HORIZON LEGAL ACTION IN BRIEF
About 20 years ago, Post Office (POL) introduced the Horizon computer system to replace manual records
Over those years, many Subpostmasters (SPMRs) experienced shortages and losses, from small amounts to many tens of thousands.
Hundreds of SPMRs were held responsible for these losses, often prosecuted, sometimes jailed, bankrupted and stripped of the business they had bought.
Over that 20 year period, Post Office swore oaths in front of assorted judges and even in front of Parliament that only SPMRs, through negligence, theft by staff, or fraud, could be responsible for ANY and all losses; there was no way POL could either access SPMRs systems OR change anything.
Horizon was reliable and robust and any system errors had no impact on SPMR accounts.
550 of those worst affected joined together and launched legal action against Post Office Limited, their action funded by contingency litigation firms.
Many months of expensive legal action followed, during the course of which POL witnesses attempted to mislead the Judge, and POLs IT contractor Fujitsu were forced to admit that, not only were there errors in Horizon that could cause losses, but also that Fujitsu staff could and DID access SPMRs systems remotely and change figures, sometimes making errors worse.
The Judge found for the claimants on all counts in the first and second trials.
Mercifully, in December 2019, POL (under a new CEO) saw sense and settled these cases for the sum of £58 MILLION; sadly less than £10m will reach the 550 claimants as litigation costs will swallow most of the money.
POL will also have to pay their own costs, approaching another £50M.
30 of the 550 claimants cases have been with the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a number of years, progress halted awaiting the outcome of these trials.
If the true facts had been available at the original hearings, it is very unlikely that a single SPMR would have ever been found guilty of the case brought DIRECTLY by POL, NOT the CPS.
Despite all this, most of those responsible within both POL and Fujitsu are either still in post or have retired on enhanced pensions.
Her Majestys Government is the SOLE owner of POL, and has a representative on the POL Board that made these continuing decisions to waste public money on legal action that was, from the outset, unwinnable,