Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

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dyqik
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by dyqik » Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:01 pm

Certain judges should be facing perverting the course of justice charges, imo.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by basementer » Sat Jun 05, 2021 2:26 am

dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:01 pm
Certain judges should be facing perverting the course of justice charges, imo.
That's what I take from the phrasing The effect of the Court of Appeal’s finding, given effect in slightly anachronistic Victorian language - that the Post Office’s conduct “offended the conscience of the court”, is that the appellant should not only not have been convicted, but should not have been prosecuted too. I read that as pointing to misconduct by either the prosecution or the presiding judges. but I'm a layman: anyone more clued-up care to comment?
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by discovolante » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:09 am

basementer wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 2:26 am
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:01 pm
Certain judges should be facing perverting the course of justice charges, imo.
That's what I take from the phrasing The effect of the Court of Appeal’s finding, given effect in slightly anachronistic Victorian language - that the Post Office’s conduct “offended the conscience of the court”, is that the appellant should not only not have been convicted, but should not have been prosecuted too. I read that as pointing to misconduct by either the prosecution or the presiding judges. but I'm a layman: anyone more clued-up care to comment?
Prosecution is done by the prosecutors e.g. CPS, HMRC etc, so it isn't a reference to the judiciary.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Allo V Psycho » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:45 am

More information in another article by Marshall

https://journals.sas.ac.uk/deeslr/artic ... /5172/5037

Some additional and shocking information. I was particularly struck by this:
Any surplus from a balancing error was held in a suspense account operated by the Post Office. If no explanation for the surplus became available (which invariably was the case), the sum was transferred to the Post Office and credited to its profit and loss account and shown under its profits.
In other words if the system showed a fictitious surplus, the Post Office transferred the 'sum' to its profits: if it showed a fictitious deficit, then it demanded the postmasters pay it out of their own pocket (which many did) or pursued them in court and hounded them into jail. While the CEO Paula Vennels received a CBE and bonuses for making the Post Office 'profitable'.

My Uncle was a subpostmaster, and I worked in his branch one summer. I'm just glad he retired pre-Horizon, because I'm sure it would have killed him to be accused of theft.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by basementer » Sat Jun 05, 2021 10:48 am

discovolante wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:09 am
basementer wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 2:26 am
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:01 pm
Certain judges should be facing perverting the course of justice charges, imo.
That's what I take from the phrasing The effect of the Court of Appeal’s finding, given effect in slightly anachronistic Victorian language - that the Post Office’s conduct “offended the conscience of the court”, is that the appellant should not only not have been convicted, but should not have been prosecuted too. I read that as pointing to misconduct by either the prosecution or the presiding judges. but I'm a layman: anyone more clued-up care to comment?
Prosecution is done by the prosecutors e.g. CPS, HMRC etc, so it isn't a reference to the judiciary.
Thx disco.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Allo V Psycho » Sat Jun 05, 2021 11:03 am

discovolante wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:09 am
basementer wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 2:26 am
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:01 pm
Certain judges should be facing perverting the course of justice charges, imo.
That's what I take from the phrasing The effect of the Court of Appeal’s finding, given effect in slightly anachronistic Victorian language - that the Post Office’s conduct “offended the conscience of the court”, is that the appellant should not only not have been convicted, but should not have been prosecuted too. I read that as pointing to misconduct by either the prosecution or the presiding judges. but I'm a layman: anyone more clued-up care to comment?
Prosecution is done by the prosecutors e.g. CPS, HMRC etc, so it isn't a reference to the judiciary.
The Marshall lecture says that the PO was the prosecutor because of its status as governmental in nature?

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by noggins » Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:36 pm

The judiciary are at fault in that an incredibly idiotic idea took root and became a legal principle: that computer software is accurate until the defence proves otherwise.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by discovolante » Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:53 pm

I think there is unfortunately also a general bias towards thinking that institutions and those who represent them are behaving properly unless shown otherwise. I'm not sure it's always deliberate but it can be quite a difficult hurdle to overcome.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by temptar » Sat Jun 05, 2021 4:20 pm

Disco I sometimes wonder if that's the people like us would never do something bad like that...and so they don't examine institutional behaviour.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by discovolante » Sun Jun 06, 2021 10:09 pm

temptar wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 4:20 pm
Disco I sometimes wonder if that's the people like us would never do something bad like that...and so they don't examine institutional behaviour.
Yes I agree. I think it goes beyond that though into people who aren't necessarily 'like them' but are part of institutions. A bit of an outdated but classic example is Lord Denning's comments when dismissing the Birmingham Six's claims against the police:
Just consider the course of events if their action were to proceed to trial… If the six men failed it would mean that much time and money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose. If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous… That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, ‘It cannot be right that these actions should go any further’.
That's a fairly extreme and as I say, old example, and I really wouldnt want to tar everyone in the judiciary with the same brush, but I do wonder (again without having read all the recent stuff in depth, sorry) whether there are echoes of this in the Post Office case, a kind of reticence to contemplate that an entire system may be faulty or corrupt because of the potential consequences if it was.
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by IvanV » Mon Jun 07, 2021 11:51 am

discovolante wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 12:53 pm
I think there is unfortunately also a general bias towards thinking that institutions and those who represent them are behaving properly unless shown otherwise. I'm not sure it's always deliberate but it can be quite a difficult hurdle to overcome.
For precisely this reason I don't understand why people think that state organisations will treat them more fairly than private organisations. Private organisations do terrible things from time to time, but I don't see that publicly owned organisations are any better, and this PO case is just a case in point. In a private organisation you are more legally exposed if your wrong-doing is located. I always remember talking to the private company that took over Rosyth Dockyard from the Navy. They said to me, well the first thing we had to do was become compliant with health and safety legisation, whose details the Royal Navy got away with ignoring.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by noggins » Mon Jun 07, 2021 12:24 pm

In this case I think the background bias in favour of the establishments beneficience is less significant than the utter incomprehension of the foibles of computer software.

Also: what is a judge supposed to do if the prosecution base their case on some piece of utter nonsense, but the incompetent defence dont pick up on it. Do they have to trust the jury will see it too?

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Gfamily » Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:06 pm

noggins wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 12:24 pm
In this case I think the background bias in favour of the establishments beneficience is less significant than the utter incomprehension of the foibles of computer software.

Also: what is a judge supposed to do if the prosecution base their case on some piece of utter nonsense, but the incompetent defence dont pick up on it. Do they have to trust the jury will see it too?
Just stop there.
In many cases the judge did not allow the defence to question whether the computer was inaccurate.
Unbelievable? Yes. Did it happen? Yes
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by noggins » Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:16 pm

Yes you are quite right.

(i was wondering generally what power -no, duty -a judge has to squish a prosecution's arguements when very wrong).


What could a defence have done? Got into a slanging match with and risked a contempt charge in the hope the jury were bolshy and brave?

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by cvb » Tue Jun 08, 2021 9:49 am

noggins wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:16 pm
Yes you are quite right.

(i was wondering generally what power -no, duty -a judge has to squish a prosecution's arguements when very wrong).


What could a defence have done? Got into a slanging match with and risked a contempt charge in the hope the jury were bolshy and brave?
That is part of the problem. The change in PACE meant that the defence had to prove the software was producing errors. The defence could not do this as the Post Office, the prosecutor in these cases, would not hand over details of these errors. They knew about these problems for many years but refused to acknowledge this and kept on prosecuting people. Many senior heads should roll over this but I think, as usual, this will not happen,

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by jimbob » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:25 pm

cvb wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 9:49 am
noggins wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:16 pm
Yes you are quite right.

(i was wondering generally what power -no, duty -a judge has to squish a prosecution's arguements when very wrong).


What could a defence have done? Got into a slanging match with and risked a contempt charge in the hope the jury were bolshy and brave?
That is part of the problem. The change in PACE meant that the defence had to prove the software was producing errors. The defence could not do this as the Post Office, the prosecutor in these cases, would not hand over details of these errors. They knew about these problems for many years but refused to acknowledge this and kept on prosecuting people. Many senior heads should roll over this but I think, as usual, this will not happen,

What would the crime be? Perverting the course of justice? Because they ruined people based on evidence they knew was false.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by IvanV » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:54 pm

jimbob wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:25 pm
What would the crime be? Perverting the course of justice? Because they ruined people based on evidence they knew was false.
Fabricating evidence counts as perverting the course of justice. Can it be argued that presenting computer evidence known to be dodgy is fabricated evidence?

Malicious prosecution, abuse of process, etc are torts rather than crimes. Compensation, not prison.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by jimbob » Tue Jun 08, 2021 6:10 pm

IvanV wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:54 pm
jimbob wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:25 pm
What would the crime be? Perverting the course of justice? Because they ruined people based on evidence they knew was false.
Fabricating evidence counts as perverting the course of justice. Can it be argued that presenting computer evidence known to be dodgy is fabricated evidence?

Malicious prosecution, abuse of process, etc are torts rather than crimes. Compensation, not prison.
I thought that was the case. I'd argue this was criminal.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by bagpuss » Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:36 am

I don't know if this would be appropriate but someone in the comments to one of David Allen Green's blog posts on this mentions "Misconduct in public office".

On attempting to find out more, I discovered this Freedom of Information Request from 2016, clearly by the person who wrote the above mentioned comment.

The CPS guidance on misconduct in public office makes it clear that the charge should only be used where other charges are not possible either because there is no other statutory offence or because any statutory offence would be difficult or inappropriate to use, either because of problems of evidence or because the sentence would be insufficient. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Also from the CPS info, it unfortunately seems that there is no clear definition of what counts as a public officer for these purposes but given that the list of those who have been accepted to be public officers in the past includes "those in charge of police computer systems", as well as the likes of local authority employees, DVLA employees, local councillors, etc, it seems likely that there would be a pretty strong case for those working for the PO who were involved in the prosecutions and possibly even those at Fujitsu who participated in the prosecutions.

This bit in particular mentions judicial functions as being one of the likely characteristics that count someone as being "in public office"
It is extremely difficult to extract from the cases any general identifying features of public officers in a contemporary context. A person may fall within the meaning of a ‘public officer’ where one or more of the following characteristics applies to a role or function that they exercise with respect to the public at large:

Judicial or quasi-judicial
Regulatory
Punitive
Coercive
Investigative
Representative (of the public at large)
Responsibility for public funds
This list is not exhaustive and cannot be determinative of whether a person is properly described as a public officer, when acting in a particular capacity. The characteristics should be treated only as a guide and considered in the context of all the facts and circumstances of the particular case.
And it seems fairly clear that the behaviour would come under the required definition of misconduct, too (my bold).
Examples of behaviour that have in the past fallen within the offence include:

wilful excesses of official authority;
'malicious' exercises of official authority;
wilful neglect of a public duty;
intentional infliction of bodily harm, imprisonment, or other injury upon a person;
frauds and deceits.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by basementer » Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:52 pm

A discussion of the underlying faults in the software has just appeared on Computerphile's YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBJm9ZYqL10
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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Allo V Psycho » Sun Jul 11, 2021 8:59 am

basementer wrote:
Sat Jul 10, 2021 11:52 pm
A discussion of the underlying faults in the software has just appeared on Computerphile's YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBJm9ZYqL10
Thanks, that was interesting.

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Re: Post Office Horizon system prosecutions

Post by Fishnut » Mon Jul 19, 2021 11:42 am

More convictions quashed
Lord Justice Holroyde and two other judges quashed the convictions of Robert Ambrose, Hasmukh Shingadia, John Armstrong, Timothy Brentnall, Jerry Hosi, Gurdeep Singh Dhale, John Dickson, Abiodun Omotoso, Malcolm Watkins, Sami Sabet, Carina Price and Rizwan Manjra.

Their appeals were unopposed by the Post Office and the judge said the court would give full reasons in writing at a later date, but that they should be cleared as soon as possible in the circumstances.
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