The Submit Workplace’s major consideration was to “defend the integrity of its [IT] system” when taking subpostmasters to court docket over unexplained accounting shortfalls, and never the subpostmasters’ welfare, in line with a Fujitsu memo written within the aftermath of a court docket case which “destroyed” a household.
In an inner memo which adopted giving proof in opposition to a subpostmaster in 2006, Fujitsu IT knowledgeable Anne Chambers outlined her considerations about Fujitsu workers performing the function of knowledgeable witnesses in circumstances in opposition to subpostmasters.
She wrote that the Submit Workplace was not involved about attending to the underside of reported issues with the Horizon laptop system as a result of it needed to guard its repute.
The memo was written after Chambers had given proof in a 2006 civil case in opposition to former subpostmaster Lee Castleton, who ran a department in Bridlington, North Yorkshire.
Throughout her questioning within the newest listening to within the Submit Workplace Horizon IT scandal, Chambers mentioned: “I feel by this level I had realised that the end result for the subpostmasters was not the first concern of the Submit Workplace. It was pretty clear that they have been eager on defending the integrity of its system slightly than making an attempt to resolve points – whether or not laptop issues or enterprise issues – affecting specific branches.”
Chambers and former colleague Gareth Jenkins are each at the moment being investigated by the Metropolitan Police for potential perjury in relation to their roles as witnesses in court docket when subpostmasters have been being prosecuted for alleged monetary crimes.
Pc Weekly first reported on the issues with the Fujitsu-supplied Horizon system in 2009 when it made public the tales of a gaggle of subpostmasters whose lives have been ruined once they have been blamed for accounting shortfalls brought on by laptop errors (see timeline of Pc Weekly articles beneath). Over 700 subpostmasters have been blamed and prosecuted for unexplained accounting shortfalls, with many extra financially ruined.
One of many effected subpostmasters was Castleton. When his department confirmed a lack of £26,000 that he couldn’t clarify, the Submit Workplace demanded that Castleton make up the shortfall. Castleton all the time mentioned the losses in his accounts have been brought on by laptop errors, however he had no manner of proving this on the time.
He was so involved in regards to the debt that he refused to pay it again, and determined to go to court docket to contest the Submit Workplace’s insistence that he ought to pay. The Submit Workplace threw all the pieces on the authorized problem introduced by Castleton, and the court docket dominated that the debt was actual, not illusory, as Castleton argued. The choose in his case awarded the Submit Workplace damages of roughly £26,000, the quantity of the unexplained loss, and prices of £321,000, which bankrupted Castleton and turned his and his household’s life right into a nightmare.
Submit Workplace witnesses, together with Chambers, mentioned there was no proof of any downside with the system and that they have been unable to determine any foundation upon which the Horizon system might have brought about Castleton’s losses.
Additionally in her 2007 memo, Chambers wrote that Fujitsu had made a “main authorized blunder” by failing to reveal proof through the Submit Workplace’s authorized battle with Castleton.
“Fujitsu made a serious authorized blunder by not disclosing all of the related proof that was in existence. I discovered myself within the invidious place of being conscious that some info existed, however undecided whether or not [it] had been disclosed or not, since I had not been get together to any of the requests for disclosure,” she wrote within the memo. “It grew to become evident in court docket [it] had not been disclosed.”
Chamber’s memo was despatched to her supervisor, however nothing was performed to deal with her considerations. She agreed with inquiry barrister Jason Beer’s view that her managers principally mentioned: “Nicely performed, we’re simply submitting this.”
Earlier within the listening to, Chambers confirmed that recognized Horizon errors weren’t disclosed to the court docket.
The Submit Workplace saved particulars of recognized laptop errors hidden from subpostmasters and their authorized groups throughout authorized battles when the Horizon laptop system was being blamed for unexplained shortfalls.
“I used to be instructed fairly early within the course of that recognized error logs weren’t disclosed,” Chambers mentioned. She didn’t know and couldn’t bear in mind who instructed her that. Beer requested her if it was “as a result of they revealed errors?”, and he or she replied that she didn’t know, however was instructed “that’s the way it was”.
On the time, she mentioned she thought this was flawed as a result of “in her layman phrases, she thought it’s important to disclose all the pieces”.
She was later requested by barrister Flora Web page, representing former subpostmasters affected by the Horizon scandal, why she didn’t query why recognized errors weren’t disclosed. She mentioned: “I ought to have, however I used to be in a really unfamiliar place.”
The Submit Workplace had gone to nice lengths to maintain secret the existence of a report of Horizon errors, often known as the Recognized Errors Log. It had denied its existence for years, in an try to defend its stance that the system contained no errors, and it was not till In January 2019, on the eve of the second trial in a Excessive Court docket case the place subpostmasters sued the Submit Workplace, that Pc Weekly uncovered the existence of the Horizon “Recognized Errors Log”. It contained hundreds of errors within the Submit Workplace Horizon IT system and supporting companies.
From Horizon’s introduction in 2000, the Submit Workplace’s first line of defence when subpostmasters blamed the Horizon laptop system for unexplained accounting shortfalls was that they have been the one ones experiencing issues.
Talking after the newest listening to, Castleton mentioned he’s not shocked by what he hears within the public inquiry: “This simply proves what we mentioned each time. Each person who has been a sufferer has mentioned the identical factor.”