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Post Office Horizon IT inquiry to be launched

Service Area: Criminal and Regulatory

We have been writing for years about the scandal that hit the Post Office Horizon computer system, which led to the imprisonment, bankruptcy and even the unfortunate suicide of sub-postmasters.

Now there is to be a judge-led inquiry into the scandal, with the Post Office saying that both it and Fujitsu, who developed the IT system, will agree to “fully cooperate” during the investigation.

Faults with the Horizon IT system caused accounting discrepancies that led to thousands of sub-postmasters, who run local Post Office branches as franchises, being wrongly accused of losing or stealing money and false accounting.

Prosecutions were brought against sub-postmasters in 900 cases, with many people ordered to pay back thousands of pounds, and others jailed.

Last year the Post Office reached a settlement of £57.75million to conclude a long-running civil court case brought against it by a group of sub-postmasters determined to clear their names.

The Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA), which was formed in 2009, has been tirelessly fighting for compensation, after what has been described as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history.

However, the group is not satisfied with the review’s terms of reference and neither are the forensic accountants who first investigated Horizon, at the Post Office’s request.

The case is of particular interest because, although the Post Office brought in the forensic investigators to prove that the sub-postmasters had been stealing, through an examination of the evidence and interviewing the sub-postmasters and their staff, they actually proved the opposite.

This highlights the impartiality and independence of forensic investigators, who rely on the evidence alone to present their findings.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The work of forensic accountants and other investigators in the Horizon IT case played an essential role in uncovering the truth and ensuring that sub-postmasters were later compensated.

“This latest inquiry should hopefully draw a line under this failure. Those affected should get a clear path in quashing convictions for fraud, theft and false accounting now, especially as the Post Office has confirmed that it will not contest 44 of the 47 appeals against conviction.”

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