Former Fujitsu engineer apologizes for role in Post Office IT scandal

Horizon system expert denied tailoring evidence in convictions later quashed

Gareth Jenkins, former distinguished engineer at Fujitsu Services Ltd, said he "clearly got trapped into doing things that I shouldn't have done" when giving technical evidence that led to the wrongful conviction of Post Office workers in one of the biggest IT scandals to hit the UK.

Speaking during the inquiry into the Post Office Horizon system, Jenkins apologized for his part in providing incomplete evidence of the errors and failures in the system but said it was not his intention to do so.

Horizon is an EPOS and backend finance system for thousands of Post Office branches around the UK, first implemented by ICL, a UK technology company later bought by Fujitsu. From 1999 until 2015, 736 local branch managers were wrongfully convicted of fraud when errors in the system were to blame.

Jenkins appeared as an expert witness in 15 subpostmaster cases, including that of Seema Misra, who stood trial in 2010 and was found guilty of theft and false accounting, and was sent to prison while she was eight weeks pregnant. Her conviction was quashed in 2021.

Flora Page, the lawyer who represents Misra, among others, pointed out that Jenkins had said in his submission for an appraisal that he had helped succeed in the prosecution and "Horizon was given a clean bill of health."

Page put to Jenkins that he had tailored his evidence to ensure that was the outcome.

He denied tailoring the evidence, but said: "I'm sorry for what happened to Mrs Misra but I feel that was down to the way that the [Post Office] had actually behaved and wasn't purely down to me. I clearly got trapped into doing things that I shouldn't have done. But that was not intentional on … my part."

Among the known problems with the Horizon system Page brought to Jenkins's attention in the hearing was "terrible code" in the EPOS system, as described by a computer expert. "It's just not the right structure … it indicates to me that they don't understand what those particular structures are," she quoted.

Jenkins said the EPOS code, which had been developed in 1998, became his responsibility around 2004 and 2005, but he had assumed it had stabilized by then.

"I accepted that there were these problems in the early days, which I hadn't been involved with specifically, but there had been plenty of time then for things to be sorted out for it to be working stably," he said.

He said he did not recall if anyone had told him about problems with the EPOS code.

Earlier this week, Jenkins apologized for emails in which he said Misra had been "jumping on the bandwagon" in questioning the reliability of the organization's computer system.

This month, the Post Office was accused of "constantly sabotaging" the work of independent investigators examining the Horizon IT system and its problems. During the inquiry, forensic accountant Ian Henderson said the Post Office had unjustifiably withheld documents in the investigation by his company, Second Sight. ®

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