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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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‘The cover up is far worse than the initial crime’ - Alan Bates

Alan Bates reveals his battle for justice was made harder by a “major cover up”.

Not holding back, he says: ‘We’ve always known that we were right, and it was just the Post Office decided to try to control the whole narrative over the years because of their power and money and all the rest of it.

“They had the ear of politicans, they used to brief them and it was very very hard to battle against them

“We always knew we were right, there was a major cover up going on. The cover up is far worse than the inital crime and proseuction of individuals in all of this

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:25
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Criticism of red tape and bureaucracy

Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton have both criticised the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the Horizon scandal compensation schemes.

Mr Bates, who is part of the Group Litigation Order Scheme, said it was “bogged down” in red tape.

Appearing before the Business and Trade Committee, he also agreed with the description by chairman Liam Byrne that officials processing compensation schemes were “not busting a gut”.

On his own claim, he said: “I think it was 53 days before they asked three very simple questions. It’s madness, the whole thing is madness. And there’s no transparency behind it, which is even more frustrating. We do not know what’s happening to these cases once they disappear in there.”

Ms Hamilton, who was wrongfully convicted in the scandal, said: “It’s almost like you’re being retried … it just goes on and on and on.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:16
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Publicity of Horizon scandal sends a “warning shot” to big corporations – Alan Bates

Alan Bates, former sub-postmaster and campaigner for victims of the Horizon IT scandal told MPs that he hopes the publicity of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry and the sub-postmaster’s fight for justice “sends a warning shot across the bows of these big corporations” that what the way they work “really affects people right down at the front line of these organisations”.

Bates referenced the contaminated blood scandal, and said that people in jobs of “high responsibility” are “not being held to account at the end of the day” and that he hopes the plight of the Horizon IT victims will demonstrate to leaders to “keep your eye on the ball”.

Alan Bates is appearing remotely before today’s hearing
Alan Bates is appearing remotely before today’s hearing (PA)
Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:14
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‘Madness’ on compensation delays

Alan Bates says the departments handling compensation offers were “not bursting a gut” to resolve the situation.

He described his own experience, revealing he’d submitted his claim for a compensation offer in October, and despite the deadline of 40 working days for an offer to be received, it’d now been told he would not get one until the end of January - 77 days, he says.

“Thec ases are sat there and not moving through,” he says.

Alex Ross16 January 2024 11:02
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‘Almost like you’re a criminal again’ - Jo Hamilton

Jo Hamilton says the over-turned conviction scheme is “almost like you’re a criminal again”.

Ms Hamilton, who was wrongly convicted during the Horizon IT scandal, told MPs her experience of the over-turned conviction scheme was “painfully slow”.

She said the process is extremely time-consuming, and users are made to feel like they’re being “re-tried”.

“[They] drill into the minute details of everything.

“There has to be a way where you can see people in different bands and sort out a simpler version that won’t be so costly for the government”

“Everything you say that you’d like, they say ‘justify that, justify that’. It just goes on and on and on”.

Alex Ross16 January 2024 10:59
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Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton appear

Mr Bates appears remotely to the committee while Ms Hamilton is there - questioning beginning now

Alex Ross16 January 2024 10:50
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Postmasters suffering with PTSD and paranoia, Dr Neil Hudgell tells MPs

Dr Hudgell, who represents victims of the Horizon IT scandal, tells the business and trade committee that many of his clients are suffering with mental health issues as a result of the Horizon IT scandal.

He told MPs: “We’ve got in excess of 100 psychiatric reports for people diagnosed with all sorts of depressive illnesses, post traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, everything that you can possibly think of.”

Dr Hudgell also said that although Fujitsu “have a role to play”, it’s about “decisions made on the back of that flawed IT system.

“So who made those decisions? Who’s responsible for that? Fujitsu are certainly part and parcel of that.”

Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 10:48
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We’re only “half-way” to find out what really happened in Horizon IT scandal – Lord Arbuthnot

Lord Arbuthnot, who campaigned on behalf of postmasters for many years, told that he had “faith in the inquiry” and he hopes that it will “get to the bottom of who knew what and when, of what actually happened.”

He told MPs: “I think we’re actually only half-way to finding that out at the moment [...] We’ve got so many things that have gone wrong here, possibly the adversarial system of our court processes is one of them, the notion of private prosecutions is another, the presumption that computer evidence is reliable is another.”

Zoe Grunewald16 January 2024 10:47
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Only three out of 73 convicted subpostmasters given compensation

Dr Neil Hudgell said that only three of his former subpostmaster clients who had been criminally convicted had received compensation.

He said: “Within the convicted cohort of clients that we have, of the 73, three have been fully paid out.”

He told the Business and Trade Committee: “It sounds perverse to say this, but I’m not sure that enough resources are thrown at it in terms of the right results into the right areas.

“For example, routinely with the overturned conviction cases it’s taking three to four months to get a response to routine correspondence.”

Asked by committee chairman Liam Byrne if government bureaucracy was “dragging its feet”, he replied: “That’s the only logical conclusion that that I can come to.”

Alex Ross16 January 2024 10:39
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‘We can’t have people going to their graves with convictions’

Lord James Arbuthonot said Rishi Sunak’s proposed legislation on quashing convictions was “very welcome”. He added: “Mass problem which required a mass solution.”

But he said there will be some victims who will still not come forward. “I beg they come forward,” he said.

He added that he didn’t think the judiciary was happy with the situation, with this being the biggest appeal against for number of claimants. But he hoped they “would accept that these cases need urgent overturned because we can’t have people going to their graves with convictions on their records”.

Lord Arbuthnot giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee
Lord Arbuthnot giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/PA Wire)
Alex Ross16 January 2024 10:37

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