Connectivity problem hits thousands of Post Office branches

Post Office branches unable to connect to Horizon computer system for several hours after morning opening time

About 2,000 Post Office branches were unable to connect to the organisation’s computer system for a few hours yesterday morning (9 May) because of a connectivity issue.

A spokesperson at the National Federation of Subpostmasters said systems were down for some sub-postmasters from opening time, which can be as early as 6am for those running newsagents, until they were back up and running at 9.40am.

“As many as 2000 branches experienced problems when they tried to log on,” said the spokesperson.

Post Office branches use a computer system called Horizon, which was developed by ICL/Fujitsu Services, for their accounts.

The Post Office said in a statement: “There was a connectivity issue affecting a limited number of our branches for a short period of time yesterday morning. We are really sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused. This is now resolved and our branches are trading as normal.”

The Horizon computer system is at the centre of a long dispute between the Post Office and sub-posmasters.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of sub-postmasters who had received heavy fines and even jail terms for alleged false accounting, which they blamed on the Horizon accounting system. The Post Office denies these claims.

A forensic accounting firm is currently examining the system as part of a Criminal Cases Review Commission investigation into allegations of unfair trial for sub-postmasters prosecuted for fraud.

Meanwhile, a separate group legal action is taking place in the High Court, which was brought by the Justice For Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) after a decade of campaigning for sub-postmasters who claim wrongful fines for false accounting. The first month-long trial will take place in November 2018, followed by another in March 2019.

Read more about Post Office Horizon

May 2009: Bankruptcy, prosecution and disrupted livelihoods – postmasters tell their story.

September 2009: Postmasters form action group after accounts shortfall.

November 2009: Post Office theft case deferred over IT questions.

February 2011: Post Office faces legal action over alleged accounting system failures.

October 2011: 85 sub-postmasters seek legal support in claims against Post Office computer system.

June 2012: Post Office launches external review of system at centre of legal disputes.

January 2013: Post Office admits Horizon system needs more investigation.

January 2013: Post Office announces amnesty for Horizon evidence.

January 2013: Post Office wants to get to bottom of IT system allegations.

June 2013: Investigation into Post Office accounting system to drill down on strongest cases.

July 2013: Post Office Horizon system investigation reveals concerns.

October 2013: End in sight for sub-postmaster claims against Post Office’s Horizon accounting system.

October 2013: Former Lord Justice of Appeal Hooper joins Post Office Horizon investigation.

November 2013: 150 sub-postmasters file claims over “faulty” Horizon accounting system.

September 2014: Fresh questions raised over Post Office IT system’s role in fraud cases.

December 2014: MPs blast Post Office over IT system investigation and remove backing.

December 2014: Why MPs lost faith in the Post Office’s IT investigation, but vowed to fight on.

December 2014: MPs to debate sub-postmaster IT injustice claims.

December 2014: MP accuses Post Office of acting “duplicitously” in IT investigation.

January 2015: MPs force inquiry into Post Office sub-postmaster mediation scheme.

January 2015: Post Office faces grilling by MPs over Horizon accounting system.

February 2015: Post Office CIO would talk to any sub-postmaster about IT problems, promises CEO.

March 2015: Post Office ends working group for IT system investigation day before potentially damaging report.

March 2015: MPs seek reassurance over Post Office mediation scheme.

March 2015: Retiring MP aims to uncover truth of alleged Post Office computer system problems.

April 2015: Post Office failed to investigate account shortfalls before legal action, report claims.

April 2015: Criminal Courts Review Commission set to review sub-postmasters’ claims of wrongful prosecution.

May 2015: IT system related to sub-postmaster prosecutions under review by CCRC.

June 2015: Post Office looking to replace controversial Horizon system with IBM, says MP.

July 2015: Campaigners call for independent inquiry into Post Office Horizon IT system dispute.

October 2015: James Arbuthnot takes Post Office IT fight to House of Lords.

November 2015: The union that represents Post Office sub-postmasters has warned of a problem with the Horizon accounting system.

November 2015: An email from Post Office IT support reveals a problem with the Horizon system and supporting processes that could lead to accounting errors.

November 2015: Group litigation against Post Office being prepared in Horizon dispute.

February 2016: Post Office faces group litigation over Horizon IT as sub-postmasters fund class action.

June 2016: Post Office chairman Tim Parker says there would be “considerable risk” associated with changing its Horizon computer system.

November 2016: The legal team hired by a group of sub-postmasters will take their case to the next stage.

January 2017: The group action against the Post Office that alleges sub-postmasters have been wrongly punished for accounting errors gets a green light from the High Court of Justice.

March 2017: 1,000 sub-postmasters apply to join IT-related group litigation against Post Office.

April 2017: Investigation into claims of miscarriages of justice in relation to a Post Office accounting system has appointed a forensic accountant firm.

May  2017:  Hundreds of sub-postmasters have applied to join IT-related legal action since March.

July 2017: Post Office defence in computer system legal case due this week.

August 2017: Campaigners submit initial evidence in group litigation against Post Office over controversial Horizon IT system.

October 2017:  Sub-postmasters’ group action against the Post Office reaches an important milestone.

November 2017: An end is in sight for sub-postmasters’ campaign against alleged wrongful prosecution, which they blame on a faulty computer system

November 2017: The high court judge managing the sub-postmasters versus Post Office legal case over an allegedly faulty computer system tells legal teams to cooperate.

January 2018: Forensic investigation into Post Office IT system at centre of legal case nears completion.

April 2018:  Criminal Cases Review Commission forensic examination of the IT system at the centre of a legal case against the Post Office has raised further questions.

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