Post Office staff may have broken law, say lawyers

Lawyers for sub-postmasters say some investigators may have conspired to pervert the course of justice.
Post Office staff may have broken law, say lawyers
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Lawyers acting for sub-postmasters prosecuted by the Post Office claim some investigators involved in the prosecutions may have broken the law.

They said there is evidence to support allegations that more than a dozen Post Office staff may have conspired to pervert the course of justice.

The claims were made in a submission to the official inquiry into the scandal,

The lawyers also suggest some staff at IT contractor Fujitsu may have been involved in such alleged conspiracies.

Between 1999 and 2015, some 700 sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted by the Post Office, accused of theft and false accounting in cases that may have relied on evidence from the now-discredited Horizon IT system, which was developed by Fujitsu.

Some of those convicted went to prison, many were financially ruined and some have since died.

The law firm Hodge Jones & Allen represents a number of former sub-postmasters, including Lee Castleton, who was made bankrupt after a two-year legal battle with the Post Office. Mr Castleton was one of the sub-postmasters portrayed in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office broadcast in January.

He had been blamed for a shortfall of £25,000 in the accounts of his post office branch in Bridlington and when he refused to pay, the Post Office took him to court – and later pursued him for legal costs.

In a submission to the official inquiry into the Post Office scandal, the law firm claimed that by the time of his trial the Post Office was aware of “system errors” with the Horizon system, but suppressed information and pushed ahead with the case against him in an attempt to acquire a legal precedent.

The submission said there was evidence to support claims that a group of Post Office staff “conspired together, and with others to pervert the course of justice by pursuing a debt claim on behalf of POL [Post Office Limited] against Lee Castleton”.

It added that some employees of Fujitsu may also have conspired to pervert the course of justice by “distorting and concealing evidence” relevant to the case.

Lee Castleton

More broadly the submission claimed there was evidence that 14 individuals “conspired together, and with others, to pervert the course of justice by pursuing criminal prosecutions between 2000 and 2015 which were not in the interests of justice, but which were in the interests of POL and Fujitsu”.

The lawyers said those concerned should be “investigated, fearlessly and independently, in due course”.

A Post Office spokesman said the role of the inquiry was to “consider all the evidence on issues it is examining and independently reach conclusions”.

“We fully share its aims to get to the truth of what happened in the past. We take any allegations of misconduct very seriously and investigate through fair and established procedures,” a statement added.

Fujitsu said it did not wish to comment.

The Metropolitan Police said an investigation was “ongoing into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice”, arising from investigations and prosecutions carried out by the Post Office.

“Two people have been interviewed under caution to date. Our investigation is considering the actions of individuals connected with Fujitsu and the Post Office,” the force added.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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