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Metropolitan Police is urged to speed up its four-year Post Office probe after secretly-recorded meeting CEO Paula Vennells went to prove bosses were told Horizon computers could be accessed remotely

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Scotland Yard is under pressure to speed up its inquiry into the Post Office scandal after it emerged the company continued to fight sub-postmasters in court despite knowing its defence was untrue.

Details of an internal report first revealed by the BBC show management knew sub-postmasters may not be to blame for losses but continued to defend the Bates v Post Office Ltd case anyway, blowing £100million of public money.

The draft report, called Bramble, was commissioned by the Post Office in 2016 and carried out by consultancy firm Deloitte. It reveals that Post Office management and investigators were shown findings in 2017 that the losses could be due to errors in the Horizon IT system.

It has prompted a senior MP to call for an expanded police investigation. 

Labour's Kevan Jones (pictured), who sits on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, called the Post Office's behaviour 'an abusive use of public cash against innocent people'

Labour’s Kevan Jones (pictured), who sits on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, called the Post Office’s behaviour ‘an abusive use of public cash against innocent people’

Separately, a secretly recorded Post Office meeting in July 2013, attended by then chief executive Paula Vennells (pictured), proved management were told Horizon computers could be accessed remotely

Separately, a secretly recorded Post Office meeting in July 2013, attended by then chief executive Paula Vennells (pictured), proved management were told Horizon computers could be accessed remotely

Labour’s Kevan Jones, who sits on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, called the Post Office’s behaviour ‘an abusive use of public cash against innocent people’. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight on Thursday: ‘The police need to start looking at this. More will obviously come out at the public inquiry, but there’s enough out there now to start looking.

‘Unless people are brought before a court of law and asked what they knew and why they took such actions, that won’t be justice.’

Fraud investigator Ron Warmington told the BBC that the draft report was ‘unbelievably damning’, and Patrick Green KC, who represented the 555 sub-postmasters in their High Court fight, said he found it ‘absolutely shocking’.

Scotland Yard has been investigating the scandal since 2020, but only two people have been interviewed under caution.

David Enright, another lawyer who represents sub-postmasters, said of the slow pace of the probe: ‘We’re talking about taking the unprecedented step of quashing convictions of up to 800 people, but not a single person has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for putting those people in prison.’ 

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells (pictured) seen leaving her local village church in February 2022

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells (pictured) seen leaving her local village church in February 2022

In the leaked report, Deloitte said it had discussed its findings with ‘Post Office management’ that errors in the Horizon IT system or remote tampering could have been responsible for losses at branches.

Separately, a secretly recorded Post Office meeting in July 2013, attended by then chief executive Paula Vennells, proved management were told Horizon computers could be accessed remotely.

During the recording, obtained and aired by ITV News, investigators tasked by the Post Office with looking into possible issues with the system told her explicitly about allegations that accounts could be accessed remotely. The Post Office continued to deny remote access was possible until 2019.

A Post Office spokesman said: ‘The statutory public inquiry, chaired by a judge with the power to question witnesses under oath, is the best forum to examine the issues raised by this evidence.’

Scotland Yard said: ‘We began an investigation in 2020 into matters concerning Fujitsu Horizon and the Post Office. The investigation is ongoing into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice. We are an interested party to the public inquiry and are monitoring and gathering the evidence it hears.’

The inquiry into the scandal will continue next month.

Timeline of a travesty that’s still playing out 25 years on

  • 1999: The Horizon IT system from Fujitsu starts being rolled out to Post Office branches, replacing traditional paper-based accounting methods.
  • 2003: Sub-postmaster Alan Bates had his contract terminated by the Post Office after he refused to accept liability for £1,200 of losses in his branch in Llandudno, North Wales.
  • 2004: The branch in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, run by Lee Castleton, showed a shortfall of £23,000 over a 12-week period. Mr Castleton repeatedly asked the Post Office for help, but was sacked and sued for refusing to repay the cash. He was made bankrupt after a two-year legal battle, ordered to pay more than £300,000 for the company’s legal bill.
  • 2006: Jo Hamilton, sub-postmaster at South Warnborough, Hampshire, was sacked over financial discrepancies. She re-mortgaged her house twice to fill the shortfall and was charged with theft of £36,000. She later admitted a lesser charge of false accounting to avoid jail.
  • 2009: Computer Weekly magazine told the story of seven postmasters who had experienced unexplained losses. The Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) was formed.
  • 2010: Mr Bates, from JFSA, writes to minister Sir Ed Davey about the flawed Horizon system and urges him to intervene. His warnings were dismissed.
  • 2012: With MPs raising concerns about convictions and the Horizon system, the Post Office launches an external review, with forensic accountants Second Sight appointed to investigate.
  • 2013: An interim report by Second Sight reveals serious concerns and defects in the IT system. The Daily Mail reveals dozens of postmasters may have been wrongly taken to court and jailed.
  • 2015: It is revealed the Post Office failed to properly investigate why money was missing and concluded computer failures may have been to blame. The Post Office finally stops prosecuting sub-postmasters but 700 end up being convicted.
  • 2017: A group legal action is launched against the Post Office by 555 sub-postmasters.
  • 2019: The High Court case ends in a £43million settlement but much of the cash was swallowed up in legal fees and victims received around £20,000 each. Post Office chief Paula Vennells awarded a CBE in New Year’s honours.
  • 2020: The Post Office agrees not to oppose 44 sub-postmasters’ appeals against conviction.
  • 2021: A public inquiry begins and is ongoing. The Court of Appeal quashes a further 39 convictions.
  • 2022: The Government announces a new compensation scheme.
  • 2023: Every postal worker wrongly convicted for Horizon offences will receive £600,000 compensation.
  • 2024: Mr Bates vs The Post Office first aired on ITV1 on New Year’s Day.

 



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