Post Office prevarications

Blame game continues as victims wait

The only certainty in the ongoing Horizon IT scandal at the Post Office is that its victims are continuing to suffer unjust humiliation and neglect. To recap: Japanese tech company Fujitsu Services developed and began operating the Horizon financial software services for the Post Office in 1999. From the start, there were reports of software issues, but the Post Office claimed these were largely the fault of individual branch managers. Between 1999 and 2015, more than 700 sub-postmasters were accused of wrongdoing, leading to prosecutions, convictions and, in some cases, prison sentences. Postmasters found guilty were ordered to “pay back” money they’d been wrongly accused of stealing from the Post Office, leading some to bankruptcy and financial ruin. Victims and their families reported that wrongful convictions contributed to addiction, illness and even suicide. Ten years after the introduction of the disastrous system, postmasters formed the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance Group, which, a further ten years on in 2019, won its High Court case against the Post Office, and compensation was agreed. But that was not the end of the battle to get full and fair compensation for victims. The terrible extent of the scandal only came to national public attention in January when ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office brought the story to light. Now, as the long-running public inquiry continues, those in power, then and now, are running for cover, denying responsibility or shifting blame onto others. While Rishi Sunak spouts on about the importance of compensation schemes and “people getting the justice they deserve”, his Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch accuses Henry Stanton, former chairman of the Post Office of “lies”, following his claim that he was told to “stall” on compensation ahead of the general election. The inquiry is set to publish its findings late next year, and Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, says investigations into potential criminal offences will take until at least 2026. Unbelievably, despite all this, the government has extended its contract for Horizon with Fujitsu, while many of the victims and their families continue to wait, and hope.

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