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Police sent information about potential Fujitsu staff perjury in subpostmaster prosecutions

The police have been asked to consider information from a High Court judge questioning evidence given by Fujitsu staff in criminal trials of Post Office subpostmasters

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has referred information to the police relating to a High Court Judge's concerns about the accuracy of evidence given by Fujitsu staff in criminal trials.

Fujitsu staff have been used by the Post Office as witnesses in trials to counter arguments from subpostmasters that the Horizon system, supplied by Fujitsu, in Post Offices was to blame for accounting shortfalls. Some of these trials led to subpostmaster being prosecuted for theft, with some sent to prison.

The referral to the police follows a High Court judge sending information to the DPP at the end of a multimillion-pound court battle between 550 subpostmasters and the Post Office. The group litigation order saw subpostmasters take on the Post Office and its claim that the Horizon system was robust and could not be the cause of unexplained accounting shortfalls.

The court case proved them right after the subpostmasters won the group litigation against the Post Office, with the managing judge ruling that the Horizon system was not robust and did cause shortfalls, which the Post Office had always denied.

Since the introduction of the Horizon accounting and retail system by the Post Office in 2000, subpostmasters have suffered problems including unexplained shortfalls. They have always alleged that the computer system was the cause of theses shortfalls.

Computer Weekly first reported the problems with Horizon in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters. Soon after this, more subpostmasters came forward (see timeline below).

Before handing down his judgement for the second trial in the group litigation in December, Judge Peter Fraser announced that he was referring information to the DPP because he had concerns over the accuracy of evidence given in court by Fujitsu in previous trials of accused subpostmasters.

“Based on the knowledge that I have gained both from conducting the trial and writing the Horizon issues judgment, I have very grave concerns regarding the veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system,” he said.

“These previous proceedings include the High Court in at least one civil case brought by the Post Office against a subpostmaster and the Crown Court in a greater number of criminal cases, also brought by the Post Office against subpostmasters and subpostmistresses.”

Fraser sent papers from the case to the director of public prosecutions, Max Hill, to consider whether the matter should be the subject of any prosecution. This could lead to criminal prosecutions for crimes such as perjury.

A spokesperson at the DPP confirmed the documents had been received and said: “We have referred it to police to consider and the judge has been informed. If it needs further investigation, it goes back to the police.”

Following further potential police investigation, the Attorney General’s Office would be the organisation that would consider whether Fujitsu witnesses were in contempt of court.

The group litigation order vindicated subpostmasters that have fought for justice, including lead claimant and former subpostmaster Alan Bates, who first highlighted his concerns with Horizon in 2000.

The information referred by the judge to the DPP was from previous criminal trials. He also criticised evidence from some Fujitsu staff in the group litigation.

In his judgment for the second trial, which looked at the Horizon system, he said: “As will be seen from my analysis of the Fujitsu evidence of fact, I have certain views about the lack of accuracy on the part of Fujitsu witnesses in their evidence. If that lack of accuracy has also been included in reporting to the Post Office by Fujitsu, then that goes some way to explaining the Post Office’s lack of grasp of so much material that is consistent with the claimants’ case.”

Following the judgement, Fujitsu said in a statement: “On 16 December, Justice Fraser published his judgment on the second trial of the Post Office group litigation. While Fujitsu was not a party to the litigation, we take this judgment very seriously and will now review the findings in detail.”

There are calls for a judge-led public inquiry, with affected subpostmasters meeting MPs to take their grievances to the House of Commons.

Click here to sign a petition calling for a full judge-led public inquiry.

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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