Police investigate Post Office over ‘potential fraud offences’ during Horizon IT scandal
The Post Office is facing a criminal probe over potential fraud offences related to the prosecutions of postmasters during the Horizon IT scandal. Additionally, the police are separately investigating potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed they are investigating possible financial crimes like “monies recovered from sub-postmasters as a result of prosecutions.”
Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 post office branch managers faced wrongful criminal convictions due to faulty Horizon accounting software, which falsely indicated missing money from their outlets.
The faulty Fujitsu accounting software played a significant role in these inaccuracies. Many were financially ruined or jailed there have also been four recorded suicides related to the productions.
Police are examining whether aspects of the Post Office’s handling of these cases constituted fraud. This includes funds extracted from postmasters through prosecutions or lawsuits based on Horizon’s faulty data.
A separate ongoing investigation focuses on potential perjury and perverting justice charges regarding the Post Office’s role in prosecutions using the defective software’s erroneous records.
The inquiry follows a referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions after convictions were overturned in 2021 when a High Court case exposed Horizon’s flaws. Two people have been interviewed under caution so far, but no one arrested yet.
The recent ITV drama, “Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story,” has played a crucial role in bringing attention to the issue and encouraging new cases to come forward.
Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was postal affairs minister between 2010 and 2012, when the Horizon accounting scandal came to wider public attention.
When the campaigning postmaster Alan Bates, who is played by Toby Jones in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, approached him in 2010, Davey replied to say he did not believe a meeting would “serve any useful purpose”.
By then more than 600 postmasters had been prosecuted on the basis of the faulty Horizon IT system, and thousands had been made to pay back cash they did not owe.
Still campaigning, the real Mr Bates says he hopes the drama will increase the pressure on the government to pay full compensation to those people still waiting.
“It’s gone on far too long,” he says. “People have got to be held accountable. That’s got to happen. And we’re going to have to carry on campaigning for that to occur.”
With only a fraction of tainted convictions overturned so far, calls are mounting for universal exoneration and fair compensation for all affected. But the Post Office insists its settlement payments after the court loss were “full and final.”
As authorities pledge justice, the victims continue suffering from destroyed reputations and mental distress. The human toll demands accountability, even criminally if corruption is proven.
This landmark investigation suggests law enforcement recognizes the profound injustices produced by Horizon’s defects and the Post Office’s disastrous handling of the fallout. After years denying problems, its leadership may finally face consequences.
By Paul Knaggs