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Police interview former Fujitsu staff for second time in potential perjury investigation

Former Fujitsu staff who gave evidence in subpostmaster trials have been questioned by police for a second time

Two former Fujitsu workers being investigated for potential perjury in subpostmaster trials have been interviewed under caution by the Metropolitan Police for a second time.

Police are investigating evidence of potential offences committed by the former Fujitsu staff during trials in which subpostmasters were wrongly blamed and prosecuted for accounting errors caused by a computer system.

In September, a woman in her 60s was interviewed for a second time under caution, and last month a man, also in his 60s, also had a second interview under caution. They were both initially interviewed in July.

The Metropolitan Police said no arrests had been made and inquiries were continuing.

A Computer Weekly investigation in 2009 revealed that subpostmasters, who run and own Post Office branches, were being blamed for unexplained financial losses, which they claimed were caused by errors in the Horizon IT system, supplied by Fujitsu.

The Post Office denied this, and many subpostmasters were subsequently prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with prison sentences, community service, criminal records and heavy fines among the injustices they suffered as a result (see below for timeline of Computer Weekly coverage since it broke the story in 2009).

During the criminal trials of subpostmasters, Fujitsu staff were used as expert witnesses by the Post Office to defend the reliability of the Horizon system. They were aware of errors in the system but denied their existence.

In a High Court trial in 2019, after years of campaigning, subpostmasters proved that errors in the Fujitsu computer system used in Post Office branches were to blame for the unexplained accounting shortfalls they had been held responsible for. The Post Office admitted defeat after spending over £100m defending the case and agreed to pay damages.

At the conclusion of the court battle in December 2019, the judge, Peter Fraser, referred his concerns over the evidence given by Fujitsu witnesses during previous subpostmaster trials to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

In his letter to the DPP, judge Fraser wrote: “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.

Fraser had already stated that Post Office denials of errors in the Horizon system were “the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the Earth is flat”.

Evidence was subsequently passed to the Metropolitan Police by the DPP to be assessed and the force opened a criminal investigation last November.

More than 700 subpostmasters were convicted of crimes including theft and false accounting. About 70 have so far had their criminal convictions overturned in the Court of Appeal and Southwark Crown Court, with many more expected to follow.

Former police officer Ian Ross, now director at Tartan Forensic and a listed expert for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, said: “This case and the supporting evidence should have been before a criminal court a long time ago instead of this political dithering.”

No Post Office or Fujitsu executives, nor government ministers or civil servants, have been held responsible for the failings, and campaigners are demanding answers from former Post Office executives and civil servants. 

There is currently a statutory public inquiry into the scandal, which will have its first public hearing on 8 November. Follow it live on the inquiry YouTube channel.

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

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