Post Office aware of Horizon faults during court battles, report shows | Politics | News


A draft report revealed Post Office bosses knew about the faults in its Horizon IT system during court cases, but still went ahead with the Alan Bates vs the Post Office Ltd case.

Campaigner Alan Bates led a group of 555 sub-postmasters to the High Court against the Post Office over the scandal that was finally settled in December 2019.

Details of the document, first reported by the BBC, show “Post Office management” knew sub-postmasters may not be to blame for data discrepancies but continued to fight them in court regardless.

The draft report, named Bramble, was requested by the Post Office in March 2016 and completed by consultancy firm Deloitte. In this report, the firm stated it had discussed its outcomes with “Post Office management”.

Post Office aware of Horizon faults during court battles, secret report shows

Errors in the Horizon IT system or remote tampering could have been responsible for losses discovered at branches, the report said.

Mr Bates’ story was brought to life in the recent ITV drama titled Mr Bates vs The Post Office, featuring actor Toby Jones.

At a secretly recorded Post Office meeting in July 2013, attended remotely by then chief executive Paula Vennells, management heard sub-postmasters’ Horizon computers could be accessed remotely.

Nevertheless, in 2015, Ms Vennells informed MPs she was clueless about any miscarriage of justice.

The ex-boss of the Post Office was in charge when it kept saying nothing was wrong with its Horizon computer system. But this system wrongly accused lots of local post office workers.

During the recording, obtained and aired by ITV News, investigators tasked by the Post Office with looking into possible issues with the system told her explicitly about allegations that accounts could be accessed remotely.

For a long time, the Post Office said no one could get into the system from outside, but in 2019 they finally said it was possible.

A Post Office spokesman: “The statutory public inquiry, chaired by a judge with the power to question witnesses under oath, is the best forum to examine the issues raised by this evidence.

“We continue to remain fully focused on supporting the inquiry get to the truth of what happened and accountability for that.”

This news comes after a big MP asked the police to look at secret tapes from 2013. These tapes have people from the Post Office talking about the problems with the Horizon system.

Liam Byrne, who leads the Commons Business and Trade Committee, said these tapes show “the first evidence that people knew there was a problem”.

The recordings, uncovered on Wednesday by Channel 4 News, contained conversations between Post Office executives and two forensic accountants on May 22 2013.

Conversations involving Post Office company secretary Alwen Lyons and chief lawyer Susan Crichton suggest they knew about problems with the company’s Fujitsu IT system two years before the last sub-postmasters were jailed in 2015.

Many sub-postmasters were wrongly accused of theft when the faulty Horizon accounting system at the Post Office showed money was missing from their branches.

The Post Office also made at least 4,000 branch managers pay back money based on this incorrect information.

Some people were sent to jail or lost all their money, others were ignored by their friends and neighbours while some took their own lives.

An inquiry into the Post Office and the Horizon IT scandal will carry on next month.



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