Put up Workplace chief exec Nick Learn left British politicians shocked along with his proof earlier than a Parliamentary committee yesterday after he admitted he couldn’t say when the general public physique on the heart of the historic miscarriage of justice knew when its system was at fault.
A key aspect of the scandal – during which 736 managers of native Put up Workplace branches have been wrongfully convicted of fraud when errors within the system have been accountable – is when the Put up Workplace understood that the Horizon digital level of sale and accounting system from Fujitsu may very well be accessed remotely with out department employees’s data. Reports suggest the Put up Workplace knew from at the least 2012 – the system was put in in 1999.
In the course of the listening to, Fujitsu additionally admitted that it bore an ethical duty to compensate victims.
In 2015, the Put up Workplace informed the BBC and a Parliamentary committee that distant entry was not doable. It solely admitted the actual fact to the Excessive Court docket in 2019.
The media has overvalued the stress on the Put up Workplace and Fujitsu because the broadcast of an ITV tv drama concerning the injustice. Prime minister Rishi Sunak has since promised to introduce legislation to accelerate exoneration of the victims, in addition to compensation.
Talking after Learn’s proof, Parliament’s Enterprise and Commerce Committee chairman, Liam Byrne, mentioned: “You will have left us pretty shocked. You’ve got not been in a position to provide the committee with key occasions within the timeline, akin to when the Put up Workplace first knew that distant entry was doable. You’ve got informed us that you have not saved proof secure about what cash was paid to you inappropriately and subsequently is owed again, and you may’t estimate the dimensions of compensation.”
Learn turned Put up Workplace CEO in September 2019, shortly earlier than the Excessive Court docket slammed both the Post Office and Fujitsu. In his ruling, Mr Justice Fraser mentioned the Put up Workplace’s try to defend its Horizon IT system “quantities to the twenty first century equal of sustaining that the Earth is flat.”
Paul Patterson, director of Fujitsu Providers Ltd, informed MPs yesterday: “Assist and the interventions remotely from Fujitsu has been documented, and it’s clear the Put up Workplace have been definitely conscious of that distant entry, and that was clear for some time period.”
Learn refused to say who knew what when he joined the group, deferring as an alternative to the continued statutory inquiry.
“I’ve solely been within the group since 2019, so it is tough for me to remark,” he mentioned. “I feel a very powerful place for the commentary goes to be [during chairman] Sir Wyn Williams’ inquiry. We’re clearly cooperating with him wholeheartedly to be sure that all data we now have – and that we’re conscious of – is equipped to that inquiry. There shall be people within the Put up Workplace who shall be offering witness statements.”
Learn informed MPs he had – since taking on as CEO – met with 30 victims who had talked to him about their trauma.
Jo Hamilton, a former subpostmistress who noticed her conviction for theft quashed in 2021, was requested how she felt after saying that distant entry was doable for greater than 9 years, whereas the Put up Workplace was denying the info.
“It is nonetheless not sorted out. How lengthy have you ever obtained? It is stunning that it is taken this lengthy and value this a lot cash. Simply to have one thing that we have been banging on about for years [come out].”
Additionally chatting with MPs, Alan Bates, founding father of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, mentioned the Put up Workplace did not have the technical experience after it commissioned the £2.3 billion contract with ICL, which was later purchased by Fujitsu. “They very a lot relied upon their provider to even be their IT consultants and advisors alongside the way in which,” he mentioned. “That was the key downside. Even when they did not have the in-house experience, they need to have introduced in a 3rd occasion to help them alongside the way in which and never depend on Fujitsu.”
Fujitsu boss Patterson informed the committee: “We have been concerned from the very begin. We did have bugs and errors within the system. And we did assist the Put up Workplace of their prosecutions of the subpostmasters [and for] that we’re actually sorry.”
He mentioned Fujitsu bore an ethical obligation to contribute to compensating the victims of the scandal, however its extent can be decided when the statutory inquiry finishes. ®