Computer bug that cost the jobs (and lives) of hundreds of postmen.

The incident, described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in the history of the United Kingdom, is on the agenda again these days, thanks to a movie about this incident that became a hit in the country. But what is this? In essence, this is the story of many British postmen who lost their jobs (and large sums of money and reputations) due to a bug in computer software still in use at the Post Office, the country’s national post office. Kingdom.

The Horizon scandal (named after the offending software) refers to a series of lawsuits between 1999 and 2015 against hundreds of postal branch managers and operators who were falsely accused of stealing money from their businesses. According to the newspaper GuardianThe charges affected around 3,500 employees and more than 700 were convicted in criminal courts, even though it was clear as early as 2010 that the central system by which accounts were recorded was faulty.

Thus, these operators found themselves with a criminal record, even though they had committed no crime, and had to serve sentences ranging from community service to prison. The convictions caused economic hardship for many and even bankruptcy in some cases. Stress related to the Horizon scandal has also been linked to at least four suicides of former employees.

The British Post Office has the authority by law to investigate and initiate internal proceedings without involving the police. For years, it has been opposing the news that draws attention to various problems of Horizon IT, developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, with a wall of indifference, and is taking legal action against what it defines as slander.

Until, in 2019, a high court annulled the convictions of a group of postal operators and instead acknowledged the “culpability” of the Horizon system. The historically significant sentence was approved on appeal in 2021, paving the way for financial compensation to be paid to the victims of this macroscopic miscarriage of justice. Last month, 93 more convictions were overturned.

More than £130 million in total compensation has been paid to around 2,500 staff over the years, but the Post Office has been accused of culpably delaying payments. In fact, dozens of victims lost their lives before receiving the compensation they were entitled to.

And the mistakes don’t end there: While tax was collected on the compensation paid, the bosses of the company conducting the Horizon investigation received a bonus of 1.6 million. Moreover, although responsible ministers promised last September that any employee whose conviction was quashed would receive compensation of £600,000, it was revealed in December that the Post Office had halved the amount of appeals submitted and the amount originally allocated for compensation above that. gains were all lower than expected. Finally, some documents examined in the investigations even show that postal prosecutors used racial slurs against black employees and classified branch managers according to ethnicity.

So why has this scandal come to the fore again now? On the one hand, there is the September 2020 investigation, which brought to light new facts and should be concluded within this year. On the other hand, a drama film was broadcast on ITV last week (Mr Bates vs. Post Office) This crusade, which chronicles Alan Bates’s fight to get justice for himself and his fellow operators, was well received by the public, renewing public anger and leading to new calls for action against the managers responsible.

Scotland Yard confirmed for the first time on January 5 that the British post office was under criminal investigation due to the Horizon scandal, but for now there are no charges. Police are also investigating two former Fujitsu company experts for perjury and obstruction of justice.

However, despite these developments, the Post Office still uses Horizon software to this day and has requested a $252 million loan from the government to stay afloat; This loan also includes an amount to support the cost of updating the computer system.

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Source: Today IT