Real-life Mr Bates opens up on Post Office scandal depicted in ITV drama
A boss from Fujitsu has issued an apology to victims of the Post Office Scandal – but said the company did raise issues over its system.
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”.
However, Mr Patterson said the company did raise the issues with bugs in the system with the Post Office. The scandal centred on the faulty Horizon IT system, made by Fujitsu, which made it appear as though money was missing.
The apology comes after former postmaster Alan Bates revealed he was still waiting for his first compensation offer from his claim in the Post Office Scandal.
Mr Bates, who was dramatised in the ITV programme Mr Bates vs The Post Office, told the hearing that despite a 40-day deadline on claims resulting in first compensation offers, he had been waiting 66 days.
He said: “The whole thing is madness….there is no transparency behind it, which is even more frustrating.”
At the same time, the long-running independent Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry continues with Rajbinder Sangha, release management co-ordinator at Fujitsu, appearing.
Fujitsu apologises to victims
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.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:31
Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake now giving evidence
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.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:45
Post Office and Fujitsu leave MPs ‘feeling fairly shocked’
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 minsiter which is the subject of our next session.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:41
Why has Post Office ‘dragged its feet’
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.
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:29
Fujitsu ‘knew of faults in 2008’, inquiry heard
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.”
Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 12:22
Post Office “committed” to moving away from Horizon system – Post Office boss
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.
Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 12:18
No more private prosecutions by the Post Office
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.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:15
Post Office facing liabilities bill of around £1 billion
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.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:12
Fujitsu provided evidence to help convict postmasters
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.”
Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:09
Information about bugs and errors in Horizon IT software was shared with the Post Office
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.”
Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 12:01