By Tony Collins
Scotland Yard detectives have interviewed a man and woman on suspicion of perjury, according to the Sunday Mirror.
It follows claims that courts were given wrong information when they convicted post office workers. The Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses over a period of 14 years based on information from a faulty computer system Horizon. The courts were not told details of Horizon’s flaws.
A police spokesman told the Sunday Mirror that a man and a woman had been interviewed under caution on suspicion of perjury and inquiries were continuing.
Met police are already investigating the accuracy of evidence given by two people who worked at Fujitsu, the Japanese-owned supplier of Horizon. It came after a High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Fraser, found that important evidence given to courts “was not true, and was known not to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, at the time it was given”. The judge asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate. He passed the matter to the Metropolitan Police.
Some sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses went to prison following convictions for false accounting, fraud or theft that were based on Horizon evidence. Many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died.
Fifty-nine convictions have been overturned this year and hundreds more are expected to be quashed. Government compensation bills will run into hundreds of millions of pounds. As the publicly-owned Post Office cannot afford the compensation claims without government help, it is technically insolvent as a result of the scandal.
Has the police investigation widened?
Alan Bates, founder of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, told his group of 555 last week that he and his legal team have had meetings with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police. Further meetings are planned. He told the group,
“With our legal team from Howe & Co we have had meetings with both the DPP and the Met. Needless to say they are unable to make any comment about how their work is progressing as it is an open case, but we did receive assurances about how seriously they are taking matters and how, despite the Judge only referring two names to them, they will go where the evidence takes them.”
In its formal complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman of maladministration, the Alliance said the cover-up of Horizon’s flaws involved government departments as well as the Post Office and Fujitsu. In his email to the Alliance last week, Bates said that,
“… the Ombudsman route will enable us, without any interference from others, to name those at Post Office and on the Board, those at BEIS [Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] and its predecessors and those in other Government departments who knew or should have known about the failings surrounding the Horizon system from very early on. We know the names of the really guilty in all of this and have most of the evidence we need as well as knowing where the rest of it is …”
He said he would provide an update on how the Alliance’s complaint to the Ombudsman is progressing in the coming weeks.
The continuing police investigation is in marked contrast to a government inquiry into the scandal which is looking mainly at the failings of the computer system and within the Post Office rather than how hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-mistresses came to be wrongly convicted.
Public inquiries cannot determine individual criminal or civil guilt but the terms of reference of the Post Office Horizon inquiry make no provision for looking, in a general sense, at how and why the widest miscarriage of justice in British legal history happened.
Call for criminal probe into financial investigators, senior management and lawyers
The Law Society Gazette said,
“In a joint statement, Paul Harris and Oneija Taher of Edward Fail, Bradshow & Waterson; and Sam Stein QC and Lynton Orrett of Nexus Chambers [who represented some victims of the scandal] called for an urgent criminal investigation into what went on.”
They added: ‘The investigation must be wider and question financial investigators, senior management and lawyers acting on behalf of the Post Office.’
In a blog, Richard Moorhead, professor of law and professional ethics at Exeter Law School, called for the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board to join any investigation.
Government to make interim payments of up to £100,000 for some victims of the scandal but it ignores the “Bates 555” who sued the Post Office and exposed the extent of the scandal – Nick Wallis’ Post Office Trial blog
The “Bates 555” are excluded from Government-funded compensation schemes for victims of the Post Office scandal – Karl Flinders, Computer Weekly
Whitehall “punishes” the Bates 555 who exposed the Post Office IT scandal – Campaign4Change
Questions over Whitehall’s oversight of the Post Office – researcher Eleanor Shaikh