil.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: De-Frocked

          But that's all OK because they can repent and God Will Forgive Them

          (It's a common mindset and my experience is that "christians" are more frequently the nastiest pieces of work around because of it)

      3. John Miles

        Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

        She'll fit right in with a lot of top clergy, same mode of operation - demonise the victims and those who dare stand against the church to keep the flock in line, then protect the guilty at all costs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

          Horrifying that you deserve an upvote for that. Equally horrifying that the clergy are nothing special - Communists and other avowed atheists, rock stars and DJs, politicians, you name it, they are just as bad at harbouring greedy abusers.

          1. Zoopy

            Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

            Perhaps further evidence that church and state are best kept separate.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

              Evidence that people who desire power shouldn't be given it.

              Maybe we should have MPs on a jury duty style system?

              1. Patrician

                Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                Way back when I was a teenager I read a science fiction short story that used that exact idea; I can't remember the author, I thought it was Arthur C Clark but I've not been able to find it again. The story was from the viewpoint of somebody who was picked ot be the president of a governement that had been picked in that way.

                The idea always Intrigued me.

                1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
                  Headmaster

                  Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                  Could you be thinking of "Franchise" by Isaac Asimov?

                  1. Patrician
                    Pint

                    Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                    That sound like the one.

                2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                  Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

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

                  In governance, sortition (also known as selection by lottery, selection by lot, allotment, demarchy, stochocracy, aleatoric democracy, democratic lottery, and lottocracy) is the selection of public officials or jurors using a random representative sample.[1][2][3] This minimizes factionalism, since those selected to serve can prioritize deliberating on the policy decisions in front of them instead of campaigning

                3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                  Heinlein floated this idea a few times, particularly in his Lazarus Long series (drag them in kicking and screaming, with time off for good behaviour)

                  Franchise can be summarised as "one man, one vote - the man to be selected randomly" and is part of Ike's Multivac story arc

                4. Mobster

                  Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                  Heritage of the Start by Sylvia Engdahl?

              2. R Soul Silver badge

                MPs on a jury duty style system

                I think you've mistyped "firing squad".

                MPs would of course be the targets, not the ones with the rifles.

                1. matjaggard

                  Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                  This is so unfair. They're mostly people who genuinely want to help improve the country. Sadly they're not the best people for the job because we pay so much more for private sector leaders. Maybe some small minority are also in it for the power or revolving door opportunities rather than to genuinely help.

                  If we give them zero respect, threats of violence and a not-much-above-average wage then who the heck are we expecting to apply??!

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                    I presume you're being sarcastic.

                    If our MPs genuinely want to help improve the country, they have a remarkably strange way of doing that: Lettuce Liz trashing the economy in days, the £53B test & trace trainwreck, aircraft carriers with no aircraft, the HS2 white elephant, shambolic handling of the pandemic, shagger Boris's incessant lying and deceit, the banking bale-outs, non-existent housing, transport and energy policies for decades, NHS on its arse (as usual), Corbynomics, decades of economic decline and under investment, Diane Abbot's financial skills, fucking up Brexit, Starmer the tailor's dummy and so on. The list of epic fails is depressingly long and growing.

                    MPs are not the best people for the job because almost none of them are good enough to hold down any sort of job. Few of them could survive outside the Westminster bubble. Fewer understand the concept of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. Almost all of them are in politics for corrupt personal enrichment: backhanders from their chums and looting the party coffers while in office then book deals, "consultancies", cushy directorships and so on when they get voted out. Quite a few of them should be in jail for corruption.

                    BTW, the base salary for an MP is now £91K plus expenses. That's quite a bit more than above the UK average salary of £35K (and no expenses). MPs get paid even more if they're a minister or chair a parliamentary committee. Some have outside jobs too. One MP makes >> £1M/year from his side job as a barrister. Shagger Boris gets a similar amount for his column in the Daily Fail. Why aren't they using that time to represent their constituents or "help improve the country"?

                    MPs get the respect they deserve. Since most of them are corrupt, self-serving incompetents, it's no surprise they get next to no respect from the public. You could probably count the number of MPs that are decent, honest, conscientious and hard working on the fingers of one hand. OK, two hands if you're from Norfolk.

                    1. midgepad

                      Speed of construction

                      Ships take 5 years.

                      Aircraft take 1 year.

                      So building a carrier before the aircraft are available isn't daft.

                      Other way round, not quite so little.

                    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                      Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                      Why not make a difference? If you're so much more principled and talented, why not stand forParliament yourself?

                    3. Big Softie

                      Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                      Nailed...

                  2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

                    Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                    I would have more respect for MPs , the ones in cabinet positions , if they didnt constantly RESHUFFLE to ensure that none of them are any good at their job and any mistakes can be run away from or blamed on the previous fellow.

                    and also if they voted on behalf of their constituents , or whats morally right - instead of whichever way the boss of their party tells them to.

                    and also if they didnt treat their job lack some sort of saturday doss around and get *other* jobs as well!

                  3. 0laf Silver badge

                    Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                    It's a global disaster in the making tbh. It seems to be a universal rule that those who will succeed in politics are exactly those people who should be taken around the back of a shed and disposed of for the benefit of the rest of us. I've known people who have gone into local politics with the intention of putting their money where their mouth is and trying to make things better. For the most part these people are undermined and ground down by the majority of fellow politicians who are sociopathic narcissists. Eventually most give up and leave politics before they lose their sanity and health.

                    I also love the term 'professional politician',. What that seems to mean now is someone who went to Oxbridge to study politics and economics before using Ma and Pa's money to get an unpaid internship with the family friend MP as a SPAD. Then being dropped into a safe seat when they have made enough friends or logged enough dirt on collegues.

                    Experience of having an actual job or not having a trust fund to fall back on is to be avoided.

                    What we end up with then are mentally defective, rich people with no experience of anything outside academia or employment in within their parents social circle.

                  4. Jonathon Green

                    Re: MPs on a jury duty style system

                    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the suggestion that improving the remuneration of MPs would lead to better quality candidates. The thing is, the proposition is always that I pay more for improvements to a service I’m not happy with without offering any concrete evidence of what improvement (if any) I’ll see.

                    My counter to that is that maybe we should have a system of performance based pay for MPs, Ministers, Parliamentary Committee chairs, etc, etc, etc. Let them show me the improved results first, and then I’ll part with the money. Of course this does open up all sorts of questions about what the performance targets should be, who gets to set them, and who gets to evaluate performance against them…

              3. druck Silver badge
                Big Brother

                Re: her credibility for preaching & giving sermons on Christian values

                Maybe we should have MPs on a jury duty style system?

                Having served on several juries, I've seen that 12 people who have been pulled away from their lives to attend court every day, do not want to be there, and have no knowledge of how things work, is not the best way of doing anything never mind running the country. Generally one or two people with forceful personalities will come to the fore, and the others will go along them them just to get out of there quickly, and it wouldn't be long before you found yourself in a dictatorship.

      4. midgepad

        (Much lower, since

        I gather it floats)

  2. JessicaRabbit

    Sounds like they were hoping they could delay the inquiry by submitting documents late.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Today was the day Alan Bates gave evidence, so it looks like they wanted to do that. The chair was having none of it though.

      Video here (starting from Alan Bates' appearance after the part of the inquiry dealing with late documents).

      1. Vestas

        I watched it.

        The chair had to tell people not to applaud him at the conclusion of his evidence because "undoubtably witnesses who are less acceptable to you will be appearing & I don't want to have to sanction people for bad behaviour when they do".

        There's prima facie evidence of a conspiracy amongst multiple POL staff/their counsel to pervert the course of justice (at the very least) over a period of years and its in emails the inquiry has.

        This is England though so they will get away with it.

        Edit - POL even tried to get their board members & officers additional criminal liability insurance VERBALLY with AIG to "avoid a paper trail". That gem came from their lawyers...

        1. NeilPost

          As a ‘State Enterprise’ I think it may meet this threshold too.

          https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/misconduct-public-office

          … though my expectations are low as Boris Johnson was never brought to account whilst as disgraced Prime Minister.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            nor anyone else from the Tory party

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I can think of a few judges who, had they been chairing the enquiry, might have locked someone up for a few days contempt of court to ensure it didn't happen again. The scandal has been going on for over 20 years and if the PO has anything to do with it, so will the enquiry.

      I haven't been following the Beeb's live video feed but I have followed their ongoing reporting. It strikes me that Bates is an excellent witness with a full paper-trail. The PO should have realised years ago that they were in a hole and should have stopped digging.

      1. nobody who matters

        This is a Public Enquiry; it is not a Court of Law, so that would not be possible ;)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          AFAIK it's run by a judge with powers of sub-poena.

        2. Random person

          From July 2023

          > Sir Wyn gives determination on Post Office disclosure failings

          > 14 July 2023

          > ...

          > Sir Wyn Williams has announced today that all future Inquiry requests for evidence to the Post Office will carry a notice under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005, which he said “carries a threat of a criminal sanction” (including a sentence of up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment).

          https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/news/sir-wyn-gives-determination-post-office-disclosure-failings

          Also https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/post-office-inquiry-jail-threat-over-disclosure-failures/5116672.article

          I don't know what the process would be IF the inquiry decides it is appropriate.

          1. richardcox13

            I don't know what the process would be IF the inquiry decides it is appropriate.

            That is given in section 35 of the Inquires Act 2005 (as amended), subsection 7:

            A person who is guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level three on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the relevant maximum, or to both.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        The PO should have realised years ago that they were in a hole and should have stopped digging.

        They did. They realised that they'd hit bedrock and so started using high explosives to get deeper.

    3. perkele

      The Post Office in its various forms has err form for the late delivery of items.

      Junk mail still rushes through, but everything else.. some even get opened before delivery as an extra public service too. What convenience. Especially things like birthday cards. Never the brown envelopes (not those, MPs get them but not through the GPO).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You're confusing the Post Office with Royal Mail.

        1. perkele

          Which is why I wrote "The Post Office in its various forms" since I've not kept track of the details of who runs what since I escaped the UK.

          I just have to put up with shit deliveries to my father, or suppliers. Such as Parcelforce not giving a shit and telling the vendor of a returned item for service that they've messed up the paperwork and are demanding money they shouldn't demand, take weeks to even send their wrong demand to the recipient and generally not give a toss. Enough friends in the Uk report getting hospital letters late, letters kindly opened within the delivery process (not rips from machines) and a general malaise.

          Or the idiots handling LETTER CUSTOMS thinking a birthday card is containing thousands of pounds of something so it needs a customs declaration.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          So what? They're two cheeks of the same arse.

          1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            two cheeks of the same arse

            Have you been listening to George Galloway again?

            (A phrase I think he has used at every election attempt he has entered.)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: two cheeks of the same arse

              No. It's a commonly used expression in the Glasgow area - once you remove the fuckings in front of the nouns. Gorgeous George must have picked it up when he lived in the city.

    4. CorwinX Bronze badge

      Correct

      That's what they've been doing from day one, despite repeated warnings.

      While impeccably polite, as befits a senior judge (ret'd) Sir Wyn is clearly running out of patience with them.

      The latest tranche (tens of thousands of relevant docs/emails) delivered just last week, according to Mr Jason Beer (Council to the Enquiry), comes from and Exchange 365 system they apparently forgot the had!

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

        Re: Correct

        Perhaps El Reg should invite/encourage a 'Who Me?' surrounding the discovery of a 'forgotten' server?

      2. StewartWhite
        Flame

        Re: Correct

        I don't think the inquiry chair is running out of patience at all. He specifically said several months ago (and I posted on this same subject three months ago) that there would be sanctions applied should the Post Office do this again but although they've now done so on at least two occasions since to my knowledge, there have been... precisely no sanctions.

        Like most inquiry chairs, he loves his 15 minutes of fame and his snout is in the trough along with the lawyers involved. The longer they can keep this going the better from their point of view - extra months of evidence = extra £££££

    5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Mushroom

      First Class

      Sounds like they were hoping they could delay the inquiry by submitting documents late.

      They probably are regretting not sending it next day recorded delivery or via their parcels business - that would have taken care of the documents for a few months if not gone into a void, never to be seen again

      1. NeilPost

        Re: First Class

        The Post Office as a ‘shop’ for assorted services was separated from the Royal Mail as the UK Public Service Operator for postal service long ago by this Tory Government.

        Unfortunately no one wanted to buy it unlike the RM…. Which is now equally in the shit for other reasons.

        1. Fading

          Re: First Class

          The legal split was only in 2012 (during the coalition government) though the previous government had rebranded and unrebranded the post office counters part during their "arms length" management.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: First Class

          There's considerable speculation that the very obvious preparation for private selloff was stopped because anyone doing Due Diligence would have found what was going on - and if it was concealed, they'd have multibillion pound claims against the sellers

      2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: First Class

        Probably even longer if they'd farmed the job out to Evri

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

    That is the point that should be relentlessy repeated.

    This is not your run-of-the-mill failed Government IT operation where the higher-ups get their honours and move on, and the public pays the bill and shuts up.

    No, this is an abject failure of government where the higher-ups literally walked on the corpses of honest people just trying to do their job for Queen and Country.

    The fallout on this should be ruthless and profound. There is no excuse for the Old Boy's Club here.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

      It's interesting that bates is, to some extent, suggesting that ministers and even Vennells may have been briefed to push him away and lied to by their staff: the big organisation reality distortion field writ large.

      1. Vestas

        Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

        The inquiry has covert recordings of people in "Project Sparrow" discussing keeping information from Vennels.

        1. NeilPost

          Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

          Though the buck stopped there. I’m sure the millions of pounds in remuneration and bonuses ‘earned’ will keep her warm at night. Esp. As she is not dead or was in jail.

          Hoping she doesn’t just play the indifference/Rupert and James Murdoch (Phone Hacking Inquiry) ‘we didn’t know’ shoulder shrugging defence card and say she is sorry.

        2. StewartWhite
          Flame

          Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

          But there's also recorded evidence from Channel 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qxQ0DTc-vU&ab_channel=Channel4News) where the PO's internal legal counsel and others specifically state that they have briefed Paula Venals (sic) that Fujitsu have got remote access and are using it without subpastmasters' knowledge.

          I look forward to the fragrant Venals mysteriously suffering from amnesia about pretty much everything when she finally gets to the stand as her erstwhile colleagues have done repeatedly to date.

      2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

        Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

        At this level in an organisation, being 'lied to by staff' shows a complete lack of competence in their job. Directors/senior managers are employed to ensure legal compliance and should doubt statements until verified to their own satisfaction, being aware of the personal consequences in getting it wrong.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

          Yes Minister is, as ever, the text book on how to prevent this. Only answer questions that are asked and the head honcho, having been kept in the dark, doesn't know what questions to ask and, if they insist on being told everything, get snowed under with everything from a list of stationery stocks upwards.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served"

            "plausable deniability"

            Used to work in a company where the senior managers refused to be briefed on what specifics of projects the staff were working on simply so the managers could deny any knowledge when any sort of problems arose. Needless to say once I learned of this I left, shortly after that the entire senior management team was ousted.

  4. CorwinX Bronze badge

    The Most Reverend Vennels

    Most witneses to the Enquiry testify for a day or part of one, on a very few ocassions recalled later. Rev. Vennels is scheduled for a full three days grilling (22nd-24th May).

    She'd better hope her professed God is on her side because no-one else is going to show her any mercy. I hope the police can lock her up for previous lies to courts and public.

    If that sounds harsh - there's plenty of evidence come to light that she knew damn well that Horizon couldn't be relied on to be accurate and still went ahead and had people's lives ruined based on lies and misinformation.

    Some effing Christian spirit!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Minisculely Reverend Vennels

      I would hope she packs a toothbrush to the hearings. Hopefully she won't be going home.

      1. StewartWhite
        Unhappy

        Re: The Minisculely Reverend Vennels

        Very little chance of anybody serving any time for this (I regret to say). It just wouldn't do to allow corporate sociopath CEOs such as Vennells to do some porridge - where would it end?

        1. Plest Silver badge

          Re: The Minisculely Reverend Vennels

          Sadly we all know this to be true. Big enquiry, lots of "plausible deniability" from the senior managers, lots of hand wringing but the enquiry will wrap up and we'll all foot the bill when the government has to pay out compensation to those sub-postmasters who got f**ked in this sickening example of exactly what most senior management are like when the shit hits the fan.

    2. neilg

      Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

      I should bloody cocoa!

    3. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

      The same applies to legal counsel who failed in their duty to tell the truth, or at least not to lie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

        Some went much further than that to pervert the course of justice. POL lawyers deliberately withheld documents which listed defects in Horizon. POL's legal team were required to disclose these docs to the defendant's legal counsel. Which would have exonerated the defendant or at the very minimum raised reasonable doubt if they'd been presented in court.

        That serious professional misconduct has been reported to the Law Society. I won't be holding my breath for the outcome of any investigation or hearing.

    4. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

      "Some effing Christian spirit!"

      At the risk of taking flak, organised religion has rarely been about "love, kindness" etc. It has traditionally been about domination and control and the destruction of anyone who's views differ from the doctrine.

      Ye olde "You are either one of us - or you're a heritic and the Devil's own spawn and should burn in hel. Where's the firewood and stake?"

      Which seems to fit what appears to be coming out as the Post Office's attitude to anyone who dared question the infailibility of the god Horizon.

      1. Plest Silver badge

        Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

        All relgions are cults, they have rules and you will toe the line or you leave, take your choice. Some are nicer or maybe more flexible than others but essentially they're just cults.

    5. C-Clef

      Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

      I think you're confusing "the church" with christianity.

      Two quite different things in my experience.

      1. neilg

        Re: The Most Reverend Vennels

        Sorry, isn't a church merely a building of some form or other, religion is just a load of old bollocks.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a database on a database server or whatever. Who on this entire planet that knows even limited things about IT knows that with the admin password you can do what you want? The mere concept that couldn't happen is stupid.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      You've absolutely never dealt with a FoI Act request or a GDPR/DPA request have you?

      They usually only terminate because they exceed the necessary limit on time/cost to provide the data required, not because anyone is confident that they've provided absolutely everything possible.

      I once dealt with a police inquiry into the suicide of a child. It was done at home, there was no warning sign in school, etc. but - as a school - we got dragged into the investigation of the cause and obviously we co-operated to the absolute maximum extent possible, no charge (obviously!). It tooks thousands upon thousands of man hours to provide all the data we had on the child over the run of a few years of them being at the school. Hundreds of online services. Dozens upon dozens of databases. Third parties galore. Data retention limits, pulling antique backups (in some cases backups that GDPR said we shouldn't have!), searches across the entire infrastructure (fortunately almost all in-house / on-prem), plus some paperwork searches, digging into the archives in the cellar (e.g. attendance records past a certain age, when we transitioned between systems, etc.).

      That was for a simple "everything we have", without filtering anything whatsoever (the school were never under suspicion of anything, not even as far as "not dealing" with any reported bullying or things like that - the child was the absolute epitome of a lovely, happy person), providing it to law enforcement so no legal relevance was on us to determine - the police took everything we gave and filtered from there. With utter, absolute co-operation of ourselves, and - after some phone calls and explanation - that of our service providers. No one dealing with it was ever going to do any more than give up literally everything they had willingly, plus go the extra mile to get anything else they could if it could provide the parents some snippet of "Why?" (even if they shouldn't have that data at all).

      It took MONTHS, I was still providing data to police a year later. And that's for a single young child, just in school, just the data held on them, no lawyers or obstructions or difficulties or censorship required.

      It's really not that simple.

      Now that doesn't meant that a national corporation couldn't provide almost everything that the inquiry demanded - they should have been working on getting that data the SECOND court cases were imminent, if nothing else to cover their own backside and reveal anything that needed revealing before it became a scandal. But providing EVERYTHING you have on thousands of employees across decades and systems migrations, across countless dozens or even hundreds of third-party services (some of which you stopped paying for decades ago and the storage long gone and only the bare minimum of records archived?), where almost everyone involved has left the organisation, and where almost every piece of data required is now probably in archives or long-deleted as required by GDPR? No. It's not that simple at all. Not even close. And then you get into trying to audit every single detail of thousands of branch's accounts dating back decades dealing with tens of thousands of customers each?

      I don't think you have a single concept how much data is stored in even a small business, a school, a charity, even a single Post Office, let alone the entire organisation and then being required to give it up.

      I'm not sure I could provide you with a full complete mailbox to even BEGIN searches on of a single employee that left a few years ago. Let alone every possible system they used, every message sent, every fax made, every thing they ever put into or got out of or the logs of a third-party service like a managed IT service, a cloud, or - say - a computer system managed by Fujitsu and not in Post Office's power to access directly, let alone the historical cover-ups that may have taken place at that external company.

      It's an unbelievable undertaking. It's really NOT that simple. And simple data retention rules mean that even auditing the accounts of any business from 20 years ago in any detail is nigh-on impossible.

      And it's not even that it COULDN'T happen. It's that to do so might take you 20 years to do to the absolute best of the company's ability, and that if they spend countless billions trying to do so with full co-operation of all involved.

      No, it's really not that simple. And if you've ever dealt with even a simple disgruntled employee getting their no-win-no-fee lawyer to file FoI Act and data subject access requests against you (sometimes to do no more than vex the company, it has to be said), then you would realise that.

      I don't know who your employer is, but ask them how they would even ensure that they'd provided all evidence that pertained to anything you said, did or was recorded about you, or discussed about you anywhere, ever. And I'm guessing you don't deal much with saying things that could be mentioning thousands of Post Offices over decades and being involved with systems that store data on millions of customers and billions of transactions.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Excuses. Had they not "messed up", they wouldn't have been in this position.

        Also:

        or long-deleted as required by GDPR

        The UK GDPR does not dictate how long you should keep personal data. Certainly it does not require to delete data that may be important for the ongoing legal problem!

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          The UK GDPR does not dictate how long you should keep personal data

          It very much does - you are only permitted to retain personal info for a specific, limited task. When that task is no longer around, you *have* to delete it. There are exceptions for stuff like medical records and security material though.

      2. MrBanana

        Lee, thank you for the enlightening information you have provided on the process of data collecting for a FoI request. But I don't think that was the original posters target. As Daniel points out below, the comment is very likely relating to the ability for low level editing of the data in the Horizon system.

        In the 80s I worked on selling and customising a system used by small businesses. Simple order processing, stock control etc, based on an SQL database. We used it in-house and our chief accountant found a bug in the stock control module that would mess up the reserved stock levels. He asked me to report the problem to the system software supplier, and then cursed about all the necessary paperwork required to create an exception for resetting the stock levels. I could see he was annoyed. I opened a command shell and executed an SQL statement to fix the stock level. Now he was very annoyed. I thought I was doing him a favour, but being able to bypass the application, without any audit trail, had him reaching for the Valium. Proper accountants are conscientious like that. Anyone associated with the Horizon database, obviously was not.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have worked in FOI extensively. You are required to provide appropriate resources to carry out the searches, no ifs no buts. The time limits can be stretched quite far without penalty if needed. Your analogy of one school struggling to provide this data is not analgous with the Post Office Scandal, and arguably that school's record keeping / retention was not what it should have been.

        The post office is a huge organisation and it has the resources to perform the search and retrieval function as ordered either through internal resources or through external consultancy.

        I suspect the delay is more to do with the PO doing it's own analysis of the data before submission to gain a heads up on what will cause either civil/criminal actions or PR disasters for senior people and then to find ways to exclude that from being passed on to the inquiry.

        They will be banking on no significant sanctions being taken aginst them for delays. If the chair finally decides it's been long enough and puts a gun to their heads I'm sure the files will miraculously appear quick smart

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          "An organisation can turn down your request if they think it will cost them more than £450.00 (£600.00 for a central government organisation) to deal with your request. They might then ask you to be more specific so they can give you the information you're looking for."

          Tell me how many man-hours £450 is.

    2. Daniel Gould

      This is the crux of the issue. The vendor was claiming that this couldn't happen due to the way everything was digitally signed. However, because they had access to all the private keys used for signing, they could just step in, make adjustments, then re-sign the transaction so that it was 'legitimate' as far as the application was concerned. This is the remote admin piece that they all claimed didn't exist, right up until evidence showed it did.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        *someone says something about blockchain*

        1. Martin Gregorie

          The Horizon system seems to have been developed, installed and sent live without any system documentation being written or any formal acceptance testing being done. This all happened in the late 1990s.

          However, blockchains in a usable form didn't appear until Hashicorp developed a workable blockchain around 2008.

          This development sequence makes blockchains totally irrelevant to any of Horizon's problems, regardless of whether those problems are in its design, implementation. or in the way it was operated or financially administered.

      2. AndyMulhearn

        The vendor was claiming that this couldn't happen due to the way everything was digitally signed.

        This and the claim that there are no bugs in horizon had my bullshit detector alerting firing on all cylinders

    3. Random person

      Horizon is a Point Of Sale system i.e. part of the accounting system. Accounting transactions are supposed to be immutable. This was true for paper-based systems.

      If you make a mistake in an accounting system you are supposed to back out of the incorrect transaction and create a new transaction. This is why when there has been a problem completing a sale in a shop you are given the receipt showing that the transaction has not completed or a receipt showing that the transaction has been cancelled.

      a

      The Post Office spent years claiming that remote alternation of records was only possible with sub-postmaster approval. It turns out that records could be altered without leaving any trace. The changes should have been recorded and there should have been a formal process to alter the accounting records.

      When you make a change in a database there it is usually recorded in the transaction log. The transaction logs are usually retained for a few days. So far as I can tell changes to Horizon records were not recorded.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Horizon is a Point Of Sale system

        It certainly seems to be a POS system, but I don't think that stands for "Point Of Sale".

        The problem with using accounting methods to correct errors is that it depends on the recording system being reliable. If, as seems likely, Horizon just makes stuff up, it won't work.

        SPM: sells a 50p stamp

        Horizon: debits an account by £50

        Back-office: creates a correcting journal for £49.50

        Horizon: debits the account for £4950

        1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

          SPM: sells a 50p stamp

          Horizon: debits an account by £50

          Back-office: creates a correcting journal for £49.50

          Horizon: debits the account for £4950

          SPM: Unaware of the Horizon cockup goes on to sell 100 50p stamps

          POL: You must have stolen £495000 - go to jail, go directly to jail do not pass go do not collect £200.

          Then three possibilities

          1. SPM: ok I am guily cos I must be.

          2. SPM See you in court

          Hizonnor: Law states computers are assumed to be functioning correctly, SPM must be guilty as charged.

          3. SPM: erk... /takes the hard way out

          and one improbability, that must have been a million to one chance:

          SPM is Alan Bates and fights tooth and nail for years to bring the sorry mess into the open and exonerate himself/other SPMs.

        2. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

          Horizon wasn't making stuff up, it was just "losing" transactions. From memory there were two issues :

          1) Lost transactions. Any communications link has an error rate - modern ones tend to be better, but even back then, ISDN-2 was pretty good. So what you could have was :

          SPM sells 50p stamp

          In-branch system reports transaction to central system - but it fails for whatever reason, so central system doesn't get the transaction. When cashing up, the stamp is gone, but there isn't the cash to go with it's sale, hence the branch is 50p down.

          Add this up with "many" transactions, and some high value ones (e.g. paying out pensions, selling postal orders (remember them ?)), and you can be a fair bit off at the end of the day.

          2) Lack of locking. It seems that there were end-of-day processes run centrally (I vaguely recall around 7pm or so) which were designed on the assumption that branches would have cached up and be done for the day. As there was no locking, there could be interactions if the SPM was still cashing up resulting in ... well basically, just about any result (you try adding up a series of figures while someone is still writing them).

          And to add to the confusion, there was the now well known "back office people went in and 'corrected' stuff without telling anyone" problem.

          1. Martin Gregorie

            That sounds realistic given what we know so far. The missing pieces of information are:

            * why in hell would any competent system designer specify and build such a complex accounting system with so many expected transaction checks omitted and who did this?

            * why Horizon was apparently programmed and put into live operation without any System Specification and Acceptance Test being written and without any record of acceptance testing being completed and kept as part of the expected system documentation set and who accepted it for live operation, apparently without any acceptance testing? No record of this work has been mentioned so far

            * Who accepted the ';completed' system and OKed it for live operation?

            None of these points seems to have been mentioned so far in the HORIZON INQUIRY, and I'm left wondering why.

            Consequently, it is stating to look as though nobody involved in the HORIZON INQUIRY has the required competence to design and implement complex financial computer systems of this size and complexity. As a result they are simply not capable of recognizing the sort of massive incompetence in designing, implementing. and debugging large-scale financial computer systems that those who designed, implementer and certified HORIZON have displayed and are continuing to exhibit.

  6. Bloodbeastterror

    Why...

    ... is Paula Vennells still walking the streets? I hope that this changes sooner rather than later but, as already commented, this is England and we have a poor record of banging up even the vilest criminals if they have the right connections in high places.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

      Because the planet doesn't have enough jail space to accommodate all of the evil, lying bastards responsible for the Horizon shit-show.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

        "Because the planet doesn't have enough jail space to accommodate all of the evil, lying bastards responsible for the Horizon shit-show."

        Well, the UK govt is keen to re-task ex-military sites in order to house thousands of asylum seekers who are already in the UK (many of whom are living in re-purposed hotels).

        So, it would hardly be an expensive task to build some more-secure extra facilities, in order to house the POL staff who have perjured themselves and also authorised the tax-payer to spend 100m quid on legal fees to prosecute innocent sub-postmasters, when said staff KNEW darn well that the Horizon software was broken.

        I sincerely hope that all the relevant POL board of directors and line managers who are found to have lied to and deceived all of the sub-postmasters, that they are thrown in jail for a significant period of time and with no suspended sentences and no early release "through good behaviour".

        The sub-postmasters suffered undue and unnecessary abuse and in some cases bankruptcy and prison and sadly, some took their own lives, and even now, some are still ostracised from their communities, as a result. It is time they were refunded and compensated for their losses and suffering.

        1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

          Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

          Start with ever member of the Post Office board. Then add to the list every politician that served as Post Offices minster between 1999 and 2015. And then add to the list every senior civil servant that advised said minsters.

          Arrest and charge with (Conspiracy to ) Pervert the course of justice.

          If/when found guilty (fair trial - I'm sure the 12 men and women of the jury will be suitably sympathetic), don't send them to prison, Bankrupt them. Seize every penny, every asset, that they have, to be used for compensation for the Sub-postmasters and postmistresses that they persecuted.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

            Don't forget about Fushitesu

            1. Kubla Cant

              Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

              The problem with going after Fu-shit-show is the vast range of public sector IT they are involved in.

              And the problem with stopping their involvement is that public sector IT is such a shit show that nobody else wants it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

            Arrest and charge with (Conspiracy to ) Pervert the course of justice.

            Fuck that! Just round 'em all up and send them to jail for life. And sequester all their assets to part-pay compensation to their victims. There's no need to waste time and money on a trial or other legal niceties. The Horizon scum are guilty. And they don't deserve to benefit from the due process they denied their victims.

            <taxi-driver-daily-heil-mode>String them up! </taxi-driver-daily-heil-mode>

            1. ITMA Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

              "<taxi-driver-daily-heil-mode>String them up! </taxi-driver-daily-heil-mode>"

              The Post Office sells string...

        2. NeilPost

          Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

          As Post Office has statutory prosecution powers (which should be cancelled in law) guilty of Malicious Prosecution and Misconduct in a Public Office.

          Both are on the statute book as laws.

      2. perkele

        Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

        [DailyMailReader]It's because the jails are full of TV licence evaders and foreigners[/DailyMailReader].

        Or just the government, all governments, are soft on crime in general and don't build enough jails. They don't need to be dungeons but take away the privs of the very naughty.

        They seem to manage in Finland even when adjusted for scale. They even try and seemingly succeed "resetting" many cons.

      3. Jonathon Green

        Re: Why is Paula Vennells still walking the streets?

        Because, (and on the whole I think this is unambiguously A Good Thing), the UK has strict rules on access to firearms…

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Why...

      is she walking the streets?

      Its simple really

      The police will not take action before the inquiry publishes its report(2026)

      Then they will read the inquiry and decide if charges need to be pressed(2027)

      The CPS will look at the charges and decide if there is a chance of a case succeding at court(2028)

      Arraigned for court and the case presented to the judge(2029)

      Court case dragged out by late delivery(hah) of documents etc, along with claims of 'unable to get a fair trial" (2030)

      Case dismissed because Vennels now 70+ and it would be unfair to jail a pensioner (2031)*

      * Although that never stopped her when it came to jailing postmasters under false pretenses

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Why...

        To some extent their hands are tied until the enquiry is complete but reports suggest they're already making enquires.

      2. perkele

        Re: Why...

        Straight out of the Yes Minister comedy (sorry documentary) about kicking reports into the long grass, etc.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Why...

      AIUI the enquiry was set up in such a way that prosecutions can't take place until after the enquiry is complete. That throws a certain amount of light on why the PO is doing its best to drag out the enquiry, preferably from their PoV, for the rest of the leading participant's lives.

      1. MrBanana

        Re: Why...

        The standard "no comment/action until the enquiry is complete" is usual when the report is written without direct public scrutiny. That is not the case here. Irrefutable documentary evidence has been produced that will lead to criminal prosecutions. The actual outcome of the report is immaterial to those prosecutions being able to start right now. Dragging things out for as long as possible is just human nature. Although acting like a normal human being seems to be beyond too many of those in the PO or Fujitsu.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Why...

          I can't remember the wording so my comment was deliberately vague but memory says the enquiry was set up to take place before any such criminal proceedings could take place. Clearly you weren't consulted about that. I'm sure TPTB are sorry they upset you.

    4. Plest Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Why...

      As they say, "Not WHAT you know, it's WHO you know.".

  7. ChrisElvidge Bronze badge

    Personal Assistants?

    "The notice also requested correspondence with key individuals via their PAs"

    Cut out the PAs. Request the information directly from the 'key individuals', warning that jail time will follow if delayed.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Personal Assistants?

      Personally I'd go after the PA's, they have all the dirt & very few of the protections afforded to their bosses.

      1. CorwinX Bronze badge

        Re: Personal Assistants?

        This isn't about the Enquiry holding the PAs in any way responsible.

        It's an awareness that senior execs often don't send their own emails but get their PAs to do it.

        So they're looking for PA<>PA comms along the lines of "Ms Vennells wants to meet with your boss to discuss X".

        X being something she's denied ever knowing about - eg Fujitsu having remote access to counter terminals to change entries, with little or no oversight.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Personal Assistants?

          This is so lame, I don't know why Enquiry is falling for it.

          It's like a child saying dog ate their homework.

          PA is just being used as an excuse.

          Competent Enquiry should see through that.

          execs often don't send their own emails but get their PAs to do it.

          That doesn't matter. Exec should have access to emails and should hand them over. PA is irrelevant.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Personal Assistants?

      Yes, I'm absolutely sure that those directly in the firing line after a cover-up lasting decades will be ultra-cooperative and not just say "I don't remember, it was 20 years ago" (which is an extremely reasonable response!), "I don't know", "I'm not sure", "I can't attest to the timing", "I don't recall the details", "I never dealt with that directly", etc.

      This is about evidence, not hearsay. They aren't even going to ask the PA. They won't remember either, and their memory will be inadmissible as any kind of evidence except the absolute weakest. But if they can find a timestamped email in a PA's inbox that says something that contradicts a public statement or another timestamped email from the person themselves... that's evidence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Personal Assistants?

        "Yes, I'm absolutely sure that those directly in the firing line after a cover-up lasting decades will be ultra-cooperative and not just say "I don't remember, it was 20 years ago" (which is an extremely reasonable response!), "I don't know", "I'm not sure", "I can't attest to the timing", "I don't recall the details", "I never dealt with that directly", etc.""

        And don't forget that in the on-going UK Covid enquiry, various elected MPs (some serving as ministers) as well as a UK Prime Minister and a First Minister (of Scotland) ALL quoted (at various times) from the same "I don't know / can't remember / don't recall" playbook. And some have been found to have been lying to Parliament !

        And so far, NONE of them have been found guilty of anything or even given a slap on the wrist !

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Personal Assistants?

        This is where Bates scores. He has a paper trail.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Personal Assistants?

          Which is why I don't do anything without an email or permanent record of something.

          You want me to do it, and it's legal, you'll put it in writing when I ask.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Personal Assistants?

            Yep. No paperwork, no action.

            User: "Can you just do X? Only take you 5 mins."

            Me: "Sure. Here's the link to the ticket system, just fill in a ticket and send all the details to team X."

            User: "I don't know how to use that! I haven't got time!"

            Me: "Then call the support helpdesk, they'll help you."

            Thing that gets me is that these are business people and they know full well that the next audit comes in and they don't have paperwork to cover all the money movements, would the auditors just ignore that? Of course not!

            It anything IT auditing twice a year as I have to go through has taught me to an absolute bastard around keeping paperwork on everything I do, exactly as it should be!

  8. neilg

    Criminal behaviour

    Requires the sppropriate response, let's forget everything else.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Criminal behaviour

      Everything including due process of law? Be careful of what you wish for. Due process is your protection.

      1. John Doe 12

        Re: Criminal behaviour

        "Due process is your protection." - I cannot believe anyone could write this in a discussion about the Post Office scandal!!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prison of total failure

    When the people responsible are sitting in prison cells then I will believe the post masters have justice.

    EVERY manger who had a direct line to the changing the entries and then keeping quiet should be stripped of their pensions and imprisoned.

    A cleric that did not stop the process and insist on fairness is a wolf in sheep clothing.

    Fujitsu managers in prison or there is no justice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prison of total failure

      "Fujitsu managers in prison or there is no justice."

      What I'd like to know is if Fujitsu have an audit trail of who had Remote access to the Horizon system....

      And, if someone (such as a Fujitsu employee) changed any of the transactions carried out on the system database (which I assume to be a nationwide system, encompassing every sub-post office branch), and did said employee siphon off the monies into some other bank account...?

      FYI: The Horizon system was a retail accounting and stock control system, that recorded sales of products and services and hence money was paid by customers for these, which was recorded by the Horizon system.

      So, if there were shortfalls, (which is why sub-postmasters were prosecuted as the money was allegedly not in the tills) was the system over-stating the monies that were paid?

      Or was the shortfall of money caused by a Fujitsu employee taking funds out of the system - so that the end of day reconcilliation of payments made and money in the till, did not match.

      So, is there a fraud case to be built against one or more Fujitsu employee(s)?

      1. Random person

        Re: Prison of total failure

        AC>> What I'd like to know is if Fujitsu have an audit trail of who had Remote access to the Horizon system....

        Fujitsu's submission to the Phase 3 of the inquiry includes the following

        > Fujitsu accepts that it cannot positively exclude the prospect of undocumented use of substantive remote access ...

        https://www.postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk/sites/default/files/2023-06/SUBS0000025%20-%20Phase%203%20Closing%20Submissions%20on%20behalf%20of%20Fujitsu%20Services%20Limited.pdf

        Also

        > In fact, staff at Fujitsu, which made and operated the Horizon system, were capable of remotely accessing branch accounts, and had “unrestricted and unaudited” access to those systems, the inquiry heard.

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

        AC>> Or was the shortfall of money caused by a Fujitsu employee taking funds out of the system - so that the end of day reconcilliation of payments made and money in the till, did not match.

        There is a Computerphile episode about the technical failures.

        Here is a summary of the problems from The Guardian article referenced above.

        > As early as 2001, McDonnell’s team had found “hundreds” of bugs. A full list has never been produced, but successive vindications of post office operators have revealed the sort of problems that arose. One, named the “Dalmellington Bug”, after the village in Scotland where a post office operator first fell prey to it, would see the screen freeze as the user was attempting to confirm receipt of cash. Each time the user pressed “enter” on the frozen screen, it would silently update the record. In Dalmellington, that bug created a £24,000 discrepancy, which the Post Office tried to hold the post office operator responsible for.

        >

        > Another bug, called the Callendar Square bug – again named after the first branch found to have been affected by it – created duplicate transactions due to an error in the database underpinning the system: despite being clear duplicates, the post office operator was again held responsible for the errors.

      2. JT_3K

        Re: Prison of total failure

        I don't think it was. From what I've read, there was such a fundamental flaw that the platform was incapable of accounting/transacting correctly. Something about double-entry double-counting. The more that was sold/created, the greater the issue became. Sales thus existed that had never transacted, meaning monies were always missing.

  10. Snowy Silver badge

    The more I hear

    The worse it appears to me.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: The more I hear

      Try reading some the previous acticles on el-reg, and private eye, then read up on transactional databases with a side order of concurrency and distributed, then read up the technical stories from computer weekly

      Then try not to throw something big and heavy through the TV screen whenever one of those smug bastards from the PO make the usual bland statement about lessons learned etc

  11. Phil Kingston

    "Fully committed"

    My arse.

    Sounds like they need to commit a bit more fully if retrieving files of any type, from anywhere, from anytime, is taking months. If only they'd kept them in the same folder as the documents giving the new CEO ~150k/year more than Vennells. Then a 140k bonus. Wouldn't be so hard to find I'll bet.

  12. Vader

    They are dragging this out. This shouldn't be an inquiry but a criminal case, if this was a normal company a police case would be happening so sad.

    1. NeilPost

      Normal companies would not be subject to FoI, Malicious Prosecution and Misconduct in a Public Office legislation.

  13. Big_Boomer
    FAIL

    Why the focus on Vennells?

    Yes, she was undoubtedly involved but so were several government ministers, probably a couple of Prime Ministers, as well as the entire boards of POL and Fujitsu. One person cannot cover up this kind of behaviour. This goes way beyond incompetence into the realms of conscious and deliberate criminal acts and collusion/conspiracy with said criminal acts. 20 years of dragging this out is a farce and indicative of a failed Justice system that is biased and unfair.

    1. perkele

      Re: Why the focus on Vennells?

      You've answered your own question indirectly...

    2. Cruachan

      Re: Why the focus on Vennells?

      It's the usual anthropomorphise/put a face on it by making a person seem like the main culprit rather than a big faceless organisation.

      Not for a second defending Vennells but as I said on a previous thread this scandal long preceded her and carried on long after she left. We've seen it with the banks prior to the financial crisis, and we see it regularly with HMRC, whenever people are left to mark their own homework chaos ensues.

  14. DoctorPaul

    I see that a couple in the States have been sent down for 15 years on a charge of involuntary manslaughter for their actions that resulted in their son shooting a number of his classmates.

    Given that the actions of Vennels and co led directly to a number of suicides I can certainly see a moral case for charging them with the same offence.

    Also, in the case of the 60 or so postmasters who have already died waiting for justice I would hope that damages are still awarded and passed on to their descendants. I wonder precisely how many children of postmasters also had their lives ruined by this outrage.

    1. MrBanana

      Probably corporate, not involuntary - "Corporate manslaughter is a crime in several jurisdictions, that enables a corporation to be punished and censured for culpable conduct that leads to a person's death." I really hope that as well as proper justice for the innocent, there will be severe retribution for the guilty.

      1. R Soul Silver badge

        It's essentially impossible in the UK to get a conviction for corporate manslaughter. IIUC the authorities have to identify the controlling mind(s) who's responsible. Which is hard to do when the execs and board members blame each other and/or "can't remember", incriminating documents get "lost", PR life-forms release packs of diversionary squirrels and corporate lawyers do what they always do. Supposing POL were honest - I know, I know - it would also be difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the actions of a POL employee or director were the direct cause of a sub-postmaster dying. Even when common sense says otherwise.

        google says the UK has had 10-12 successful convictions for corporate manslaughter in the last 20 years or so, usually after someone got crushed by machinery at a farm or factory. The organisations responsible for overseeing mass deaths - Grenfell, Hillsborough, various train crashes, contaminated blood, Herald of Free Enterprise, Bristol baby unit, Piper Alpha, Stafford Hospital, the Covid-19 scandals, etc - have all got off scot-free. None of them have even been charged or faced prosecution.

        Like you Mr Banana, I hope there will be severe retribution for the guilty. Though I expect it will never happen. Because that's how the English Establishment looks after its chums, just as it has always done.

        1. MrBanana

          I really hope you are wrong, but odds are against the righteous in this case. One difference to the other cases of mass death you mention is that POL - marking their own homework - were the prosecutors, not the CPS. That is a very direct link between the actions of the PO and the subsequent deaths of so many sub-postmasters. Sadly, I fear that it will all collapse into finger pointing between POL and Fujitsu.

      2. Kubla Cant

        If POL is charged with Corporate Manslaughter it will simply spunk £billions on legal fees to defend itself. As POL is insolvent but can't be allowed to go bankrupt, we all know where that money will come from.

  15. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

    I want to see criminal proceedings brought against those in charge of the PO throughout this entire farce as well as those at Fujitsu. They knew, they covered up and then they committed fraud and perjury. Their direct actions led to the deaths of 60 people.

    I don't just want them tried, convicted of that fraud and perjury... I want to see them spend the rest of their lives in prison for involuntary manslaughter* Because that's what they've done... murdered people.

    *What I actually want to see happen to these people, I couldn't possibly post on a public forum, but it's unpleasant and funnily enough, the same as what I'd like to see happen to the tories.

  16. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    What a bunch of utter wankers that have been running the Post Office.

  17. t0m5k1

    Travesty

    This whole thing should never have happened and just shows how deep into deception our public services will go and how far our Government is willing to back them up.

    The compensation scheme is also rigged to pay-out as little as possible and only in the most explicit of scenarios.

    We can also see a similar situation brewing up with Thames Water and others because they've just taken all the money for decades and done nothing but pay-out huge bonuses for box ticking.

    1. Nematode

      Re: Travesty

      Yep, this is the UK for you. And if you realise just how difficult it has been to get answers out of the Post Office on something so blatant, what chance do we have of getting the reality revealed on the outcomes of under-tested experimental gene therapies we had forced on us?

  18. Nematode

    Has nobody asked to see the bug list? Seems to me such a basic step to have taken very early on.

    1. R Soul Silver badge

      They did. In one of their Stalinist show trials, POL refused to make the bug list available to a defence team's expert witness. POL claimed it would cost too much to produce this key evidence*. The court agreed with POL and told the defence to fuck off when they complained this non-disclosure was harmful to the defendant. The innocent sub-postmaster got jailed.

      Nick Wallis's excellent but shocking book on the scandal has more details.

      * That should have loudly rang alarm bells. But it didn't. If it was "too costly" to disclose the bug list, it could only mean POL had no proper oversight of the bugs in Horizon's shitware. If it was incapable of collating Horizon's bugs, POL couldn't know how many existed or how serious they were. Which meant they couldn't have meaningful discussions with Fujshitsu (ha!) on how those got prioritised and fixed. Though there is another explanation of course: POL were lying.

  19. steviebuk Silver badge

    Jason Beer KC

    Needs an award for having to deal with a lot of the idiot and clearly blocking people giving evidence. People who, shockingly still work for Post Office despite clearly being shit.

    Throughout, having listened to some of the statements, its been not only a culture of "Don't rock the boat", which is why they've gotten away with it for so long, but also appears alot of them jumped aboard, happily, the rocking boat so they could keep a job and send people to prison with no real evidence. To make them feel like a "security expert" or "tv detective" because they know they are shit yet the Post Office was allowing them to get away with it to stop the Post Office loosing face.

    What's worse, and surely this now requires a prison sentence, is one of the Post Office lawyers, telling them in an email it would be a good idea to NOT leave a paper trail and speak to their insurers via phone so they'll be no record of the phone call in case "it ever gets out to the public". If not a prison sentence he needs to loose his law licence (assume we have that in the UK?)

    1. Kubla Cant
      Pint

      Re: Jason Beer KC

      Too true! For a combination of stupidity and malevolence it would be hard to beat Black Shirt Hard Man or Big Specs Woman.

      I think he deserves a peerage. Also, it would be good to have a Lord Beer.

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