The Post Office Horizon IT scandal
The start of the year has been dominated by the significant public interest in the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, which was instigated by the four-part TV series aired on ITV over Christmas called Mr Bates vs The Post Office, and the ongoing statutory public inquiry into the matter
The scandal that occurred years ago, between 2000 and 2015, and has only just been given the attention it deserves, involved sub-postmasters and mistresses being wrongly prosecuted for offences based on information provided by the Horizon IT system used by the Post Office. Nearly a thousand people suffered miscarriages of justices due to the Post Office’s actions, sparking calls for private prosecutions to be reformed.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published an update on its investigation into the scandal on 19 January, explaining that it is currently working on a number of live cases concerning solicitors and law firms that were working on behalf of the Post Office/Royal Mail Group during the time in question. The regulator has been scrutinising evidence, including documents provided by the Post Office as a result of a court order and information shared publicly as a result of the ongoing statutory inquiry. The SRA is keen to stress that it will take action where there is evidence that solicitors have fallen short of the accepted standards.
Elsewhere, the media are reporting on the potential implications for Fujitsu, the tech giant behind the Horizon system, and its role in the scandal. There has been mass public outrage that rather than fix the problems with the IT system, designed and maintained by the Japanese company, it was rolled out nationally and in response to any criticisms by sub-postmasters both the Post Office and Fujitsu insisted that the system was reliable. And ultimately, where IT issues occurred, sub-postmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office, with Fujitsu providing evidence that the system was robust.
Given the attention that the scandal is now being given, one can only hope that those impacted by these miscarriages of justice are given the closure and compensation they deserve as swiftly as possible, that those responsible are held to account and that the necessary reforms are drawn up and implemented to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.
Features and Opinion Editor