Problems at the Post Office
It has widely been reported by the BBC that a confidential report, commissioned by the Post Office, has bolstered the cases of dozens of Subpostmasters and Subpostmistresses who claim to have been unfairly accused of and, in some cases, prosecuted for theft from their post offices.
Having successfully acted for solicitors representing a number of individuals accused of post office thefts, we have significant experience of the Horizon computer system that is at the centre of the story. The system, which is used to record over-the-counter transactions, is said to have been found ‘not fit for purpose in some branches’ but the Post Office has remained adamant that there is ‘no evidence’ of systemic computer issues.
In our experience, problems have sometimes arisen in franchised branches in which staff, not directly employed by the Post Office, have been accused of theft or false accounting.
The controversy surrounding the Horizon system is not new. As long ago as 2009, Subpostmasters got together to form the ‘Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance’, whose website now lists 20 case studies ostensibly posted by Subpostmasters claiming that they had been wrongly accused. Although admittedly not a representative sample, our experience suggests that robust and diligent forensic accountancy evidence deployed by the defence team can play a vital role in highlighting weaknesses in the Horizon system and the prosecution’s case.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 16 July 2015
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