Investigators Find Bugs That May Have Cost People’s Freedom – 16 July 2013
The Post Office has this week revealed the results of an independent investigation, which proved there were software defects in its Horizon computer system, potentially leading to false claims against sub-postmasters, who, in some cases, went to jail for fraud, theft or false accounting. More than a 100 sub-postmasters claim to have been wrongly prosecuted or made to repay money to the Post Office after the system showed non-existent shortfalls they were contractually obliged to make up.
Consequently, the Post Office employed a firm of digital forensic experts, which found that, while there was no evidence of systemic problems within the core software, there were bugs. The forensic investigation pinpointed two specific cases, in 2011 and 2012, which the Post Office had itself identified, when defects resulted in a shortfall of up to £9,000 at 76 branches. In these cases, the Post Office later made good those losses and the sub-postmasters were not held liable.
However, in many cases of shortfalls, the sub-postmasters concerned were forced to pay the missing amounts themselves, lost their contracts with the Post Office and in some cases were convicted and imprisoned. The forensic investigators’ report, which says that the Post Office’s initial investigation failed to identify the root cause of the problem and that the sub-postmasters should have been given more help, has therefore come as good news for those who believe they were badly treated.
More than 100 sub-postmasters have now registered an interest in suing the Post Office, either for the loss of their livelihood, reputation, home or in some cases, their liberty. The Post Office sees the report in a different light, however, and believes that the investigation makes it clear that the Horizon computer system and its supporting processes function effectively across the network.
In cases where an alleged fraud has taken place, our team of forensic accountants at NIFA has considerable experience of the Horizon system and is able to offer expert advice, based on the facts of the case. In such a situation, our team will review all information available, before providing the necessary documentation to support your case; and, if required, we are also able to act as expert witnesses.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 16 July 2013
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