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Post Office Scandal – live: MPs grill ‘sorry’ Fujitsu boss as Alan Bates says he’s not received compensation

A boss from Fujitsu has issued an apology to victims of the Post Office Scandal - as victim and lead campaigner Alan Bates revealed he was still waiting for his first compensation offer.

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, started his appearance before the Commons Business and Trade Committee by saying he was “truly sorry” for its role in the “appalling miscarriage of justice”.

Sitting alongside him, Post Office boss Nick Read said there had been a “cultural of denial” at the organisation when asked why it fought the provision of compensation to those who were unfairly punished for so long.

The pair were speaking after former postmaster Mr Bates revealed he was still waiting for his first compensation offer from his claim in the Post Office Scandal.

MP Liam Byrne, chairing the committee, says the evidence presented by Mr Patterson and Mr Read had left members feeling “fairly shocked”.

The scandal centres on the faulty Horizon IT system, made by Fujitsu, which made it appear as though money was missing, leading to the conviction of hundreds of postmasters by the Post Office.

Key points

  • Fujitsu provided evidence to help convict postmasters

  • Moral obligation for Fujtisu to contribute to the compensation bill

  • Bugs and errors in Horizon IT software was shared with the Post Office

  • Alan Bates still waiting for first compensation offer

  • All compensation payments ‘by the end of the year’

Post Office and Fujitsu leave MPs ‘feeling fairly shocked'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:41 , Alex Ross

Closing the session with Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, and Nick Read, Post Office boss, MP Liam Byrne, who is charing the committee, says the pair have left members feeling “fairly shocked” by their evidence, or lack of.

He says: “You have left us I think feeling fairly shocked, you’ve not been able to supply the committee with key events in the timeline such as when the Post Office first knew that remote access was possible.

“You’ve told us that you haven’t kept evidence safe about what money was paid to you inappropriate and therefore what is owed back and you can’t estimate the scale of compensation

“We are grateful for the moral committment from Fujitsu that they will share in the compensation payment but that leaves us many questions which we need to put to the minister which is the subject of our next session.”

Tuesday 16 January 2024 21:05 , Katy Clifton

We are pausing our updates for the evening, thanks for following along.

We’ll be back with more updates from the Post Office inquiry tomorrow.

Watch: Wrongly convicted sub-postmaster says the Post Office “turning her into a basket case”

Tuesday 16 January 2024 19:35 , Alex Ross

The Fujitsu apology and pledge to help with compensation

Tuesday 16 January 2024 19:00 , Alex Ross

At the start of giving evidence, Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, issued the apology. “We were involved from the very start,” he said. “We did have bugs and errors in the system. And we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of subpostmasters. For that we are truly sorry.”

He then told MPs that there was a “moral obligation for the company to contribute” to compensation.

“It’s also important that the inquiry deals with these very complex matters,” he said. “In that context, absolutely we have a part to play and to contribute to the redress, I think is the words that Mr Bates used, the redress fund for the subpostmasters.”

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, issued anapology
Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, issued anapology

MPs grill boss of Fujitsu

Tuesday 16 January 2024 18:08 , Alex Ross

It emerged during the five-hour session that Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, unlike the Post Office chief executive, had not met any of those sub-postmasters impacted by the convictions he admitted his company helped Post Office wrongly deliver.

Asked why not, Mr Patterson, who has held his role since 2019 but has worked at the company for more than a decade, said: “I have not not decided to meet victims - I have personally watched the drama on TV and read the evidence that was given in the impact statments by sub-postmasters and I have also watched some of the YouTube video of it.”

And grilled on why his Japanese-based company did nothing about the glitches in the Horizon system despite knowing about them early on after its introduction in 1999, he replied “I don’t know. I really don’t know.” He later said the company did make the Post Office aware of technical issues with the system during the prosecutions.

A long way to go yet for campaigners

Tuesday 16 January 2024 17:06 , Alex Ross

Twenty years it has taken for campaigners for news that those prosecuted during the Post Office Scandal will have their convictions overturned - but events on Monday revealed there was still some way to go.

Facing a panel of MPs on Tuesday, the Europe director for Fujitsu, Paul Patterson, delivered a strong apology to the sub-postmaster found guilty over glitches in its IT software installed at Post Office branches.

Mr Patterson went a step further to say the company had a “morale obligation” to contribute to the compensation.

However, as expressed by a “fairly shocked” Business and Trade Committee chairman Liam Byrne, both Mr Patterson and the chief executive of the Post Office, Nick Read, were still unable to estimate the scale of the compensation owed.

And speaking at the beginning or the morning session, former postmaster Alan Bates, dramatised in the ITV show Mr Bates vs The Post Office, revealed he had not yet received his first compensation offer - “it’s madness”, he said.

His evidence, coupled with fellow Jo Hamilton, who had her criminal conviction overturned in 2021, showed the campaign for justice, and compensation, was not over yet.

Fujitsu CEO ‘sorry’ over postmaster scandal

Tuesday 16 January 2024 17:03 , Alex Ross

Approached in the street while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland, the global chief executive of Fujitsu, Takahito Tokita, apologised to those impacted by the company’s Horizon IT system.

He told a BBC journalist: “Apologse to the [inaudible] the impact on the postmasters’ lives and that of their families.”

‘Morale obligation for the company to contribute'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 15:33 , Alex Ross

Key point from today was Fujitsu, which was behind the glitched Horizon software at the centre of the scandal, agreeing it owed money to the compensation scheme.

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, told MPs that there was a “moral obligation for the company to contribute” to compensation.

“It’s also important that the inquiry deals with these very complex matters,” he said.

“In that context, absolutely we have a part to play and to contribute to the redress, I think is the words that Mr Bates used, the redress fund for the subpostmasters.”

At Holyrood, Scotland’s top prosecutor has apologised to victims

Tuesday 16 January 2024 15:08 , Alex Ross

Scotland’s top prosecutor has apologised to those who “suffered a miscarriage of justice” as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said she wanted to “acknowledge the harm caused to the people in these cases who have suffered a miscarriage of justice”.

In a stattement to MSPs at Holyrood she said: “The wrongly accused and convicted subpostmasters and postmistresses are due an apology from those who have failed them, and I do that today as head of the system of criminal prosecution in Scotland.

“The Post Office is part of that system and I apologise for the failures of those in the Post Office who were responsible for investigating and reporting flawed cases.”

The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC delivers a statement on the Post Office Horizon IT scandal (PA)
The Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC delivers a statement on the Post Office Horizon IT scandal (PA)

200,000 sign petition demanding government cut Fujitsu contacts

Tuesday 16 January 2024 14:45 , Alex Ross

Fujitsu issued an apology at the hearing earlier - but that’s not enough for the tens of thousnad sof people who have signed a petition calling on the Government to stop handing contracts to Fujitsu.

The petition states contracts should only be provided after the firm was accountable for its role in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Robin Priestley, campaigns director at 38 Degrees, which launched the petition, said: “Since the airing of Mr Bates vs The Post Offic’ we’ve seen the immense power that the public’s anger on this appalling issue can have.

“With the backing of over 1.2 million people, our petition for Paula Vennells to lose her CBE achieved its aim, but there’s much more to do to ensure that those who oversaw the scandal which ruined so many sub-postmasters’ lives are truly held accountable.

“One part of that is ensuring accountability for Fujitsu, who have gone on to rake in millions of pounds in public contracts, despite their role.”

Post Office executives should be held to account

Tuesday 16 January 2024 14:30 , Alex Ross

Post Office chief executive Nick Read was asked whether they should ever be allowed to sit on the board of any company if they allowed private prosecutions of subpostmasters to wrongfully go ahead.

“If evidence is produced that there was some form of cover-up, then clearly action needs to be taken,” he told MPs.

“I think if there is a situation where there is culpability, then clearly people will need to be held to account.”

31 people have come forward since ITV drama

Tuesday 16 January 2024 14:15 , Alex Ross

Post Office boss Nick Read said it has seen more postmasters impacted by the Horizon scandal come forwarded directly to it since the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office was broadcast.

“What has happened as a consequence of the drama is that some 200 postmasters have come forward,” he said.

“We have had 31 who have come directly to us as a consequence of the drama. That is good, the raising awareness is a good thing as it is bringing people forward.

“As we’ve said before, we shouldn’t assume that the drama in itself will bring people forward, so we will continue to try and do so.

“You won’t be surprised but many postmasters tell us not to contact them and simply want to move on, which is a desperately concerning situation for us and people need redress.”

Call to make the compensation process simpler

Tuesday 16 January 2024 14:00 , Alex Ross

As we’ve explained previously, the compensation process has been testing for postmasters.

Mr Hollinrake is asked if the Post Office would seek to make the compensation process simpler - he says he welcomes the diea.

He says: “I think it’s incumbent on all of us involved in this process to try and accelerate every part of the process.”

He said he welcomed Post Office chief executive Nick Read’s promise to “look again at the process and streamline it because there were some very concerning evidence … about some of the complexity, some of the delays in responses, that shouldn’t have happened.

“There should be enough resources there to respond quickly to any any simple query, simple question.”

Session ended

Tuesday 16 January 2024 13:47 , Alex Ross

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake has finished giving evidence - we’ll now provide posts recapping on the highlights of today’s session while covering the Post Office Inquiry happening elsewhere today.

‘Determined to slim down the bureaucracy'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 13:44 , Alex Ross

Kevin Hollinrak told MPs “we’re determined to slim down the bureaucracy” surrounding compensation for subpostmasters.

He said he is working with the compensation advisory board on “how we can expedite payments”.

“If you look at all the schemes, they are very slow at the start, but that’s the way these schemes are because it takes a while to start filling the pipeline.”

But, he said, full and final settlements were made for most claimants that applied in the original timescale.

“It’s not as if people sit around doing nothing.”

Carl Creswell, director at the Department for Business and Trade, said: “We aren’t sitting there with a large number of unprocessed claims.”

Government “nervous” to directly compensate victim’s family members in Horizon scandal – Kevin Hollinrake

Tuesday 16 January 2024 13:11 , Alex Ross

Postal minister Kevin Hollinrake said the situation was “heart breaking” but there is “nervousness” to open compensation scheme up to families.

He said it would “hugely increase the scope and complexity” of compensation schemes: “It wouldn’t be an easy thing to do to open it up to family members”.

Ministers failed to grasp scale of scandal

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:54 , Alex Ross

Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake has admitted the government failed to grasp the scale of the Horizon scandal in the past.

He says: “I don’t think we’ve been sufficiently challenging, no. I mean, I think this wouldn’t have happened or it would have been resolved earlier if we’d been more challenging earlier.”

He continues: “I’m not going to blame any one of my predecessors specifically, but clearly we could have done better.”

Earlier, he said he expected legislation that will overturn the wrongful convictions of hundreds of Post Office operators to be presented “within weeks”.

Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake now giving evidence

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:45 , Alex Ross

Sitting before the committee, Mr Hollinrake is asked for a date for when all of those still awaiting financial redress will receive it.

He says: “I very much hope to hope that will be by August.”

But he adds: “It’s not a deadline. It’s an ambition we want to deliver this scheme by.”

Why has Post Office ‘dragged its feet'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:29 , Alex Ross

Asked why the Post Office “dragged its feet”, boss Nick Read blames a lack of understanding and curiosity for what was happening for there being resistance and delay in settling compensation claims from victim postmasters.

He added: “I want to ensure everyone in the organisation sees and understands what has been going on - that wasn’t the case when I joined in 2019.”

He added that he believes Fujitsu should help in paying copmensation to victims.

Fujitsu ‘knew of faults in 2008’, inquiry heard

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:22 , Zoe Grunewald

Over at the Horizon IT inquiry, it is revealed that Fujitsu executives knew that faults with the system could lead to legal challenges as early as 2008.

In an email presented as evidence to the inquiry, a Fujitsu executive said: “If we do not fix this problem our spreadsheets presented in court are liable to be brought into doubt if duplicate transactions are spotted.”

In a 2008 email under the heading “benefits and risks”, Fujitsu executive, Graham Welsh, said “If we cannot better identify where data integrity can or cannot be guaranteed then we are in breach of contract and may be fined heavily.”

Post Office “committed” to moving away from Horizon system - Post Office boss

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:18 , Zoe Grunewald

Post Office boss, Nick Read told MPs that the Post Office is “committed to get off Horizon” and they want a “new and upgraded” system.

He called the current Horizon system “clunky, outdated and old”, telling MPs: “We need a modern system for a modern post office, and we will be getting off Horizon”.

The Horizon IT system is accounting software, designed by Fujitsu, which saw accounts automated after subpostmasters entered their sales figures via a touchscreen.

Post Office prosecuted more than 700 operators for offences such as theft and false accounting based on the information from Horizon between 1999 and 2015.

No more private prosecutions by the Post Office

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:15 , Alex Ross

The convictions against the postmasters were done through private proseuctions by the Post Office.

Post Office boss Nick Read has said he does not think that the organisation will perform any more in the future.

“I don’t think the Post Office would want to carry out private prosecutions,” he told the Business and Trade Committee.

“I’ve been very clear on my watch they won’t and I see no reason why they should continue to do so.”

Post Office facing liabilities bill of around £1 billion

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:12 , Alex Ross

Post Office boss Nick Read appeared to concede that the organisation could face liabilities of around £1 billion due to the Horizon scandal and related compensation claims.

The £1 billion figure was put to Mr Read during his appearance in front of the Business and Trade Committee.

He began by saying he did not recognise the figure but, pressed again said: “I think what has been done in the last 10 days in terms of the potential to mass exonerate, that is going to obviously generate a lot of people coming forward.”

Asked for an assessment of the £1 billion estimate, he said: “I think it’s unlikely to be that size, but it may well be.”

Fujitsu provided evidence to help convict postmasters

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:09 , Alex Ross

Mr Patterson has told MPs the company gave evidence which was used to send innocent people to prison during the Horizon scandal.

When asked if the Japanese technology firm’s evidence was used for this evidence, he said: “Yes, there was evidence from us.

“We were supporting the Post Office in their prosecutions. There was data given from us to them to support those prosecutions.

“The information shared with the Post Office as part of our contract with them was very clear – the Post Office also knew there were bugs and errors.”

Later in the hearing, he added: “We did support the Post Office in those prosecutions, adn we did give them information to do that.”

Information about bugs and errors in Horizon IT software was shared with the Post Office

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:01 , Zoe Grunewald

Patterson told MPs that there were bugs and errors in the Horizon IT system right from the start, and that “in any large IT project there will always be some bugs and errors in any system, particularly of this scale.”

However, Patterson also said that they Fujitsu shared the relevant information about these technical issues with the Post Office.

“The important thing is what we do with that information […] how the Post Office then decided to use that information in their prosecutions is entirely on the Post Office’s side.”

‘I have not met any postmasters’ - Fujitsu boss

Tuesday 16 January 2024 12:00 , Alex Ross

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, is told the chief executive of Post Office has met some of the postmasters impacted, and then asked how many he has met.

“I have not met any postmasters physically,” he says.

Asked why, he says: “I have not not decided to meet victims - I have personally watched the drama on TV and read the evidence that was given in the impact statments by subpostmasters and I have also watched some of the YouTube video of it.”

Why has it taken an ITV drama for Fujitsu to be more forthcoming, and why does the company feel it is above contacting victims he’s then asked.

He replies?: “I certainly don’t feel above that, and I don’t think the company believes it is above that either. What I do believe is we need to get to the bottom of the entire truth and make sure that truth is transparent and not just jump to a paticular sound bite.”

“I don’t know” why Fujitsu did nothing about technical issues – Fujitsu boss

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:50 , Zoe Grunewald

Paul Patterson, European director of Fujitsu, told MPs he doesn’t know why his company did “nothing” about technical glitches in the Horizon IT system despite being aware of issues.

Speaking to the Business and Trade Committee, Patterson said “I really don’t know, and on a personal level I wish I did know.

Following my appointment in 2019 I’ve looked back on those situations for the company, and the evidence I’ve seen, and I just don’t know.”

There is a moral obligation for Fujtisu to contribute to the compensation bill - Fujitsu boss

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:39 , Alex Ross

Fujitsu European director Paul Patterson tells MPs that Fujitsu does have a “moral obligation” to contribute to compensation bill.

The admission follows the apology at the beginning of the evidence session.Committee Chair Ian Byrne questions why Fujitsu has not made provisions in their annual financial accounts for compensation payments.

Mr Patterson replies that Fujitsu acknowledges they have moral obligation in compensation, and while they have to wait for the inquiry to proceed, they “have a part to play in the redress fund”.

Fujitsu apologises to victims

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:31 , Alex Ross

Now Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, is before the committee - and he starts his evidence by issuing an apology on behalf of the company.

He said: “Fujitsu would like to apologise for our part in this appalling miscarriage of justice. We were involved from the very start.

“We did have bugs and errors in the system and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of the sub-postmasters and for that we are truly sorry.”

Post office profits are “our money”, Jo Hamilton tells MPs

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:26 , Alex Ross

MPs asked Jo Hamilton, former sub-postmistress and wrongly convicted victim of Horizon IT scandal, about the emotional impact of having to remortgage her house on multiple occasions to pay the Post Office.

One MP asked her how she would feel to know that her money had gone into Post Office profits and potentially paid for the bonuses of top executives.

Ms Hamilton replied that it was “sickening” to think that campaigners were “shouting so loud” but “their money was just being played with”.

“They looked profitable at one point, but it was our money”, she said.

‘The cover up is far worse than the initial crime’ - Alan Bates

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:25 , Alex Ross

Alan Bates reveals his battle for justice was made harder by a “major cover up”.

Not holding back, he says: ‘We’ve always known that we were right, and it was just the Post Office decided to try to control the whole narrative over the years because of their power and money and all the rest of it.

“They had the ear of politicans, they used to brief them and it was very very hard to battle against them

“We always knew we were right, there was a major cover up going on. The cover up is far worse than the inital crime and proseuction of individuals in all of this

Criticism of red tape and bureaucracy

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:16 , Alex Ross

Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton have both criticised the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the Horizon scandal compensation schemes.

Mr Bates, who is part of the Group Litigation Order Scheme, said it was “bogged down” in red tape.

Appearing before the Business and Trade Committee, he also agreed with the description by chairman Liam Byrne that officials processing compensation schemes were “not busting a gut”.

On his own claim, he said: “I think it was 53 days before they asked three very simple questions. It’s madness, the whole thing is madness. And there’s no transparency behind it, which is even more frustrating. We do not know what’s happening to these cases once they disappear in there.”

Ms Hamilton, who was wrongfully convicted in the scandal, said: “It’s almost like you’re being retried … it just goes on and on and on.”

Publicity of Horizon scandal sends a “warning shot” to big corporations – Alan Bates

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:14 , Alex Ross

Alan Bates, former sub-postmaster and campaigner for victims of the Horizon IT scandal told MPs that he hopes the publicity of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry and the sub-postmaster’s fight for justice “sends a warning shot across the bows of these big corporations” that what the way they work “really affects people right down at the front line of these organisations”.

Bates referenced the contaminated blood scandal, and said that people in jobs of “high responsibility” are “not being held to account at the end of the day” and that he hopes the plight of the Horizon IT victims will demonstrate to leaders to “keep your eye on the ball”.

Alan Bates is appearing remotely before today’s hearing (PA)
Alan Bates is appearing remotely before today’s hearing (PA)

‘Madness’ on compensation delays

Tuesday 16 January 2024 11:02 , Alex Ross

Alan Bates says the departments handling compensation offers were “not bursting a gut” to resolve the situation.

He described his own experience, revealing he’d submitted his claim for a compensation offer in October, and despite the deadline of 40 working days for an offer to be received, it’d now been told he would not get one until the end of January - 77 days, he says.

“Thec ases are sat there and not moving through,” he says.

‘Almost like you’re a criminal again’ - Jo Hamilton

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:59 , Alex Ross

Jo Hamilton says the over-turned conviction scheme is “almost like you’re a criminal again”.

Ms Hamilton, who was wrongly convicted during the Horizon IT scandal, told MPs her experience of the over-turned conviction scheme was “painfully slow”.

She said the process is extremely time-consuming, and users are made to feel like they’re being “re-tried”.

“[They] drill into the minute details of everything.

“There has to be a way where you can see people in different bands and sort out a simpler version that won’t be so costly for the government”

“Everything you say that you’d like, they say ‘justify that, justify that’. It just goes on and on and on”.

Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton appear

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:50 , Alex Ross

Mr Bates appears remotely to the committee while Ms Hamilton is there - questioning beginning now

Postmasters suffering with PTSD and paranoia, Dr Neil Hudgell tells MPs

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:48 , Zoe Grunewald

Dr Hudgell, who represents victims of the Horizon IT scandal, tells the business and trade committee that many of his clients are suffering with mental health issues as a result of the Horizon IT scandal.

He told MPs: “We’ve got in excess of 100 psychiatric reports for people diagnosed with all sorts of depressive illnesses, post traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, everything that you can possibly think of.”

Dr Hudgell also said that although Fujitsu “have a role to play”, it’s about “decisions made on the back of that flawed IT system.

“So who made those decisions? Who’s responsible for that? Fujitsu are certainly part and parcel of that.”

We’re only “half-way” to find out what really happened in Horizon IT scandal – Lord Arbuthnot

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:47 , Zoe Grunewald

Lord Arbuthnot, who campaigned on behalf of postmasters for many years, told that he had “faith in the inquiry” and he hopes that it will “get to the bottom of who knew what and when, of what actually happened.”

He told MPs: “I think we’re actually only half-way to finding that out at the moment [...] We’ve got so many things that have gone wrong here, possibly the adversarial system of our court processes is one of them, the notion of private prosecutions is another, the presumption that computer evidence is reliable is another.”

Only three out of 73 convicted subpostmasters given compensation

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:39 , Alex Ross

Dr Neil Hudgell said that only three of his former subpostmaster clients who had been criminally convicted had received compensation.

He said: “Within the convicted cohort of clients that we have, of the 73, three have been fully paid out.”

He told the Business and Trade Committee: “It sounds perverse to say this, but I’m not sure that enough resources are thrown at it in terms of the right results into the right areas.

“For example, routinely with the overturned conviction cases it’s taking three to four months to get a response to routine correspondence.”

Asked by committee chairman Liam Byrne if government bureaucracy was “dragging its feet”, he replied: “That’s the only logical conclusion that that I can come to.”

‘We can’t have people going to their graves with convictions’

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:37 , Alex Ross

Lord James Arbuthonot said Rishi Sunak’s proposed legislation on quashing convictions was “very welcome”. He added: “Mass problem which required a mass solution.”

But he said there will be some victims who will still not come forward. “I beg they come forward,” he said.

He added that he didn’t think the judiciary was happy with the situation, with this being the biggest appeal against for number of claimants. But he hoped they “would accept that these cases need urgent overturned because we can’t have people going to their graves with convictions on their records”.

Lord Arbuthnot giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/PA Wire)
Lord Arbuthnot giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/PA Wire)

‘Assume nothing’ on computer evidence

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:30 , Alex Ross

Dr Neil Hudgell says computer evidence can not be relied upon, going further to say it used discriminately to push cases against some of his clients.

He said: “One big lesson is to assume nothing - I’ve got issues with specific cases where it may have been three or four years ago, I’d assume that this couldn’t have happened, but forgery of documentation, creation of fictitious accounts to dismiss people is now firmly in my sights to have more likely to have happened than not.

“I don’t think you can assume anything now when it comes to the behaviour which has gone on the last 20 years because I think every week there is a new revelation

“One of the many good things which has come from the dramatisation is increasing number of whistleblowers have come out and start to spill the beans.”

Role of Fujitsu

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:19 , Alex Ross

Mr Hudgell says bosses at Fujitsu should be considered for accountability as part of the scandal, but added that the focus should be on the Post Office.

He said: “Fujitsu have a role to play, but this isn’t about a flawed IT system, it is about decisions made on the back of it.”

The Prime Minister has faced calls to bar Fujitsu from securing Government contracts and pursue the firm for compensation payments.

Dr Neil Hudgell, executive chairman of Hudgell Solicitors (House of Commons/PA Wire)
Dr Neil Hudgell, executive chairman of Hudgell Solicitors (House of Commons/PA Wire)

Give people ‘the benefit of the doubt'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:14 , Alex Ross

Dr Neil Hudgell, from Hudgell Solicitors who represents more than 400 people “wronged” by the scandal, sasy the legislation to quash convictions must give people “the benefit of the doubt”.

He said it must also provide self-certification so people can quickly have their convictions overturned and compensation paid.

He adds that red tape has severely held up the process so far.

All compensation payments ‘by the end of the year’

Tuesday 16 January 2024 10:10 , Alex Ross

Lord James Arbuthonot is asked what the reasonable time frame is for everyone impacted to receive compensation.

He replies: “This has gone for more than 30 years and if we can sort by the end of the year, that would be a welcome change. Let’s hope we can get it sorted out before August.”

He then points out that the convictions, more than 900 in total in says, must be overturned before all the compensation payments are settled.

Rishi Sunak has proposed leglisation to quash convictions which is now going through Parliament.

Ok, we’re about to start the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:55 , Alex Ross

From 10am, Lord James Arbuthonot will appear.

The former MP for North East Hampshire from 1997 to 2015 and has been instrumental in helping victims of the scandal.

Stay tuned for coverage..

Lord David Cameron can’t remember Horizon briefings ‘in any detail'

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:52 , Alex Ross

Lord David Cameron has insisted he cannot recall “in any detail” being briefed about the Horizon scandal while he was prime minister.

The Foreign Secretary said on Sunday that anyone who has been involved in government in the last two decades has got to be “extremely sorry” for the miscarriage of justice.

The Tory peer, who was in No 10 between 2010 and 2016 as hundreds of subpostmasters were being pursued, faced questions about what action he took to stop it.

He told Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “I don’t recall in any detail being briefed or being aware of the scale of this issue.

“We’ve got to get to the bottom of it, and that’s what inquiries do, they can look at what were ministers told, what information was put in front of them, what did they decide – because it’s hard to remember every letter and piece of paper put in front of you.”

Lord David Cameron was in No 10 between 2010 and 2016 (PA)
Lord David Cameron was in No 10 between 2010 and 2016 (PA)

Recap - what is the Post Office scandal about

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:50 , Alex Ross

The Horizon IT system is accounting software, designed by Japanese company Fujitsu, which saw accounts automated after subpostmasters entered their sales figures via a touchscreen.

Due to faulty software, subpostmasters started experiencing unexplained shortfalls in their accounts and were liable for losses under their contract with the Post Office, with subpostmasters being ordered to pay back the money that was lost.

But despite concerns being raised, Post Office prosecuted more than 700 operators for offences such as theft and false accounting based on the information from Horizon between 1999 and 2015.

Decades on, the Post Office says on a page dedicated to the scandal on its website: “We are sincerely sorry for past events and recognise both the impact on individual lives and the length of time any victims have waited for justice.”

The corporate acceptance came after a High Court judge ruled in 2019 that Horizon contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

 (Getty)
(Getty)

The schedule today at the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:45 , Alex Ross

At 10am

  • Dr Neil Hudgell, Executive Chairman, Hudgell Solicitors

  • The Rt Hon. Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom

At 10.30am

  • Alan Bates, Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance

  • Jo Hamilton, former sub-postmaster

At 11.00am

  • Nick Read, Chief Executive, Post Office

  • Paul Patterson, Director, Europe, Fujitsu Services Limited

At 11:30pm

  • Kevin Hollinrake MP, Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business

  • Carl Creswell, Director, Business Resilience, Department for Business and Trade

What the scandal victims have been told to expect so far

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:38 , Alex Ross

The process up to now has been complicated for those who have been impacted by the Horizon scandal.

There are several compensation schemes - run by the government and Post Office - with a Rishi Sunak declaring last week: “We’ve paid almost £150m in compensation to over 2,500 victims.”

The government announced in September that anyone wrongly convicted was eligible for a compensation sum of £600,000.

And last week Mr Sunak offered a £75,000 upfront payment as he looked to speed up the process at a time of a public outcry.

Who are the Post Office and Fujitsu bosses appearing

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:27 , Alex Ross

Nick Read - chief executive of the Post OfficeMr Read took over at the Post Office in September 2019, after the scandal emerged, and last year handed back around £54,000 in bonus payments linked to the firm’s co-operation with the public inquiry into the crisis.

Paul Patterson - Europe director at Fujitsu

Mr Patterson has been in his current role since 2019 but has worked for Fujitsu since 2010.

Kevin Hollinrake, Post Office minister

Mr Hollinrake has argued that Post Office figures found responsible for the scandal should be jailed

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake (PA Wire)
Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake (PA Wire)

What can we expect from today

Tuesday 16 January 2024 09:24 , Alex Ross

The bosses of the Post Office and Fujitsu and Alan Bates, the former subpostmaster who has led the campaign for justice in the Horizon scandalm are to be questioned by MPs.

The Commons’ Business and Trade Committee will examine what more can be done to deliver compensation for victims of what has been labelled one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office, and Paul Patterson, Europe director at Fujitsu, are both due to appear.

Alan Bates, the campaigning former subpostmaster on whom the series centred, said ahead of the committee hearing that his focus was on pushing for swift compensation for the victims.

He told Sky News: “I have one concern, and it’s to get the compensation right, that’s it.

“They should be moving heaven and earth to get it done and get it done fast.”

Alan Bates will be appearing before the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)
Alan Bates will be appearing before the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/PA) (PA Archive)