May 26, 2022

Postmasters convicted – and some imprisoned – after Horizon accounting system breaks down

(Photo: Getty Images)

The public inquiry, which begins on Monday (February 14th), will investigate the wrongful convictions of hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses.

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The lives of all postmasters were “irreparably destroyed” as they lost their jobs, their homes and their marriages after being prosecuted by the post office – who knew it was in Fujitsu’s system. There have been bugs and bugs since the early days of our operation.

Postmasters were convicted – and some were imprisoned – after the Horizon accounting system failed.

Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is the Horizon Scandal?

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) sent the cases of 42 former sub-postmasters to the Court of Appeal in 2020, following a landmark High Court case against the Post Office.

Lawyers representing the former sub-postmasters said evidence of serious flaws in the Horizon system was “hidden from the courts, prosecution and defense” to protect the post office “at all costs”.

Protesters outside the Royal Court of Justice (Photo: Yue Mook / PA Wire / PA Images)

Lord Justice Holroyd said the Court of Appeal concluded that, in all three cases, “the credibility of the Horizon data was not necessary for the prosecution’s trial and that the sentences were secure.”

Announcing the court’s decision, the Post Office “knew there were serious issues with Horizon’s credibility” and had a “clear duty to investigate” system flaws.

But the Post Office “consistently insisted that Horizon was strong and reliable”, and “effectively tried to challenge its accuracy on any sub-postmaster”.

Former post office worker Noel Thomas, convicted of false accounting in 2006, celebrates with his daughter Sian outside the Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Yue Mook / PA Wire / PA Images)

What is the horizon?

Horizon was introduced in 2000, and since then, obscure contradictions and losses have been reported by all postmasters.

In 2013, the system was being used by at least 11,500 branches, handling approximately 6 million transactions per day.

The Post Office maintained that Horizon was “strong”, and that there were no errors or discrepancies in the Postmasters’ branch accounts due to system problems.

Not all pos
tmasters are prepared or incapable of being charged with fraud on IT evidence alone, sometimes without proof of criminal intent by the Post Office’s in-house prosecution team. ۔

Nevertheless, some sub-postmasters were successfully persuaded by their own lawyers to convict the post office of false accounting when asked to drop the theft charges.

Once the post office is found guilty, it will seek to secure criminal action order proceedings against the convicted postmasters, which will allow them to seize their assets and bankrupt them. ۔

The Court of Appeal has been told that some postmasters have since died, “going to their graves” with a sentence against their name, while “some have taken their own lives.”

What was the decision of the Court of Appeal?

In a written decision to the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Holroy said the Post Office Limited (POL) “knew there were problems with Horizon.”

The judge added: “POL knew that all the postmasters across the country had complained of incomprehensible discrepancies in the accounts.

“POL knew that various bugs, defects and errors were better known than anything else that could be considered the age of early dental problems. In short, POL knew that Horizon had serious problems with reliability.

Lord Justice Holroyide said: “It does not yet appear that the POL has properly considered or disclosed any Horizon-related issues or concerns during this period.

“On the contrary, he has consistently asserted that Horizon is strong and reliable. Nor does it appear that any attempt has been made to investigate the sub-postmasters’ claim that there is a problem with Horizon.”

“POL’s persistent failure to be open and honest about the issues affecting Horizon, in our opinion, can only be explained by the reluctance to say or do anything that has caused other sub-postmasters to address these issues.” Can learn about. “

What did the post office say?

In a statement, Post Office Chairman Tim Parker said: “The Post Office is deeply saddened by the impact this historic failure has had on the lives of these postmasters and their families.

The Post Office closed the lawsuit immediately after its secession from the Royal Mail a decade ago and has supported the abolition of the majority sentence in the entire appeal process.

“We are in contact with other postmasters and post office workers who have been convicted of criminal offenses in the past by private post office prosecutors who may be affected. If they wish, help them appeal.”

“The Post Office is constantly reforming its operations and culture to ensure that such incidents never happen again.”

Nick Reid, the post office’s chief executive, said: “I have no doubt about the human cost of the post office’s past failures and the deep pain it inflicts on the victims.

“Many of these postmasters have been fighting for justice for a long time and sadly there are some who are not here today to see the result and whose families have appealed in their memory. “I am just impressed with their courage.”

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