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Former Fujitsu staff under police investigation to face Post Office IT scandal inquiry

Two former Fujitsu IT professionals being investigated for potential perjury will face Post Office Horizon public inquiry in May

Two former Fujitsu workers, who are currently under police investigation for possible perjury, will give evidence and face questions in the statutory inquiry into the Post Office IT scandal.

According to the latest inquiry timetable, Anne Chambers and Gareth Jenkins will appear in front of inquiry chair Wyn Williams in the first week of May.

The pair were used as expert witnesses in trials of subpostmasters blamed for accounting shortfalls and prosecuted for theft and fraud based on computer evidence and are being investigated by the Metropolitan Police for potentially committing perjury.

A multimillion-pound High Court case in 2019 proved that bugs in the Post Office’s computer system, which was supplied by Fujitsu, were to blame for unexplained accounting shortfalls.

Evidence emerged that Fujitsu and Post Office staff knew of computer errors but failed to reveal them during trials of subpostmasters.

In December 2019, before handing down a judgment in the High Court, judge Peter Fraser said 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 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,” Fraser said at the time.

A total of 736 subpostmasters and branch staff were prosecuted based on evidence from the Post Office’s Horizon accounting system used in branches between 2000 and 2015, many of whom were given prison sentences.

Read more about the potential perjury investigation

Over 80 people who were prosecuted have so far had their criminal convictions overturned, with many more expected.

In January 2020, the director of public prosecutions referred concerns passed to him by judge Fraser to the Metropolitan Police. By November 2020, the Met had opened a criminal investigation into the two former Fujitsu workers.

Police working on the case have interviewed the former Fujitsu staff several times in the two years since the investigation was launched. It has also interviewed at least one former subpostmaster who was a victim of the scandal.

The statutory public inquiry is currently in its third phase, looking into the operation of the Horizon system, including training, assistance, resolution of disputes, knowledge and rectification of errors in the system.

Both former Fujitsu workers featured in phase two of the Horizon scandal, although not giving evidence. Phase two of the inquiry examined the procurement, design, pilot, roll-out and modifications.

In November last year, during a hearing in phase two of the inquiry, John Simpkin, Horizon system software support centre team leader at Fujitsu, who worked with Anne Chambers, said she had been “very unhappy” about being “manoeuvred” into giving evidence.

Chambers appeared as an expert witness at the High Court during the case of Lee Castleton, a postmaster from Bridlington, East Yorkshire. Castleton was declared bankrupt after he refused to pay the Post Office £27,000 – money it said he owed because the accounts at his branch showed unexplained deficits over a 12-week period in 2004.

Simpkins told the inquiry: “[After giving evidence] I know she was not very happy and never wanted to do it again. She fed back to our manager that she did not find it at all nice and I believe the manager pushed back that so it wouldn’t happen again.”

Gareth Jenkins was chief architect at Fujitsu, and was used as a expert witness in trials of subpostmasters accused of theft and false accounting. In 2013, a lawyer contracted by the Post Office, Simon Clarke of Cartwright King, told the Post Office that Jenkins should not be used as a witness as it was in breach of his duties.

The Metropolitan Police said the investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made in relation to it.

Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the Horizon system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters affected by reporting errors (see timeline of articles below).

Read all Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009

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