A probe into a flawed computer system that led to legal action being taken against hundred of subpostmasters over alleged frauds has called for those who provided “training and assistance” to those affected to come forward.
The Horizon IT inquiry is seeking to determine the series of events that caused the termination and criminal conviction of Post Office workers between 2000 and 2014 due to a fault with the system – installed and maintained by tech giant Fujitsu.
In December 2019 a High Court judge ruled that Horizon contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.
Some postal workers in Scotland were forced to make up the accounts out of their own pockets, while others received false prison sentences following reports they took money from the business.
The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of this year, is looking into whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system and will also ask how staff were made to take the blame.
Chair Sir Wyn Williams, a retired judge, has now called for anyone who “trained, assisted, investigated or audited” the Post Office and relevant subpostmasters in connection with Horizon between 2000 and 2016 to share their experiences as part of phases three and four of the public probe.
In a statement, he said: “As I announced at the conclusion of the Human Impact hearings on May 21, the Inquiry is now moving towards hearing the next phases.
“My team has gathered a great deal of disclosure from a range of individuals and organisations and continues to do so.
“However, in order to assist us in reaching those who are not currently employed by any corporate Core Participants, and those who for whatever reason may not yet have come forward, I am today announcing a call for evidence from certain categories of people.
“From now until the end of June 2022 I am inviting those who have provided training to subpostmasters (SPMs), managers and assistants in the use of Horizon, those who have provided assistance to SPMs, managers and assistants in their use of Horizon, such as via a helpline and those who have worked as investigators or auditors for the Post Office in connection with Horizon between 2000 and 2016.”
Harrowing testimony from former employees last month heard that some “spiralled into depression” and were taken to the brink of bankruptcy after being forced to pay thousands to the Post Office in “compensation” for money they did not steal.
The firm has been accused of employing a “deliberate policy” of blaming workers for flaws in the system.
The inquiry is to get back underway in London on July 6.