By Tony Collins
In the High Court today, the Post Office will argue for the judge in the Horizon IT trials to sack himself.
The Post Office is concerned that the judge’s criticisms of the Post Office in his first judgement could affect his future three judgements. The Post Office accuses the judge, Sir Peter Fraser QC, of bias.
Given the thousands of pages of legal documents that relate to the four trials in this dispute, it is easy to assume that the arguments are hard to grasp for anyone new to the case. But the issue at stake in the Post Office Horizon IT trials is a simple one:
- who is to be believed – system owner or user – when one side says the computer system was robust and reliable and the other side says it wasn’t working as originally intended and was producing unexpected outputs?
The Post Office says in essence: the losses shown on Horizon were real and were the user’s responsibility, the users in this case being sub-postmasters.
The users’ counter-argument is in essence: we didn’t take any money and the losses shown on an imperfect Horizon were unexpected outputs. Not our fault.
It’s the same argument when there are major incidents that involve planes or autonomous cars:
- is the aircraft or car manufacturer correct when asserting that it was the user’s fault (pilot or driver).
- Or is the manufacturer not owning up to IT faults and blaming the user?
Major aviation incidents are investigated independently by statutory bodies. But the Post Office is not automatically subject to any statutory investigation when its IT is alleged to have gone wrong.
It could be said that the four High Court trials over the Horizon branch accounting system are the equivalent of the aviation world’s statutory independent investigation.
The big difference is that Boeing or Airbus cannot ask for the head of an independent inquiry into suspected IT problems after major incidents to be sacked. The Post Office can.
Postofficetrial – coverage by Nick Wallis
Post Office could face huge bill for first Horizon trial – Karl Flinders, Computer Weekly