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Some former Post Office staff should be jailed over scandal, says government minister

Government minister outlines the real prospect that people will be jailed for their roles in the Post Office Horizon scandal

The government minister in charge of the Post Office has said former Post Office executives and others responsible for the Horizon scandal should be jailed.

Business and trade minister Kevin Hollinrake’s commitment to hold the instigators of the scandal to account comes on the eve of the next phase of the Post Office Horizon scandal public inquiry. This could include former Post Office staff, workers at Fujitsu, as well as those in government.

“Where evidence has been established, people should be prosecuted – that is my view. People within the Post Office and possibly further afield should go to jail,” said Hollinrake.

“We have to go through a process. If the threshold is met and the evidence is there, and criminal prosecutions can be undertaken and people are found guilty, I have no reservation about saying people should go to jail,” he added.

Hollinrake was speaking at a meeting with victims of the scandal in Fenny Compton, where subpostmasters first met in 2009 to start their fight for justice after Computer Weekly first exposed the scandal.

During the meeting, former subpostmaster Seema Misra, who was wrongly convicted of theft and sent to prison while pregnant, called for those responsible to be jailed. Misra, whose wrongful conviction was overturned in 2021, called for investigations of individuals at the Post Office to be sped up. She asked: “Why should it wait until after the public inquiry?”

The next phase of the public inquiry promises to be the most revelatory of all, featuring, to name a few, former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells, Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey and some civil servants – and it all kicks off with Alan Bates, the former subpostmaster who led the fight for justice.

What is the public inquiry and what has it exposed?

After the High Court victory in 2019, the first thing Bates said to Computer Weekly was that he wanted a statutory public inquiry into the scandal. He got it in May 2021, when a government inquiry into the scandal was made statutory.

The inquiry, chaired by former judge Wyn Williams, is split into seven phases. It has so far heard statements from victims in the human impact phase, investigated the Horizon IT system, looked at its operation and knowledge of errors, as well as legal action against subpostmasters.

The human impact hearings were particularly shocking, revealing the extreme suffering of people at the hands of the Post Office. Other phases revealed that the Post Office was aware that the Horizon software had bugs when rolled out, that prosecution witnesses changed their statements when prompted by the Post Office, and that lawyers hid evidence during trials of subpostmasters because it would have made their prosecutions unsafe.

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to the accounting software (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal below).

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story

Read all Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009

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