The years of dishonesty that enabled the Post Office to cover up the real cause of accounting shortfalls that saw innocent subpostmasters convicted of crimes, make the need for a statutory public inquiry overwhelming.
A Court of Appeal decision to overturn the criminal convictions of 39 subpostmasters, wrongly prosecuted for financial crimes, has amplified calls for such a statutory inquiry, with the power to call witnesses under oath.
Campaigners for the affected subpostmasters say the current Horizon scandal inquiry, set up by the government and chaired by former judge Wyn Williams, lacks the teeth of a courtroom. It cannot call witnesses to give evidence under oath or summon all documentation.
Subpostmasters were prosecuted for crimes including theft and false accounting after being blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls that appeared on the Horizon accounting system they used. But the apparent losses, which the Post Office did not investigate, were caused by computer errors.
The Post Office knew there were problems with the Horizon system, but did not reveal them until it was forced to do so in court. Subpostmasters served prison sentences, received criminal records, were made bankrupt, lost life savings and homes, and families were ruined.
Three of the most senior judges in England found that the wrongful prosecutions of subpostmasters by the Post Office were not just operational incompetence, but “egregious” and an abuse of the court’s processes. In fact, they were an “affront to the conscience of the court”, the judges said.
A total of 45 former subpostmasters have now had their convictions overturned, including 39 in the Court of Appeal and six in Southwark Crown Court in December. And there will be more. Between 2000 and 2015, 736 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office based on evidence from the Horizon system.
Justice has been a slow process. It has taken 20 years, since the first subpostmasters were prosecuted, for the first group of convictions to be overturned. In that time, the people whose decisions led to the miscarriages of justice have continued their careers. Paula Vennells, Post Office CEO from 2012 to 2019, earned millions of pounds and was awarded a CBE for services to the Post Office and charity, while Tim Parker, chairman since 2015, has been unscathed by the scandal. Then there are civil servants and ministers who were apparently either deaf to the concerns being raised or were part of the problem.
Subpostmasters, campaigners and, increasingly, the public demand a statutory inquiry as the history of this long and painful episode has revealed that it takes the courtroom to get to the truth. The Post Office deceived subpostmasters, the courts and the public for years in its attempts to keep a lid on the Horizon problems. Even the government admitted it was misled by the Post Office through constant reassurances that the Horizon system could not cause unexplained losses.
The government said its current inquiry is making good progress and that it wants to avoid a full public inquiry because it would take years to complete and subpostmasters have already waited long enough. It said it would change the inquiry if the people involved failed to cooperate.
But the Post Office’s behaviour over the past two decades means the current inquiry is not enough, according to peer James Arbuthnot, who has campaigned for justice for subpostmasters for over a decade. He told Computer Weekly that the inquiry’s lack of power to call witnesses under oath was a major problem.
“The government says it doesn’t need such power because everyone is giving evidence willingly,” said Arbuthnot. “But the Post Office has been so mendacious, secretive and unhelpful over the entire course of this matter that anyone who trusts them is displaying either naivety or a cynical willingness to collude with them.”
Another long-term campaigner for the subpostmasters, Labour MP Kevan Jones, said a statutory public inquiry with the powers to summon individuals to give evidence was necessary. “Without it, the government is relying on people’s good will in coming forward to explain their roles in the Horizon scandal,” he said. “The current government inquiry also lacks the power to summon documents from the Post Office or reluctant government departments.’’
Deceit began early
It didn’t have to be that way, but the Post Office management went to great lengths trying to cover up the known IT problems, which, if made public, would have undermined their prosecutions of subpostmasters. It chose this course of action rather than listening to subpostmasters, investigating their problems and trying to fix them.
Computer problems were known about from the beginning of the Horizon system’s introduction in 2000 – and they had been brought to the Post Office’s attention. But the organisation was determined not to undermine Horizon and it decided to mislead and isolate subpostmasters who were experiencing problems. Many subpostmasters who were experiencing unexplainable losses suspected that the accounting system was in error because the problems began soon after its introduction. But the Post Office policy was to deny the existence of computer errors and tell any subpostmaster who raised issues that they were the first to do so.
But through separate subpostmasters contacting Computer Weekly, years apart, the Post Office’s Horizon defences were breached for the first time. In 2009, a Computer Weekly investigation revealed the stories of seven former subpostmasters who had had their lives devastated after being blamed for unexplained cash shortfalls (see box below for Computer Weekly’s coverage of the story since 2009).
This broke the Post Office’s first line of defence in its strategy to keep a lid on the Horizon problems. Every subpostmaster interviewed told the same story, that when they went to the Post Office for help, they were told they were the only one having trouble.
In that article, the Post Office denied that it had received any complaints from subpostmasters. It also denied that any IT-related fault could have caused the systems to show incorrect sums of money owed by some branches. But after the article was published in 2009, subpostmasters across the country realised they were not alone and began making contact with each other.
A few months later, Alan Bates, a former subpostmaster in North Wales and one of the first group of subpostmasters interviewed by Computer Weekly, set up a campaign group. The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) was created and the fight for justice began.
In another article that same year, the Post Office told Computer Weekly: “Horizon is an extremely robust system which operates over our entire network and successfully records millions of transactions each day. There is no evidence that points to any fault with the technology. We would always look into and investigate any issues raised by subpostmasters.”
Looking at the evidence today, it is difficult to believe that response to a journalist’s question was approved by any organisation, let alone one owned by the government.
The subpostmasters now had strength in numbers, the support of MPs and with journalists investigating, but the Post Office battened down the hatches and the deceit became endemic. In 2013, instructions were given to Post Office staff, by its head of security, to shred documents that could undermine Horizon’s robustness, and that same year a lawyer, commissioned by the Post Office, warned that its expert IT witnesses during subpostmaster trials were not being honest. In 2015, it even rubbished a report by forensic accountants Second Sight, which it had commissioned to look at the Horizon system, because its conclusions didn’t fit with the Post Office’s assertions that Horizon was robust.
Government was misled
The government, which has the power to set up a statutory inquiry, said it was itself misled by the Post Office. In February last year, Martin Callanan, a UK government minister in the House of Lords, said: “The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy relied on Post Office management to investigate the issues with the Horizon system and the government was assured that the system was robust and the issues being raised by the postmasters were being handled appropriately. BEIS pressed management on these issues and was given consistent advice from the company’s experts that appeared to verify these claims at that time.”
Callanan added: “In hindsight, of course, facts have come to light through the litigation which has revealed that advice given during that period was flawed.”
But all this was kept quiet and had it not been for disclosure and the cross-examination of witnesses, it might never have come to light. Subpostmsters had to do it the hard, and expensive, way. In 2017, after years of campaigning, the JFSA, which by then had more than 500 former subpostmasters as members, received permission for a group litigation order (GLO) against the Post Office. In 2018, the multimillion-pound trial began in the High Court.
It was this High Court battle that was to lay bare the extent of the cover-up by the Post Office over the preceding 17 years. Two trials revealed the extent of the scandal through the disclosure of thousands of documents and questioning of witnesses from the Post Office as well as the claimant subpostmasters. In fact, after 20 years, the Post Office’s claim that Horizon was robust was rejected in the High Court in 2019, when Judge Peter Fraser ruled that it was not remotely robust. He also said the Post Office had engaged in “oppressive behaviour” when demanding sums of money that could not be accounted for by subpostmasters.
That obfuscation was even evident in the High Court itself, with former Post Office director Angela van den Bogerd trying to mislead Judge Fraser during the trial. He wrote in his damning judgement: “There were two specific matters where [Van den Bogerd] did not give me frank evidence, and sought to obfuscate matters and mislead me.”
In December 2019, the Post Office conceded defeat in the High Court case, apologised and agreed to pay £57.75m damages. But this was after spending more than £100m on legal fees and forcing the subpostmaster claimants to themselves spend £46m on legal fees, which was paid to litigation funders, who initially funded the action.
It was soon after this that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the first group of subpostmasters to the Court of Appeal to have their convictions reviewed. This was the biggest group referral in history. In March this year, the Court of Appeal heard the appeals against wrongful prosecution on two grounds. The first (Limb 1) was that the computer evidence on which the prosecutions were based was unreliable and the second (Limb 2) was that the Post Office knew the defendants couldn’t get a fair trial, but prosecuted them anyway.
The first ground could be the result of incompetence on the Post Office’s part, and due to a lack of understanding of computer systems. But the second suggested the Post Office’s actions were premeditated and opened up Post Office and government executives to scrutiny.
On 23 April, three judges in the Court of Appeal ruled that the Post Office had used its private prosecution powers against subpostmasters blamed for accounting shortfalls, despite knowing they could not get a fair trial. A total of 39 convictions were overturned on both grounds. The court had previously heard evidence that the Post Office knew the Horizon IT system was flawed, but continued to prosecute subpostmasters regardless.
In a ruling devastating for the Post Office, the judges wrote: “We conclude that the Post Office knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon. It had a clear duty to investigate all reasonable lines of enquiry, to consider disclosure and to make disclosure to the appellants of anything which might reasonably be considered to undermine its case. Yet it does not appear that [the Post Office] adequately considered or made relevant disclosure of problems with or concerns about Horizon in any of the cases at any point during that period.
“On the contrary, it consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable. Nor does it appear that any attempt was made to investigate the assertions of subpostmasters that there must be a problem with Horizon. The consistent failure of the Post Office to be open and honest about the issues affecting Horizon can, in our view, only be explained by a strong reluctance to say or do anything which might lead to other subpostmasters knowing about those issues. Those concerned with prosecutions of subpostmasters clearly wished to be able to maintain the assertion that Horizon data was accurate, and effectively steamrolled over any subpostmasters who sought to challenge its accuracy.”
Paul Marshall, a barrister at Cornerstone Barristers, who worked on appeals for three of the subpostmasters, said the judges’ ruling on Limb 2, “an affront to the conscience of the court”, makes a full public inquiry much more likely.
“What the Court of Appeal decision on Limb 2 does is say the entire course of prosecutions that were concerned with Horizon issues and the Post Office’s entire strategy around them, for which [Paula Vennells] was ultimately responsible, were an abuse of the court’s process,” he said.
A judgment as devastating as this, and Judge Fraser’s ruling before it, add weight to demands to know who made what decisions.
Helen Pitcher, chairman of the CCRC, which reviewed all the appeals before they went to the Court of Appeal, said a statutory public inquiry is likely to result in the end because of public pressure. “There is a huge body of opinion that says there should be a full statutory public inquiry,” she said. “Currently that is being resisted, but I suspect public outcry will take it there at the end of the day.”
Pitcher said that Vennells, who was CEO of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, either “knew what was going on or wasn’t doing her job”.
She added: “I have served on company boards and these are the kinds of reports I would expect to come to the board. There should have been a whole host of questions asked. I don’t have any evidence to say they were asked but if they were and they said ‘OK then’, they were asleep at the wheel.”
Karl Turner, Labour MP for East Hull, who is current shadow justice minister and former shadow attorney general, said senior civil servants and ministers were consistently lied to or, worse still, were themselves culpable in the cover-up by the Post Office. “We cannot allow a whitewash review chaired by a retired judge, appointed by the government – the owner of the Post Office – to carry out any meaningful review,” he said. “Only a judge-led inquiry with the powers to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, with powers to hold those giving evidence to account, will get to the bottom of this scandal.”
Turner described the current inquiry as “pathetic” and said the government knows it will fail to hold those responsible to account, and is “tantamount to letting Post Office Ltd (the government) mark its own homework”.
He added: “If the prime minister is sorry for what these innocent former subpostmasters were put through, he should dump this whitewash and order the proper inquiry the victims truly deserve. Once that inquiry is completed, those responsible for this scandalous cover-up should face investigation and potentially prosecutions and if convicted, should be themselves expecting prison sentences.”
£100m legal costs
There were opportunities for the Post Office to sort out the problems, but it chose to fight the subpostmasters all the way, amassing over £100m in legal costs. Jo Hamilton, who had her criminal conviction overturned, said the victims of the scandal could have had their lives back almost a decade ago if Vennells had not ignored their claims and reports that Horizon was potentially at fault for the accounting shortfalls.
“From the disclosure in court, it is clear she knew almost a decade ago what was happening and yet she chose to stay and tough it out,” said Hamilton. “She allowed two High Court trials to go ahead at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds and only when it was clear we were winning did she step down from her Post Office role. We could have had our lives back 10 years ago.”
Bates, who set up the JFSA in 2009, has refused to cooperate with the current inquiry, describing it as a “whitewash” and an attempt by the government to “sweep everything under the carpet”. He said a statutory public inquiry is the only way to get to the truth and it need not take years, because a lot of the work has already been done.
“Don’t forget they have got a huge amount of court-tested evidence, which the Post Office agreed it is not going to contest,” he added. Bates said that the reasons given by the government for not holding a statutory judge-led public inquiry, with the power to call witnesses under oath, were just excuses.
Arbuthnot said it is hardly surprising that the JFSA has no faith in the current inquiry. “I have nothing to say against Wyn Williams himself – but he is trying to do an extremely difficult job with his ankles and wrists bound together behind his back,” he said.
Meanwhile, support for subpostmasters is growing among the general public as the details of the Horizon scandal emerge. Richard Coles, vicar of Finedon, has been supporting subpostmasters’ calls for a full statutory inquiry after being shocked by their treatment. He said the case for one is “overwhelming”.
“All you need to know about the present inquiry is that the subpostmasters don’t want to engage with it, and that tells you it doesn’t have the confidence of the people that are most profoundly affected by the scandal,” he said.
“It is a very murky story indeed, and only a judge with the power to call witnesses stands a chance of being able to shine a light where it needs to shine. I also feel this scandal is an affront to the conscience to the nation. For this reason, it needs a full inquiry to give justice to the subpostmasters and confidence that if something like this happens, we have redress and there will be transparency and accountability.”
But public inquiries can drag on, with the parties involved making life difficult. Nick Gould, lawyer at Aria Grace Law, who represented three former subpostmasters in their appeals, said he understands the view that there should be a statutory inquiry. “Unfortunately, I see no alternative,” he said. “I say ‘unfortunately’ because so many of the inquiries get bogged down in details and for some reason are often driven by large law firms that look for ways of delaying and/or finding ways to limit the scope of the inquiry.
“If a public inquiry is to take place, it needs to be properly and fully resourced and its remit should be subject to the overriding comment that as some people waited more than 15 years for their convictions to be overturned, they should not have to wait another 15 years for any inquiry to deliver its report.”
The subpostmaster victims can never get back what they have lost, but they deserve answers and demand the full truth about who did what, where and when.
There are many questions that need to be answered by many individuals. The public, who are footing the bill for the scandal, which will run into hundreds of millions of pounds, might, for example, want to know:
- Who approved the policy of telling subpostmasters who reported problems balancing accounts that they were the only ones having such difficulties?
- Who decided not to investigate reported Horizon problems and constantly tell journalists there were no errors in the Horizon system that could cause unexplained losses?
- Who decided to mislead the government over the reliability of the Horizon system?
- Who approved the policy of threatening subpostmasters with prison sentences unless they pleaded guilty to a lesser charge?
- Who decided to keep information from the courts during the trials of subpostmasters charged with crimes such as theft and false accounting?
- Who approved an article by the head of communications that told the subpostmasters that stories in the press about Horizon problems were untrue and designed to cause alarm?
- Who gave the go-ahead to try to get High Court judge Peter Fraser to recuse himself from the case because they didn’t like what he had ruled?
- Who decided to sack forensic accounting firm Second Sight and dismiss its report into Horizon as wrong, because its findings contradicted the Post Offices claims that it was robust?
- Who decided not to inform the courts when information came to light, after subpostmasters were prosecuted, that could undermine their prosecutions?
- Who ordered the shredding of documents that could undermine the Post Office’s claim that Horizon was robust?
- Who authorised spending £100m of taxpayers’ money on the court cases against subpostmasters?
Each of these actions was approved by somebody and those people need to be held to account. As the various court cases in the scandal have proved, calling witnesses under oath and the disclosure of evidence is the only way to guarantee that this happens.
Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009
- 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.
- May 2010: A pilot of the new Horizon Online system at Royal Mail has been scaled back after connectivity problems and outages.
- February 2011: Post Office faces legal action over alleged accounting system failures.
- October 2011: 85 subpostmasters 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 subpostmaster claims against Post Office’s Horizon accounting system.
- October 2013: Former Lord Justice of Appeal Hooper joins Post Office Horizon investigation.
- November 2013: 150 subpostmasters 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 subpostmaster IT injustice claims.
- December 2014: MP accuses Post Office of acting “duplicitously” in IT investigation.
- January 2015: MPs force inquiry into Post Office subpostmaster mediation scheme.
- January 2015: Post Office faces grilling by MPs over Horizon accounting system.
- February 2015: Post Office CIO will talk to any subpostmaster 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 subpostmasters’ claims of wrongful prosecution.
- May 2015: IT system related to subpostmaster 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 subpostmasters 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 subpostmasters 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 subpostmasters will take their case to the next stage.
- January 2017: The group action against the Post Office that alleges subpostmasters have been wrongly punished for accounting errors gets green light from the High Court of Justice.
- March 2017: 1,000 subpostmasters 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 subpostmasters 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: Subpostmasters’ group action against the Post Office reaches an important milestone.
- November 2017: An end is in sight for subpostmasters’ campaign against alleged wrongful prosecution, which they blame on a faulty computer system.
- November 2017: The High Court judge managing the subpostmasters 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.
- May 2018: Post Office branches unable to connect to Horizon computer system for several hours after morning opening time.
- October 2018: After over a decade of controversy, next week marks the beginning of a court battle between subpostmasters and the Post Office.
- November 2018: Case against Post Office in relation to allegedly faulty computer system begins in High Court.
- November 2018: High Court case in which subpostmasters are suing the Post Office has revealed a known problem with a computer system at the core of the dispute.
- November 2018: A High Court trial, where subpostmasters are suing the Post Office for damages caused by an allegedly faulty IT system, ends second week.
- November 2018: Post Office director admits to Horizon errors and not sharing details with subpostmaster network.
- November 2018: The High Court trial in which subpostmasters are suing the Post Office has reached an important stage.
- December 2018: CCRC may hold off subpostmaster decision until after Post Office Horizon trial.
- December 2018: Court case where subpostmasters are suing the Post Office set to span at least four trials and extend into 2020.
- January 2019: Subpostmasters’ campaign group attacks Post Office CEO Paula Vennells’ New Year honour amid ongoing court case.
- January 2019: Thousands of known errors on controversial Post Office computer system to be revealed.
- March 2019: Tech under spotlight at High Court in second subpostmasters versus Post Office trial.
- March 2019: Post Office considered Horizon IT system “high-risk”, court told.
- March 2019: CCRC watching Post Office Horizon trial closely.
- March 2019: Judge rules that Post Office showed “oppressive behaviour” in response to claimants accused of accounting errors they blamed on Horizon IT system.
- March 2019: Post Office “lacked humanity” in the treatment of subpostmasters, says peer.
- March 2019: A High Court judge heard that the Post Office did not investigate a computer system error that could cause losses, despite being offered evidence.
- March 2019: The Post Office legal team in the case brought by more than 500 subpostmasters has called for the judge to be recused after questioning his impartiality.
- March 2019: A senior civil servant asked the Post Office to repay public money it had wrongly allocated to paying legal costs.
- April 2019: Subpostmaster claimants’ legal team makes application for the Post Office to pay millions of pounds of costs associated with trial.
- April 2019: Post Office to appeal judgment from first Horizon trial.
- April 2019: The Post Office’s claim that the judge overseeing the case concerning its controversial Horizon IT system was biased has been dismissed.
- April 2019: MP questions government over Post Office Horizon case.
- April 2019: Government says no conflict of interest in trial despite Post Office chairman’s dual role.
- May 2019: The Court of Appeal has refused the Post Office’s application to appeal a major decision in the Horizon IT trial.
- May 2019: The Post Office has applied for permission to appeal judgments from the first trial in its IT-related legal battle with subpostmasters.
- May 2019: The judge in the Post Office Horizon trial has ordered the organisation to pay the legal costs of its courtroom adversaries, and refused to give permission to appeal a major judgment.
- June 2019: Post Office asks Court of Appeal for permission to appeal judgment in first Horizon trial.
- July 2019: The Post Office has admitted that some subpostmasters are at risk of accounts not balancing due to an error it does not understand.
- July 2019: Problem revealed during High Court trial left subpostmaster with £18,000 surplus after IT system failed to register full amount of cash scanned in.
- August 2019: Subpostmasters suffering slow running and frozen terminals while Post Office searches for a fix to issues apparently caused by a software update.
- August 2019: The Post Office has fixed the latest problems with its Horizon system, affecting hundreds of branches.
- October 2019: A High Court judgment for a trial that focused on the Post Office’s IT system at the centre of a multimillion-pound litigation will be announced early next month.
- November 2019: The Court of Appeal has rejected a Post Office application to appeal judgments made in its multimillion-pound battle with subpostmasters over IT system failures.
- November 2019: Peer calls for clear-out of Post Office board after Court of Appeal confirms major court defeat.
- December 2019: The Post Office has settled its long-running legal dispute with subpostmasters, and will pay £57.75m in damages.
- December 2019: Subpostmasters ended their legal battle with the Post Office at the optimal time, according to the lawyer that managed the High Court action.
- December 2019: Subpostmasters proved right on IT system failures as calls for full public inquiry mount.
- December 2019: Criminal Courts Review Commission to review Horizon judgment “swiftly”.
- December 2019: National Federation of Subpostmasters cries foul after court ruling on controversial computer system.
- December 2019: Former Post Office CEO apologises to subpostmasters over Horizon scandal.
- December 2019: Call for former Post Office CEO to step down from public roles after IT court battle lost.
- January 2020: Fujitsu must face scrutiny following Post Office Horizon trial judgment.
- January 2020: Subpostmaster group calls for government to pay legal costs for Horizon trial.
- January 2020: Why subpostmasters are calling on the government to pay Horizon trial costs.
- January 2020: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy says it did not make decisions in the Post Office’s recent court battle.
- January 2020: Government should not be allowed to dismiss subpostmasters’ claims over Horizon IT scandal.
- January 2020: Police sent information about potential Fujitsu staff perjury in subpostmaster prosecutions.
- January 2020: Prosecutions are a significant step closer to being sent to the Court of Appeal as Criminal Courts Review Commission forms a group of commissioners to review them.
- January 2020: Alan Bates: The “details man” the Post Office paid the price for ignoring.
- February 2020: The government has refused to pay the huge legal costs subpostmasters incurred in their battle with the government-owned Post Office, which they won.
- February 2020: Members of Parliament seeking a public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal face huge challenges, but pressure and time could force justice.
- February 2020: Calls for inquiry into Post Office IT scandal increase in Parliament, with cross-party support.
- February 2020: Care Quality Commission to review concerns over Paula Vennells’ appointment after they were raised by a former NHS consultant psychiatrist.
- February 2020: Government admits it was too passive managing Post Office as parliamentary pressure builds.
- February 2020: Minister says Post Office IT experts misled the government when it asked questions about subpostmasters’ concerns over Horizon IT system.
- March 2020: Boris Johnson commits to “getting to the bottom of” Post Office Horizon IT scandal.
- March 2020: Boris Johnson’s commitment to inquiry into Post Office scandal in doubt.
- March 2020: MPs call on PM to commit to full public inquiry into Post Office Horizon IT scandal.
- March 2020: Those who did not play by the rules in Post Office Horizon scandal “should face prosecution”.
- March 2020: MPs told to hold to account those responsible for Post Office Horizon IT scandal.
- March 2020: The Post Office has sparked anger with secret settlements with subpostmasters outside the recent legal action against it.
- March 2020: Labour MP Karl Turner tells Computer Weekly that the Post Office Horizon scandal is the most grotesque version of predatory capitalism he has ever seen.
- March 2020: MP Kevan Jones has warned a government minister not to repeat the mistakes of predecessors in relation to the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.
- March 2020: Criminal Cases Review Commission to use Microsoft Teams to ensure review of subpostmaster prosecutions is held on time.
- March 2020: Post Office postpones subpostmaster compensation scheme amid Covid-19 crisis.
- March 2020: Meeting reviewing subpostmaster applications to appeal criminal prosecutions moves into second day.
- March 2020: Subpostmaster prosecutions to be considered by Court of Appeal for miscarriages of justice.
- March 2020: How subpostmasters made legal history with biggest referral of potential miscarriages of justice.
- April 2020: Met Police examines information about evidence given in court by Fujitsu staff on the Horizon IT system.
- May 2020: Subpostmasters who had their lives ruined by the Post Office’s faulty IT system have received their damages after a High Court victory.
- May 2020: A senior Post Office executive at the centre of an IT scandal, who tried to mislead a High Court judge in relation to it, has left the organisation without fanfare despite many years of service.
- May 2020: Post Office re-examines hundreds of prosecutions that could have resulted from faults in Horizon IT system.
- June 2020: A campaign group representing subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted for theft and false accounting by the Post Office is raising money to help clear the names of victims of the scandal.
- June 2020: Subpostmasters to force scrutiny of government’s role in Post Office IT scandal.
- June 2020: The Criminal Cases Review Commission sends 47 more subpostmaster cases to Court of Appeal and asks government to review private prosecution powers.
- June 2020: Select committee chair writes to former Post Office CEO demanding answers over her role in IT scandal.
- June 2020: The government has been accused of launching a review that fails in getting to the bottom of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history.
- June 2020: Subpostmasters will not cooperate with government review into IT scandal.
- June 2020: The government’s proposed review of the Post Office IT scandal has received a further setback as forensic accountants join subpostmasters in refusing to back it.
- June 2020: Call for government review of Post Office Horizon scandal to have the power to force individuals to give evidence under oath.
- June 2020: Subpostmasters seeking justice in the Post Office Horizon IT scandal are regaining momentum in Parliament.
- June 2020: Healthcare regulator will be discussing concerns about former NHS boss chairing an NHS trust at an upcoming meeting.
- June 2020: Second Sight is working with law firm in appeals by subpostmasters against criminal convictions in Horizon IT scandal.
- June 2020: Post Office and Fujitsu blame each other for many of the failings in the Horizon IT scandal that wrecked lives.
- June 2020: Parliamentary Justice Committee to hold short inquiry into the rules and regulations surrounding private organisations’ ability to initiate criminal proceedings.
- July 2020: Victims of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal need to raise thousands of pounds in a week or those responsible for their suffering will avoid scrutiny.
- July 2020: The government is set to face scrutiny over its involvement in the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, described as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in modern UK history.
- September 2020: The government repeats that it won’t pay victims’ legal costs and confirms review into the scandal will not have the power to call witnesses.
- September 2020: Subpostmasters still not being told about all the known errors in the controversial Post Office branch accounting and retail system that they use.
- October 2020: The Post Office has chosen not to contest 44 out of 47 appeals, meaning most are likely to have their names cleared, but others still face a Court of Appeal battle for justice.
- October 2020: MPs are demanding the government holds a full statutory public inquiry into the Post Office IT scandal.
- October 2020: NHS regulator continues enquiries about the appointment of former Post Office CEO at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust as more damning details emerge.
- October 2020: Government minister met with former subpostmaster online in an attempt to get victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal involved in government review.
- October 2020: The Post Office is focusing urgently on fixing an IT error suffered by a subpostmaster amid the ongoing IT scandal.
- October 2020: Labour politicians are calling for the government to give the Post Office Horizon scandal inquiry the power to force witnesses to give evidence if they don’t cooperate.
- October 2020: Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has asked for external review of its process when appointing controversial executive.
- November 2020: Government faces scrutiny of its handling of the Post Office IT scandal that destroyed subpostmasters’ lives and livelihoods.
- November 2020: Post Office branches offline during busy business hours after suffering an IT error that the Post Office said related to IT from supplier Fujitsu.
- November 2020: Fujitsu is refusing to explain what caused a national system outage in Post Office branches last week, despite the Post Office confirming the issue was the fault of the supplier.
- November 2020: The Metropolitan Police opens criminal investigation into Fujitsu staff who gave evidence in trials of subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted and even imprisoned for financial crimes.
- November 2020: Post Office criticised over vagueness of its explanation of the cause of a UK-wide IT failure that saw subpostmasters unable to do business.
- November 2020: Post Office says planned firmware update caused the problem that left branches unable to do business for 90 minutes.
- November 2020: Court documents reveal the names of the Fujitsu employees under investigation for potentially providing misleading information in criminal trials.
- November 2020: The government allowed the Post Office to ‘run amok’ and destroy lives, says complaint to Parliamentary Ombudsman.
- November 2020: Campaigning politician demands access to documents that could prove that the Post Office lied.
- December 2020: Government denies responsibility for the abuse inflicted on subpostmasters by the Post Office over faulty IT system.
- December 2020: CEO at the centre of the scandal that saw innocent people bankrupted and some sent to prison steps down from NHS role as pressure for her resignation grows.
- December 2020: History made as subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted in Horizon IT scandal have convictions quashed.
- December 2020: The appointment of a former Post Office executive, who tried to mislead a judge, in the Football Association of Wales has been questioned by an MP.
- December 2020: Court of Appeal indicates subpostmasters can pursue appeal route that could do more damage to Post Office’s reputation.
- January 2021: NHS trust defends its director appointment process following an external review of its recruitment of former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells.
- January 2021: Lawyers call for changes to digital evidence rule that made it easier for the Post Office to ‘bamboozle courts’ and make subpostmasters pay a heavy price for its IT failings.
- January 2021: The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has referred four more subpostmasters’ criminal convictions to appeal, as part of the biggest miscarriage of justice in modern UK history.
- February 2021: A former senior developer who worked for Fujitsu on the Post Office IT system that led to subpostmasters being falsely accused of fraud, has claimed bosses knew of fundamental flaws before going live.
- February 2021: Subpostmasters call for Boris Johnson to pause and reshape the government’s Horizon inquiry.
- February 2021: Vote of no confidence in Football Association of Wales boss triggered by recruitment of former Post Office executive who tried to mislead a judge in IT trial.
- March 2021: Government agrees to change private prosecution rules that were abused by the Post Office in its pursuit of subpostmasters wrongly accused of financial crimes.
- March 2021: Subpostmaster victims who have spent millions bringing the Post Office IT scandal to light have received no reply to their concerns from Boris Johnson.
- March 2021: MP condemns department’s ‘bizarre’ rejection of freedom of information request linked to Post Office IT scandal.
- March 2021: Football Association Wales boss steps down after losing confidence motion triggered by appointment of an executive involved in the Post Office IT scandal.
- March 2021: The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is reviewing five cases of potential miscarriage of justice in relation to subpostmaster prosecutions.
- March 2021: Subpostmasters heading to Court of Appeal to clear their names in what is potentially the biggest miscarriage of justice in English legal history.
- March 2021: The Post Office does not have enough money to pay compensation to the subpostmasters it wrongfully prosecuted.
- March 2021: Angela van den Bogerd has left her role at the Football Association of Wales, following criticism of her part in Post Office IT scandal.
- March 2021: Court of Appeal hearing reveals Post Office instructed employees to destroy documents that undermined an insistence that its Horizon computer system was robust.
- March 2021: The Post Office was warned that a former Fujitsu employee had misled courts when giving evidence on its behalf.
- March 2021: Boris Johnson agrees with MP that those responsible for the Post Office Horizon scandal should be brought to book.
- March 2021: Former Post Office chief was paid over £400,000 when she left despite the organisation being involved in what would become the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history.
- April 2021: The UK government faces a potential judicial review over its Post Office Horizon IT scandal inquiry, after subpostmasters formally wrote to the government seeking one.
- April 2021: The government is listening to calls for changes in how digital evidence is considered in court, as Post Office IT scandal spells out current rule’s inadequacy.
- April 2021: The Post Office's controversial contract with Fujitsu has been extended another year to help the organisation manage its exit.
- April 2021: The Post Office is to move work done by Fujitsu in-house when its outsourcing contract ends, and is already recruiting IT experts.
- April 2021: The Post Office has revealed the end to its controversial Horizon IT system which, through its errors and the Post Office's denial of them, caused huge suffering for hundreds of subpostmasters.
- April 2021: The UK government is the only block to fair compensation for subpostmasters who were wrongly punished for accounting shortfalls.
- April 2021: The Court of Appeal has overturned the criminal convictions of 39 subpostmasters who were blamed and punished for accounting shortfalls caused by computer errors.
- April 2021: Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells has left roles in the church, Morrisons and Dunelm after postmasters’ convictions were overturned in the Court of Appeal.
- April 2021: The biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history is set to get bigger as more subpostmasters take their cases to the Court of Appeal
- May 2021: Post Office IT scandal CEO has no excuse for her inaction in preventing the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history, says Criminal Cases Review Commission chairperson.
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