Potential Criminal Sanctions Await Post Office for Delaying Inquiries
Potential Criminal Sanctions...
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Potential Criminal Sanctions Await Post Office for Delaying Inquiries

14 July 2023
2 min.
Potential Criminal Sanctions Await Post Office for Delaying Inquiries

Systemic Flaws Exposed

The Horizon scandal resulted in false prosecutions of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, prompting the inquiry chairman to emphasize the criticality of evidence provision.

Historical Context

During the mentioned period, the false prosecutions of over 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses occurred, largely based on information from the Horizon computer system, which was installed and maintained by Fujitsu.

High Court's Ruling

In December 2019, a High Court judge delivered a significant ruling, determining that the Horizon system contained a multitude of "bugs, errors, and defects." Moreover, it was established that there existed a material risk wherein shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were, in fact, caused by the system itself.

Overturned Convictions and Accusations

Since the High Court ruling, a considerable number of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have successfully appealed their criminal convictions for theft, fraud, and false accounting. Amidst this backdrop, the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams, has accused the Post Office of "grossly unsatisfactory" and "significant" failings to disclose vital documents, raising suspicions of deliberate non-disclosure.

Introduction of Criminal Sanctions

To address the grave issue of evidence disclosure, Sir Wyn Williams announced that all future requests for evidence will be subject to Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005. This section now carries the threat of criminal sanctions, including the possibility of imprisonment for up to 51 weeks.

Safeguarding Compliance

To ensure the proper flow of evidence, the inquiry will hold regular discrete hearings to address the process of evidence handover. Sir Wyn Williams emphasized the need to guard against the possibility of individuals within the Post Office obstructing or being unwilling to comply with requests for document disclosure.

Future Proceedings

The inquiry is set to resume on July 26, with a particular focus on examining the actions taken by the Post Office against a sub-postmaster. This continuation of the investigation promises to shed further light on the Horizon scandal and its far-reaching consequences.

Persons1 and Companies3 in the news

Welsh judge
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Fujitsu Limited
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Post Office Ltd
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