Documents revealed in the Court of Appeal have named two former Fujitsu staff under investigation by police for potential perjury in the trials of subpostmasters prosecuted for financial crimes.
As Computer Weekly revealed earlier this month, the Metropolitan Police moved the status of its investigation into evidence given by former Fujitsu staff in criminal trials from “assessment” to “criminal investigation”.
In January 2020, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) referred concerns passed to him by High Court judge Peter Fraser, who managed the multimillion-pound Post Office Horizon trial, about the accuracy of evidence given by Fujitsu staff in criminal trials of subpostmasters to the Metropolitan Police.
The trial, which concluded in December 2019, proved subpostmasters were right that errors in the Horizon IT system provided by Fujitsu were causing unexplained losses.
The Metropolitan Police assessed the evidence sent by Fraser before deciding whether to investigate further, which it has now confirmed as a criminal investigation.
In December 2019, before handing down his judgment at the second trial in the multimillion-pound court case, judge Fraser said he was referring information to the DPP because he had concerns over the accuracy of evidence given in court by Fujitsu in previous trials of subpostmasters.
“Based on the knowledge that I have gained both from conducting the trial and writing the Horizon issues judgment, I have very grave concerns regarding the veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system,” the judge said at the time.
At a hearing in the Court of Appeal yesterday (18 November 2020), setting out the timetable and process for subpostmasters seeking to have their criminal records quashed, after being referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the full letter by Fraser to the DPP was within court documents. Freelance journalist Nick Wallis, who has followed the case closely, revealed this in his blog.
In his letter, the judge named the Fujitsu staff who gave the evidence he was concerned about as Gareth Jenkins and Anne Chambers, who are now under investigation by police
“On the basis of information that has come to my attention as a result of the Post Office group litigation, I consider important evidence given both to the Crown Court and the High Court on previous occasions in other cases was not true, and was known not to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, at the time it was given,” Fraser wrote.
He said that from Horizon’s introduction in 1999 up to 2019, the Post Office said there was nothing wrong with the system. “Prior to the group litigation, expert evidence was given to the Crown Court by Fujitsu witnesses, and also to the High Court in at least one case, that there were no widespread bugs, errors or defects in Horizon.”
Fraser told the DPP that documents disclosed as part of the Horizon trial “clearly show that Fujitsu knew about the existence of bugs, errors and defects in Horizon from a very early stage in the life of the system”.
“[The] earliest bugs occurred and were known about in 1999, and these continued throughout the period every year to 2018,” he wrote.
Computer Weekly has been following the story and challenging the Post Office on potential faults since 2009. The Post Office always denied their existence. It took a group of subpostmasters, led by former subpostmaster Alan Bates, to force the Post Office to reveal the bugs in the High Court.
A Computer Weekly investigation in 2009 revealed that subpostmasters, who run Post Office branches, were being blamed for unexplained financial losses, which they claimed were caused by errors made by the Horizon system. Hundreds of subpostmasters were subsequently prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with prison sentences, community service, criminal records and heavy fines among the injustices they suffered as a result. It has become one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history (see timeline below).
In 2015, working with the Communications and Workers Union, Computer Weekly revealed a bug that could cause accounting shortfalls. A leaked email from IT staff supporting Horizon confirmed this. Known as the Dalmellington, named after the Scottish town where the affected branch is located, it was a key part of the evidence in the Horizon trial.