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Forensic accountants investigating Horizon computer system

Member: Nifa

A total of 552 sub-masters, some of whom received jail sentences following prosecution, have taken a group legal action against the Post Office over the controversial computer system.

The action goes back to 1999, the year when the Post Office installed the Horizon system to run the accounts of local post offices. By 2009, the group alleges that, whenever sub-postmasters reported being down in their tills, the Post Office held them responsible for financial losses before properly investigating shortfalls and failed to notify the individuals that their cases were not isolated incidents.

The group also claims that Post Office personnel harassed the sub-postmasters involved by acting aggressively while interrogating them and when searching individuals’ homes. In fact, a review by the forensic accountants brought in by the Post Office itself, published in 2015, found that the organisation had failed to investigate irregularities at sub-post offices before launching civil and criminal enquiries.

The group is now trying to clear their names and is claiming that the glitches in the system caused it to create records of money that never existed, in some cases leading to false accusations of theft. There will now be a new trial, with the first hearing in November 2018, followed by one in March 2019.

Separately, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has appointed forensic accountants to look into claims of wrongful prosecution, including theft and false accounting.

“We have first-hand experience of instructions by the defence solicitors of a number of sub-postmasters on whose behalf we have given expert forensic accountancy evidence on the shortcomings of the Horizon system. “

Author: Roger Isaacs, 7 November 2017

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