Will Post Office face legal action if people were wrongly imprisoned and fined over Horizon system?

Computer Weekly has been following the plight of Sub-Postmasters that allege they have been falsely accused and found guilty of false accounting. Some have even been sent to prison, others have been fined and lives have been ruined.

Despite years of allegations that the Horizon system – which was developed by ICL/Fujitsu Services – is at fault for many accounting shortfalls, the Post Office has unrelentingly defended it.

Then Computer Weekly reporter Rebecca Thomson picked up the story originally and published this in 2009.

Computer Weekly has continued to follow the case. We have been contacted by a few subpostmasters that have had similar issues affect them. A pressure group has been set up known as the subpostmastersalliance and a group of MP’s have taken up the case. Last night after the interim report was published the national newspapers were all over it. No mention of Computer Weekly, which was digging into this in 2008.

The MPs representing constituents that were affected managed to eventually convince the Post Office to look at this closely. The result was an amnesty for people to come forward with evidence and the investigation was taken up by independent company Second Sight.
The interim report was published yesterday. Although Horizon itself appears, from the investigation so far, to have worked properly, the interim report has raised concerns over unreliable hardware, exceptionally complex systems, a lack of proper training and support, and a business model that put responsibility for software problems on the subpostmaster.

If it is proved that these subpostmasters have had their lives ruined will the Post Office have a bog compensation bill on its hands?

If the interim report is accurate in that the software itself is not at fault but some of the processes around it are, it is a reminder to businesses that a system is not a solution to a business challenge but just part it.

Also read these articles:

Bankruptcy, prosecution and disrupted livelihoods – Postmasters tell their story

Post Office Horizon system investigation reveals concerns

Investigation into Post Office accounting system to drill down on strongest cases

Post Office admits that Horizon system needs more investigation

Post Office announces amnesty for Horizon evidence

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Justice for Sub Postmastersd Alliance has achieved a great deal on a shoestring PR budget. The public sees press reports of subpostmasters being found guilty of fraud and sent to prison. What they don't see is the tragedy associated - the loss of homes, destruction of financial security etc and all because the Post Office refused to acknowledge that there was a genuine problem that needed to be investigated and, even more so, their 'union' failed in its responsibility to assist its members.

I think of Robina and Mohammed, two of the most honest people you could meet, caught up in this awful tragedy, who have lost everything and are now homeless, their livelihood gone, their home sold at auction to recover their 'debts,' with no proof ever shown that the money supposedly missing from their sub-post office ever went into their pockets, yet Robina spent six months in prison. They bear their misfortune with great dignity. It is my earnest hope that they are eventually vindicated and restored to their former status.