Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry hearings begin
Marc Bloomfield
Description: Post Office (Pexels_Kelly L)
In what has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in the UK, 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were prosecuted between 2000 and 2014 for theft, fraud and false accounting in the post offices they ran. They lost their livelihoods, their liberty and in some cases their lives. At least 33 victims are now dead; four reportedly by suicide. The fault lay with the defective IT system, Horizon, which was designed by Fujitsu, but the Post Office refused to listen to complainants or admit to them that anyone else had similar problems.
If it knew there were so many complaints about the system, why did the Post Office push ahead with the prosecutions? In 2019, Fraser J described its approach as ‘the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat’ (Bates and others v Post Office Limited [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB) at para 929), simply ignoring the reality of the problem. In December 2019, the Post Office agreed to settle with 555 claimants who had taken legal action, paying £57.75m in damages. Since then, 72 people have had their convictions quashed in court.
As a result, the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry was established in non-statutory form on 29 September 2020, but was converted to a statutory inquiry on 1 June 2021. It is being led by retired High Court judge, Sir Wyn Williams, who will look to establish a clear account of the implementation of the system and its failings over 20 years. On 14 February 2022, the inquiry commenced a series of ‘Human Impact Hearings’, hearing oral evidence from affected individuals about how their lives were impacted by the Horizon dispute. The hearings are being livestreamed and are worth viewing (the earlier hearings are also available to view). The inquiry is expected to take most of 2022 to complete.

About the author(s)

Description: LAG
A national, independent charity, promoting equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially, economically or otherwise...