Post Office hires ex-police to check its investigators in Horizon scandal

The Post Office says the team will look into allegations that have emerged during a public inquiry.
Post Office hires ex-police to check its investigators in Horizon scandal
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The Post Office has hired investigators, including some ex-police, to look at its own staff’s previous work investigating the Horizon scandal.

The new team will look at allegations against current and past employees involved in the prosecution of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses.

Concerns about conduct have been raised during an ongoing public inquiry.

A spokesperson said it was aware of the human cost of the scandal.

Relevant findings from the internal investigation could be passed on to authorities, including the police, or acted upon by the Post Office itself.

A Post Office spokesperson said that it takes “any allegations of wrongdoing extremely seriously and investigates through established procedures including the involvement of relevant authorities as appropriate”.

The Post Office scandal has been described as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted due to faulty software.

Incorrect information provided by a computer system called Horizon, developed by Japanese firm Fujitsu, meant that sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted for stealing money.

Many of those convicted went to prison for false accounting and theft. Many were financially ruined and some caught up in the scandal have since died or taken their own lives in the following years.

An ITV drama triggered renewed public interest in the matter and fresh government action.

The government recently confirmed it would clear the names of hundreds of people wrongly convicted under new legislation.

The law is expected to come into effect by the end of July and will apply to convictions in England and Wales.

It will apply to convictions meeting specific criteria and is expected to clear the majority of victims, while the public inquiry led by retired judge Sir Wyn Williams is ongoing.

During the public hearings, several former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have described their own experiences and feeling intimidated by investigators.

One ex-Post Office investigator recently denied he and colleagues behaved like “mafia gangsters” towards wrongly accused sub-postmasters.

As first reported by the Times, a new team has been put together to look into its own investigators who questioned and prosecuted the branch managers.

The newspaper reported that four former detectives are interviewing persecuted postmasters and mistresses, trying to learn about how they were treated by the Post Office employees who built cases against them.

‘Righting wrongs’

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We are acutely aware of the human cost of the scandal and we are doing all we can to right the wrongs of the past, as far as that is possible.

“We are looking at specific allegations that have been made during the public inquiry about both current and past employees who may have been involved with the prosecution of former postmasters or sought the repayment of shortfalls caused by previous versions of Horizon under old contracts that previously existed with postmasters.”

The spokesperson said the firm had “rightly” been criticised for past investigation practices.

The new team will include experienced criminal investigators recruited to look at the quality of a number of past investigations due to some of the allegations coming up in the inquiry.

The spokesperson added that it was hoped as much information as possible would be shared with former postmasters.

Henry Staunton

UK Parliament

He said he had been told to stall compensation pay-outs but Ms Badenoch said the claim was “completely false”.

On Sunday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said he “probably should have said sorry earlier on” in relation to his role in the Post Office scandal.

Sir Ed served as post office minister under the coalition government from 2010 to 2012, and has since apologised to victims.

Asked why it took him so long to apologise, Sir Ed told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: “I probably should have said sorry earlier on, but it is a huge scandal and our hearts go out to those hundreds of sub-postmasters and their families who were treated appallingly.

“The key thing now is to make sure that those exonerations happen quickly, that they get the compensation quickly and that they get to the truth with the inquiry.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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