Post Office and Fujitsu bosses face grilling by MPs on Horizon scandal

16/01/2024

They’ll also hear from the former subpostmaster who’s led the campaign for justice

The bosses of the Post Office and Fujitsu and the former subpostmaster who has led the campaign for justice in the Horizon scandal are to be questioned by MPs on Tuesday.

The Commons’ Business and Trade Committee will examine what more can be done to deliver compensation for victims of what has been labelled one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office, and Paul Patterson, Europe director at Fujitsu, are both due to appear.

The Horizon scandal saw more than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses handed criminal convictions after Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon software made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

The Government has been scrambling to exonerate them and pay out compensation to those affected.

The long-running battle for justice accelerated dramatically after the public outcry provoked by the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office.

Alan Bates, the campaigning former subpostmaster on whom the series centred, said ahead of the committee hearing that his focus was on pushing for swift compensation for the victims.

He told Sky News: “I have one concern, and it’s to get the compensation right, that’s it.

“They should be moving heaven and earth to get it done and get it done fast.”

Mr Bates, as well as wrongfully-convicted former subpostmistress Jo Hamilton, are set to give evidence from 10.30am, followed by Mr Read and Mr Patterson from 11.30am.

Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister who has argued that Post Office figures found responsible for the scandal should be jailed, is to appear at noon.

MPs will interrogate what Fujitsu and the Post Office knew about problems with the Horizon system and when.

The role played by Fujitsu will also come under the microscope when the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry returns on Tuesday.

The probe is set to hear evidence from staff at the technology giant who assisted the Post Office with prosecutions.

Rajbinder Sangha, a former member of Fujitsu’s fraud and litigation support office, is due to face questions from the public inquiry’s counsel.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week announced that the wrongly prosecuted in England and Wales could have their names cleared by the end of the year under fast-tracked legislation after growing pressure to take more serious action.

Those whose convictions are quashed are eligible for a £600,000 compensation payment, while Mr Sunak offered £75,000 to subpostmasters involved in group legal action against the Post Office.

The Prime Minister has faced calls to go further and bar Fujitsu from securing Government contracts and pursue the firm for compensation payments.

The Horizon software started to be rolled out in Post Office branches across the UK in 1999 and over the subsequent years a series of subpostmasters were prosecuted over missing funds.

In 2019 the High Court ruled that Horizon contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

Published: by Radio NewsHub



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