• Tuesday, July 23, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Post Office threatened and lied to suppress key evidence in scandal: report

The tactics unfolded in the lead-up to a 2015 BBC Panorama broadcast, which featured an interview with Fujitsu whistleblower Richard Roll

A Post Office van parked outside the venue for the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House on January 11, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE Post Office engaged in a campaign of “deception and threats” against the BBC to suppress crucial evidence related to the Horizon scandal, the broadcaster reported.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015, in a scandal described as the greatest miscarriage of justice in the UK. An ITV drama broadcast last week has brought the issue back into the news.

Fujitsu created the Horizon IT system that resulted in some 700 local post office managers being wrongly convicted for theft and false accounting between 1999 and 2005.

The deceitful tactics unfolded in the lead-up to a 2015 BBC Panorama broadcast, which featured an interview with Fujitsu whistleblower Richard Roll. A former insider, Roll exposed how accounts on the Horizon system could be covertly altered.

This revelation later played a crucial role in a 2019 High Court ruling that acknowledged bugs in the system could lead to errors, potentially clearing the wrongly accused postmasters.

During this period, the Post Office resorted to intimidation tactics, sending threatening letters to experts interviewed by the BBC and spreading false information, the BBC report said.

Senior Post Office managers briefed the BBC, falsely asserting that neither their staff nor Fujitsu could remotely access sub-postmasters’ accounts, contradicting warnings issued four years prior.

Post Office PR boss Mark Davies is said to have fired off complaints to senior managers at the BBC, and expensive external lawyers were hired with public money to send letters threatening to sue Panorama.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the losses complained of were caused by user actions, including deliberate dishonest conduct,” Davies had said earlier. But these were proved wrong later.

Despite these attempts to obstruct the truth, the Panorama programme was aired, albeit with a delayed broadcast. Documents submitted to the ongoing public inquiry revealed that Post Office senior management “celebrated” this delay as a small victory, the BBC report claimed.

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