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