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Post Office Scandal – live: MPs grill ‘sorry’ Fujitsu boss as Alan Bates says he’s not received compensation

Fujitsu’s Europe chief says he is ‘truly sorry’ for role in ‘appalling miscarriage of justice’ at Commons Business and Trade Committee hearing

Alex Ross
Wednesday 17 January 2024 06:34 GMT
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Real-life Mr Bates opens up on Post Office scandal depicted in ITV drama

A boss from Fujitsu has issued an apology to victims of the Post Office Scandal - as victim and lead campaigner Alan Bates revealed he was still waiting for his first compensation offer.

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, started his appearance before the Commons Business and Trade Committee by saying he was “truly sorry” for its role in the “appalling miscarriage of justice”.

Sitting alongside him, Post Office boss Nick Read said there had been a “cultural of denial” at the organisation when asked why it fought the provision of compensation to those who were unfairly punished for so long.

The pair were speaking after former postmaster Mr Bates revealed he was still waiting for his first compensation offer from his claim in the Post Office Scandal.

MP Liam Byrne, chairing the committee, says the evidence presented by Mr Patterson and Mr Read had left members feeling “fairly shocked”.

The scandal centres on the faulty Horizon IT system, made by Fujitsu, which made it appear as though money was missing, leading to the conviction of hundreds of postmasters by the Post Office.

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Post Office “committed” to moving away from Horizon system - Post Office boss

Post Office boss, Nick Read told MPs that the Post Office is “committed to get off Horizon” and they want a “new and upgraded” system.

He called the current Horizon system “clunky, outdated and old”, telling MPs: “We need a modern system for a modern post office, and we will be getting off Horizon”.

The Horizon IT system is accounting software, designed by Fujitsu, which saw accounts automated after subpostmasters entered their sales figures via a touchscreen.

Post Office prosecuted more than 700 operators for offences such as theft and false accounting based on the information from Horizon between 1999 and 2015.

Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 12:18
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No more private prosecutions by the Post Office

The convictions against the postmasters were done through private proseuctions by the Post Office.

Post Office boss Nick Read has said he does not think that the organisation will perform any more in the future.

“I don’t think the Post Office would want to carry out private prosecutions,” he told the Business and Trade Committee.

“I’ve been very clear on my watch they won’t and I see no reason why they should continue to do so.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:15
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Post Office facing liabilities bill of around £1 billion

Post Office boss Nick Read appeared to concede that the organisation could face liabilities of around £1 billion due to the Horizon scandal and related compensation claims.

The £1 billion figure was put to Mr Read during his appearance in front of the Business and Trade Committee.

He began by saying he did not recognise the figure but, pressed again said: “I think what has been done in the last 10 days in terms of the potential to mass exonerate, that is going to obviously generate a lot of people coming forward.”

Asked for an assessment of the £1 billion estimate, he said: “I think it’s unlikely to be that size, but it may well be.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:12
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Fujitsu provided evidence to help convict postmasters

Mr Patterson has told MPs the company gave evidence which was used to send innocent people to prison during the Horizon scandal.

When asked if the Japanese technology firm’s evidence was used for this evidence, he said: “Yes, there was evidence from us.

“We were supporting the Post Office in their prosecutions. There was data given from us to them to support those prosecutions.

“The information shared with the Post Office as part of our contract with them was very clear – the Post Office also knew there were bugs and errors.”

Later in the hearing, he added: “We did support the Post Office in those prosecutions, adn we did give them information to do that.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:09
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Information about bugs and errors in Horizon IT software was shared with the Post Office

Patterson told MPs that there were bugs and errors in the Horizon IT system right from the start, and that “in any large IT project there will always be some bugs and errors in any system, particularly of this scale.”

However, Patterson also said that they Fujitsu shared the relevant information about these technical issues with the Post Office.

“The important thing is what we do with that information […] how the Post Office then decided to use that information in their prosecutions is entirely on the Post Office’s side.”

Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 12:01
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‘I have not met any postmasters’ - Fujitsu boss

Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, is told the chief executive of Post Office has met some of the postmasters impacted, and then asked how many he has met.

“I have not met any postmasters physically,” he says.

Asked why, he says: “I have not not decided to meet victims - I have personally watched the drama on TV and read the evidence that was given in the impact statments by subpostmasters and I have also watched some of the YouTube video of it.”

Why has it taken an ITV drama for Fujitsu to be more forthcoming, and why does the company feel it is above contacting victims he’s then asked.

He replies?: “I certainly don’t feel above that, and I don’t think the company believes it is above that either. What I do believe is we need to get to the bottom of the entire truth and make sure that truth is transparent and not just jump to a paticular sound bite.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 12:00
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“I don’t know” why Fujitsu did nothing about technical issues – Fujitsu boss

Paul Patterson, European director of Fujitsu, told MPs he doesn’t know why his company did “nothing” about technical glitches in the Horizon IT system despite being aware of issues.

Speaking to the Business and Trade Committee, Patterson said “I really don’t know, and on a personal level I wish I did know.

Following my appointment in 2019 I’ve looked back on those situations for the company, and the evidence I’ve seen, and I just don’t know.”

Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 11:50
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There is a moral obligation for Fujtisu to contribute to the compensation bill - Fujitsu boss

Fujitsu European director Paul Patterson tells MPs that Fujitsu does have a “moral obligation” to contribute to compensation bill.

The admission follows the apology at the beginning of the evidence session.Committee Chair Ian Byrne questions why Fujitsu has not made provisions in their annual financial accounts for compensation payments.

Mr Patterson replies that Fujitsu acknowledges they have moral obligation in compensation, and while they have to wait for the inquiry to proceed, they “have a part to play in the redress fund”.

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:39
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Fujitsu apologises to victims

Now Paul Patterson, director of Europe’s Fujitsu Services Limited, is before the committee - and he starts his evidence by issuing an apology on behalf of the company.

He said: “Fujitsu would like to apologise for our part in this appalling miscarriage of justice. We were involved from the very start.

“We did have bugs and errors in the system and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of the sub-postmasters and for that we are truly sorry.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:31
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Post office profits are “our money”, Jo Hamilton tells MPs

MPs asked Jo Hamilton, former sub-postmistress and wrongly convicted victim of Horizon IT scandal, about the emotional impact of having to remortgage her house on multiple occasions to pay the Post Office.

One MP asked her how she would feel to know that her money had gone into Post Office profits and potentially paid for the bonuses of top executives.

Ms Hamilton replied that it was “sickening” to think that campaigners were “shouting so loud” but “their money was just being played with”.

“They looked profitable at one point, but it was our money”, she said.

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:26

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