Police investigating potential perjury by former Fujitsu employees during trials of subpostmasters wrongly convicted of theft and fraud have interviewed a key former subpostmaster witness.
Almost two years after it launched its investigation, the Metropolitan Police has interviewed a former subpostmaster who was blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls that were later proven to be caused by errors in the Horizon system, supplied by Fujitsu, that has been used in Post Office branches to automate accounts since 1999.
According to a source, the former subpostmaster – a key witness – has been interviewed in recent days.
Ian Ross, director at Tartan Forensic, a former police officer and listed expert for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, said: ‘This is an investigation into alleged perjury, the source of information being a High Court judge, not some back street informant, but the Metropoloitan police have dragged it out for two years. There is nothing ‘complex’ about it. So is this update progress? Not convinced.”
Subpostmasters, who run and own Post Office branches, were blamed and punished for accounting shortfalls that were actually computer errors. The Horizon scandal, named after the computer system used in Post Office branches, has become one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history. The Post Office always denied that Horizon could be to blame for the shortfalls, and subpostmasters and their families have had their lives turned upside down, with criminal prosecutions for hundreds and many more financially ruined.
More than 700 subpostmasters were convicted of crimes based on Horizon data as evidence. More than 80 of them have so far had wrongful convictions overturned, with many more expected to follow.
Evidence given by former Fujitsu staff, acting as expert witnesses on behalf of the Post Office during the subpostmaster trials, raised concerns for judge Peter Fraser during a High Court Group Litigation Order (GLO) where subpostmasters proved computer errors were to blame for unexplained losses – for which they had been blamed and punished.
The GLO, which began in 2018, saw 555 former subpostmansters prove Horizon errors caused unexplained losses, which the Post Office had vehemently denied for nearly two decades.
Before handing down his judgment at the second trial in December 2019, Fraser said he was referring information to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) because he had concerns over the accuracy of evidence given in court by Fujitsu in previous trials of subpostmasters.
Fraser said: “Based on the knowledge that I have gained both from conducting the trial and writing the Horizon issues judgment, I have very grave concerns regarding the veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system.”
In January 2020, the DPP referred Fraser’s concerns about the accuracy of evidence given by Fujitsu staff to the police. In November 2020, the Metropolitan Police launched a criminal investigation. Gareth Jenkins and Anne Chambers are the former Fujitsu workers under investigation for potential perjury.
More revelations about what the Post Office knew about the reliability of evidence has emerged since. In March 2021, during a Court of Appeal hearing where 42 former subpostmasters sought to have their convictions overturned, it was revealed that a lawyer working for the Post Office told it that one of its expert witnesses misled courts in trials of subpostmasters prosecuted for financial crimes.
The advice, given by a lawyer contracted by the Post Office in 2013, said the witness from Fujitsu, Gareth Jenkins, should not be used again. Known as The Clarke Advice, it was given to the Post Office in 2013 by Simon Clarke of Cartwright King, who was carrying out work for it.
Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters (see timeline of articles below).