At last, the world is listening to the Horizon victims - the Post Office must finally listen, too

We are only two weeks into the statutory inquiry examining the Post Office IT scandal – two weeks of what is likely to be a year-long process – and already what we’ve learned is only compounding the scale of the tragedy that hit the victims.

Computer Weekly has been covering this story for nearly 13 years – in May 2009 we were the first to reveal the stories of subpostmasters prosecuted by the Post Office over accounting irregularities that were caused by the faulty Horizon accounting system. At every stage, we’ve been shocked again and again by the latest examples of the contempt, the cover-up, and the cruelty of the Post Office towards innocent subpostmasters. And yet even now, listening to the heartbreaking statements made by those victims to the inquiry, the scandal plumbs new depths.

The government has put aside £1bn to pay compensation to the hundreds of people affected, but it’s clear from listening to the inquiry that no amount of cash is ever going to make up for the emotional trauma they have suffered. Broken marriages, failed friendships, the unwarranted scorn of communities – and in some, truly terrible cases, even suicide. Many of the victims will have mental health issues for life.

All because legally, culturally, institutionally – and, as we hope to find out from the inquiry, individually among Post Office executives – this broken organisation refused to accept that its computer system, once described as the largest in Europe, could possibly be in any way flawed. Because it chose to believe that hundreds of people, pillars of their local communities, were in fact crooks, frauds and thieves. And to go after them, aggressively and without a trace of compassion.

Software has bugs. It randomly, unexpectedly, goes wrong. Everyone knows this – the Post Office, like the flat earthers the High Court accused them of being, chose to believe otherwise. What’s worse, Computer Weekly has since revealed how fundamentally flawed the software was, right from its inception.

The very least the victims should expect is true and total accountability for those in the Post Office – and in government – who refused to listen to them.

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