Fujitsu has told UK Parliament it is no longer supplying evidence to the Post Office to convict sub-postmasters of criminal offences invented by the firm's Horizon IT system.
In a letter to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Fujitsu said: "[W]e have now stopped the provision of any new witness evidence to the Post Office," admitting further down: "There were issues with the Horizon system; the process for identification and resolution of these has varied over the 20-year period of Horizon."
It added: "Any unresolved matters relating to shortfalls in a sub-postmaster branch account would be referred to the Post Office."
The Japanese-headquartered company supplies the Post Office's Horizon IT system, used for managing its remote branch offices. Local managers running those offices, called sub-postmasters, were targeted by the Post Office when Horizon began reporting discrepancies with till takings. Some were jailed, and at least one is known to have committed suicide after being hit with false accusations.
Fujitsu also blamed the Post Office for its "litigation strategy" during the well-publicised High Court trial last year which culminated in a £57.75m settlement before its conclusion. The company said the state-owned postal operator was the one responsible for needing an expensive court trial to establish the facts.
The company continued:
Fujitsu's involvement consisted of providing information and evidence to the Post Office upon request, and in accordance with Fujitsu's contractual obligations. In most cases, this involved providing raw data drawn from the audit log of the Horizon system (known as "ARQs"). In addition to the ARQs, when requested by the Post Office, Fujitsu employees provided witness statements. The Post Office determined how, if and when these statements were used as part of its own legal strategies.
In contrast, former Post Office chief exec Paula Vennells said in her own letter to the BEIS committee, also published today: "The message that the Board and I were consistently given by Fujitsu, from the highest levels of the company, was that while, like any IT system, Horizon was not perfect and had a limited life-span, it was fundamentally sound."
Praising Fujitsu as "a respected global IT company", she said there was "nothing which undermined Fujitsu's apparent honesty and professionalism". Referring to the bugs in Horizon which led to the Post Office wrongly pursuing innocent people with criminal charges, Vennells said: "The problems with Horizon 1 and 2 were not apparent to the Board, which was assured by Fujitsu and trusted colleagues at Post Office that there were not – and there had not been – any systemic problems with the system."
A government review has been set up into the Post Office's handling of the Horizon scandal, which will doubtless subject Fujitsu to further scrutiny. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions, are both considering cases arising from the Horizon scandal.
Paul Scully MP, a junior BEIS minister, said: "Government wants to be fully assured that through this Review, along with lessons being learned, that there is a public summary of the failings that occurred at Post Office Ltd." ®