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Post Office denies IT blunders led to criminal charges against posties

'Systemic problems' with Horizon system firmly denied

The Post Office has refuted a report which concluded that its Horizon IT system was responsible for accounting cockups that led to sub-postmasters being prosecuted for stealing from their tills.

Forensic accountancy group Second Sight was appointed in 2012 by the Post Office — at the request of MPs — to conduct an independent investigation into matters raised by former and current sub-postmasters.

Its report alleged that the Post Office failed to find out why large cash shortfalls had occurred at several sub-post offices before launching civil litigation and criminal prosecutions against sub-postmasters, who are contractually liable for such losses.

As The Register reported when Second Sight delivered its interim review, bugs have been found in the Horizon system which led to the over-billing of 76 contractors.

For its part, the Post Office said the investigators were unable to show evidence to support their allegations regarding the Horizon system.

A Post Office spokesman said: "Over the past three years there have been exhaustive investigations which have not found any evidence of systemic problems with the Horizon system."

"The mediation scheme was set up to address individual complaints and that is what we have gone to great lengths to do – a number are now resolved,” he added.

Former Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, who led a Parliamentary campaign in support of the sub-postmasters, told Radio 4's Today programme: "If you go through the report that Second Sight has produced it is crammed full of evidence, except ... that which the Post Office has been withholding from Second Sight ... the emails that Second Sight needs [and] access to the documents that the Post Office promised to provide."

The report was produced as part of the Post Office's Complaint Review and Mediation Scheme in 2013. The Post Office notes that this scheme received 150 applications.

However, Alan Bates, chairman of the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance campaign, told The Register that the limited time for which the scheme was receiving applications, 12 weeks, and the poor publicity for it, contributed to an under-reporting of grievances. ®

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