Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

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sTeamTraen
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Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by sTeamTraen » Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:59 pm

I've been following this story off and on in Private Eye [PDF] for getting on for 10 years. It's the most appalling account of what happens when people's dedication to an institution and/or their own monthly salary cheques can lead them to f.ck other people over in the most callous ways imaginable. I hope the people responsible get sued for every penny they have.
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bjn
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by bjn » Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:12 pm

Surely it should go beyond civil liability. Evidence was withheld in multiple criminal trials that would have shown that the defendants were innocent, isn't that perjury or perverting the course of justice?

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Lew Dolby » Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:23 pm

as a (long-time) ex IT worker, my question would be why didn't this level of theft incidents ring alarm bells.

And why weren't the computer accounts balanced against the actual "counter drawers" ? The stamps, postal orders, etc still in the sub-poat offices would have shown exactly how much cash there should have been.

The whole business was a fiasco.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Fishnut » Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:36 pm

There are so many questions that need to be answered about this travesty. I spent a couple of hours yesterday listening to the BBC podcast The Great Post Office Trial (available only on BBC Sounds from what I can see but they've combined the episodes into two parts and edited out the "this is episode n" stuff to make it easier to binge). One thing that struck me while listening was the way the subpostmasters were told to cover the shortfalls with their own money, some even remortgaging their homes to do so. The Post Office stole from its own staff and I've not seen anything that has discussed redressing that properly. I know they got compensation from one of the trials last year (though the podcast said it averaged at only ~£20k each after costs had been paid) but I've not seen any mention specifically about the Post Office being made to pay back its stolen earnings, or even how it was able to account for those earnings. Where's their auditors?!
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by sTeamTraen » Sat Apr 24, 2021 10:51 pm

Lew Dolby wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:23 pm
as a (long-time) ex IT worker, my question would be why didn't this level of theft incidents ring alarm bells.
My bet is that we will find out, one day, that there was a culture of "The sub-postmasters are all thieving scum, I knew it all along, and this new system proves it".

I hope that Post Office CEO Paula Vennells loses her CBE and indeed her house over this. She didn't join the PO until 2007, by which time the problems with Horizon had already been going for many years; when she became CEO in 2012 she could have stopped it, but she was part of the problem by then, so she kept going. She's apparently also an Anglican priest; I'd love to know what her sermons are about.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by philbo » Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:11 pm

bjn wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:12 pm
Surely it should go beyond civil liability. Evidence was withheld in multiple criminal trials that would have shown that the defendants were innocent, isn't that perjury or perverting the course of justice?
This.

I don't see how a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice could be defended, by the PO and Fujitsu.

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Martin Y
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Martin Y » Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:12 am

Looks like Paula Vennels has heard sTeamy's prayers as she's stepped back from her church duties and chucked a bunch of directorships. BBC has a nice quote from her boss the bishop of St Albans saying his parents had a sub post office and that he had expressed his dismay. That's bishop-speak for telling her to go f.ck herself I think.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Gfamily » Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:22 am

philbo wrote:
Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:11 pm
bjn wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:12 pm
Surely it should go beyond civil liability. Evidence was withheld in multiple criminal trials that would have shown that the defendants were innocent, isn't that perjury or perverting the course of justice?
This.

I don't see how a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice could be defended, by the PO and Fujitsu.
The POL lawyers involved should be concerned as well...
https://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2021/ ... -post/amp/
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by bagpuss » Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:33 am

Lew Dolby wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:23 pm
as a (long-time) ex IT worker, my question would be why didn't this level of theft incidents ring alarm bells.

And why weren't the computer accounts balanced against the actual "counter drawers" ? The stamps, postal orders, etc still in the sub-poat offices would have shown exactly how much cash there should have been.

The whole business was a fiasco.
There was something on Radio 4 about this a few days ago and apparently the level of theft incidents didn't ring alarm bells because they simply assumed that that level of theft had been going on anyway and the new computer system was just enabling them to be identified. Which kind of makes sense if taken in isolation but the fact that the very sub postmasters who were supposedly thieving were, at the same time, raising queries about the system and asking for help really should have made them think again. If someone is trying to get away with thieving, one tends to try to keep a low profile, not repeatedly ask for someone to help them figure out what is going wrong.

As for your second point, I think that was exactly what was being done. Computer accts were saying there should be x, drawers had y, therefore there was a discrepancy of x-y. It was the easy answer and apparently, despite mounting evidence that there was something distinctly wrong somewhere, the PO just persisted in the belief that the computer system could not be wrong, so therefore someone must be stealing the value of x-y. They just didn't allow for the possibility that y could be correct and the computer system wrong. A number of these sub postmasters were actually putting money in from their own pockets to ensure that the correct amount of cash was there at the end of the day but obviously they couldn't keep that up and the PO just shut down all of their requests for help and took them to court instead.

It's utterly bl..dy appalling and what's more, I cannot understand how it has taken this long for convictions to be overturned - as sTeamy said in the OP, this has been known about for years, it's not new news that the computer system was in error.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Fishnut » Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:37 am

bagpuss wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:33 am
A number of these sub postmasters were actually putting money in from their own pockets to ensure that the correct amount of cash was there at the end of the day but obviously they couldn't keep that up and the PO just shut down all of their requests for help and took them to court instead.
They didn't just do this off their own backs, they were told to do this by the 'help' team - it sounds like standard protocol is that shortfalls have to be made up out of the wages of the subpostmasters (and if the shortfall is greater than their wages then tough). Given that no money was actually missing this is the PO committing extortion, surely? Everything I've seen has focused on the fact the PO prosecuted people unlawfully. What I haven't seen (though this may well be my failure) is anything discussing the PO being prosecuted for extortion and theft, and for this money to be returned to the subpostmasters.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by sTeamTraen » Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:17 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:12 am
Looks like Paula Vennels has heard sTeamy's prayers as she's stepped back from her church duties and chucked a bunch of directorships.
Two such directorships gone.
Fishnut wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:37 am
bagpuss wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:33 am
A number of these sub postmasters were actually putting money in from their own pockets to ensure that the correct amount of cash was there at the end of the day but obviously they couldn't keep that up and the PO just shut down all of their requests for help and took them to court instead.
They didn't just do this off their own backs, they were told to do this by the 'help' team - it sounds like standard protocol is that shortfalls have to be made up out of the wages of the subpostmasters (and if the shortfall is greater than their wages then tough). Given that no money was actually missing this is the PO committing extortion, surely? Everything I've seen has focused on the fact the PO prosecuted people unlawfully. What I haven't seen (though this may well be my failure) is anything discussing the PO being prosecuted for extortion and theft, and for this money to be returned to the subpostmasters.
I guess this is normal, in that these things take time and there is an order in which they have to happen (after all, until last Thursday the SPMs were still, on paper, convicted thieves or fraudsters). So we will probably hear more about this in the coming weeks, once the SPMs and their lawyers have recovered from what I hope was a very good weekend of celebration, Covid permitting. They will also maybe want to let a few people sweat, and see who comes forward to spill some beans.

I have a very large bucket of popcorn ready.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by philbo » Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:41 pm

Gfamily wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:22 am
philbo wrote:
Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:11 pm
bjn wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 9:12 pm
Surely it should go beyond civil liability. Evidence was withheld in multiple criminal trials that would have shown that the defendants were innocent, isn't that perjury or perverting the course of justice?
This.

I don't see how a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice could be defended, by the PO and Fujitsu.
The POL lawyers involved should be concerned as well...
https://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2021/ ... -post/amp/
Yes, it really doesn't look like *anyone* on the POL (tempting to call them POS instead) side had any concern at all other than maintaining the pretence that Horizon was perfect when they knew damn well it wasn't and that they'd inflicted hardship, jail, and all sorts of other bullying sh.t on their sub postmasters.

I really hope they don't accept grovelling apologies/damages and leave it there: the time for that was nearly a decade ago. These people need to be prosecuted.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by bagpuss » Mon Apr 26, 2021 1:07 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:37 am
bagpuss wrote:
Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:33 am
A number of these sub postmasters were actually putting money in from their own pockets to ensure that the correct amount of cash was there at the end of the day but obviously they couldn't keep that up and the PO just shut down all of their requests for help and took them to court instead.
They didn't just do this off their own backs, they were told to do this by the 'help' team - it sounds like standard protocol is that shortfalls have to be made up out of the wages of the subpostmasters (and if the shortfall is greater than their wages then tough). Given that no money was actually missing this is the PO committing extortion, surely? Everything I've seen has focused on the fact the PO prosecuted people unlawfully. What I haven't seen (though this may well be my failure) is anything discussing the PO being prosecuted for extortion and theft, and for this money to be returned to the subpostmasters.
Yes, I hadn't quite realised the full extent of what happened there when I posted but have now read more and realise that when the reporter was saying "so and so made up the money from their own pocket" that sentence was missing some rather important points. That the system was deliberately changed so that sub postmasters were given the stark choice between accepting what the software decreed at the end of a day and thus becoming liable for the "missing" cash or being simply unable to open for business the next day, is just one utterly appalling bit of this whole shocking mess.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by cvb » Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:40 am

sTeamTraen wrote:
Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:59 pm
I've been following this story off and on in Private Eye [PDF] for getting on for 10 years. It's the most appalling account of what happens when people's dedication to an institution and/or their own monthly salary cheques can lead them to f.ck other people over in the most callous ways imaginable. I hope the people responsible get sued for every penny they have.
I remember reading about this years and years ago, it might even have been in Computer Weekly, and thinking it was utterly bonkers. I hope somebody is held accountable/prosecuted form this, but I will not hold my breath.

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