plus: Fujitsu’s Special Laptop
The evidence was a bit of a grind last week, but over the three days the inquiry was sitting there were some useful revelations. Rebecca and I have summarised them on Episode 21 of our podcast – The Special Laptop.
We found out that Fujitsu engineer Anne Chambers was a reluctant expert witness at the High Court in a legal action in 2007. The Post Office appealed against former Subpostmaster Lee Castleton’s county court victory. Thanks to Anne Chambers evidence they successfully destroyed and bankrupted him.
Fujitsu engineer Joh Simpkins told the inquiry that Internal attempts were made to stop this sort of thing happening again after Ms Chambers made clear her discomfort, but then in 2010 up popped Fujitsu engineer Gareth Jenkins to help destroy former Subpostmaster Seema Misra. Both engineers are now under police investigation. Lee remains bankrupt. Karl Flinders has written up this angle for Computer Weekly.
Postal Minister wants some correspondence
Interestingly, the new Postal Affairs minister, Kevin Hollinrake, has promised to get things moving for those people who still have not received interim compensation due to their status. He has asked anyone affected to email him at email@example.com
If you are remotely affected by any aspect of this scandal I think it is well worth sending the minister an email. I’ve dealt with Kevin a couple of times and he is alert to the Post Office injustice, but it can’t hurt to introduce yourself and tell him what you are hoping the next few months and years will bring.
Don’t believe anything you read in the newspapers
Another Fujitsu man with a starring role in our podcast is Mark Ascott, a former Lead Test Practitioner at Fujitsu. Mr Ascott was very proud of his refusal to believe anything that journalists write on the basis that a local newspaper journalist he heard about once got something wrong about a local girl who was (or wasn’t – we never quite got to the bottom of it in the inquiry hearing) sniffing glue.
I wish I could afford to adopt such blanket surety about certain professions. It’s much easier than having to think.
The Special Laptop
Finally, we learned from another Fujitsu Mark – this time a Mr Larosz – who told us that Fujitsu had a special laptop which would be taken out on the road to collect transaction data from “non-polling” branches (ie those which could not or would not connect to the back end of Horizon). Mr Jarosz didn’t reveal much more about the special laptop, but I am sure the inquiry will want to dig into this a bit.
Computer Weekly rival Tech Monitor have started to take an interest in the inquiry and have written up their take on last week’s events here.
Scottish appeals get underway
Six convictions in Scotland have been referred back to the Scottish appeal courts. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has eventually got round to making this decision (a full 18 months after the English/Welsh referrals). There are several news reports about it here:
BBC – Post Office IT scandal cases could be miscarriages of justice
The Scotsman – Crown Office must consider whether Post Office ‘perverted course of justice’ after Horizon conviction decision
Computer Weekly – Six subpostmaster convictions referred for appeal in Scotland
Scottish Legal News – SCCRC refers subpostmasters’ convictions to High Court of Justiciary
But I would also recommend reading this column by Andrew Tickell in the Scottish Herald which goes into a bit more detail about the cases and the institutions involved in the prosecutions. It wasn’t just the Post Office in this instance. Andrew Tickell spoke eloquently and passionately about the Scottish angle to this scandal on a University of Dundee panel which also included IT expert auditor James Christie and barrister Paul Marshall. You can watch them all here.
The Good Lord(cast)
We actually published (or ‘dropped’, as I think the kids say) two podcasts last week. Ep 20 was a long interview Rebecca and I conducted with Lord (James) Arbuthnot. Lord Arbuthnot used to be Jo Hamilton’s MP. Jo is one of the leading lights of the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance.
Lord Arbuthnot speaks about the campaign for justice, what motivates him and where he sees things going in the future. I would recommend a listen, if you have a moment.
Paperback out very soon
Just a reminder that the paperback version of The Great Post Office Scandal (cover below) is out this Thursday. It’s only £13.99 and has two new chapters and I have finally got my hands on a copy – it is a very high quality product and I am sure it would make an excellent stocking filler or doorstop for a friend or relative. I am grateful to Bath Publishing for investing in the telling of this story so generously. If you want to buy a copy direct from them before Thursday, they will cover the cost of the postage and packing. Link here.
Norwich – 21 Noember
My last talk of this year about the Post Office Scandal will be at the Norwich Playhouse on Monday 21 November. As mentioned in the last email, we will be joined on stage by the wonderful Ian Warren, a Subpostmaster whose conviction has now been quashed. Quite a few people are coming along, but this is a big theatre! If you live nearby (or know someone who does) you can buy tickets using this link:
Okay that’s it from me – next week the inquiry will be hearing from two Post Office people on Tuesday, two Fujitsu/ICL types on Wednesday, and then the inquiry’s own resident IT expert Charles Cipione will be taking the inquiry through Part 2 of his expert report into Horizon.
Wednesday should be the most interesting – the two Fujitsu types are Jan Holmes and David McDonnell who authored ICL’s internal Task Force report into Horizon which concluded:
“Whoever wrote this code clearly has no understanding of elementary mathematics or the most basic rules of programming.”
… and recommended the EPOS/accounting function of Horizon should be scrapped and re-written. It wasn’t.
Rebecca and I will be at the inquiry to hear what Mr McDonnell and Mr Holmes have to say. Then we’ll put together Episode 22 of the podcast!
Thanks to everyone who has signed up to the newsletter in the last week, and a massive thanks to the secret emailer who has set up a large recurring monthly donation to the Horizon Scandal Fund charity. We are all delighted and grateful.
If you want to do the same, it’s a very easy process – just go to the donation page on the Fund’s website here. All single or recurring donations, no matter how big or small are gratefully received.
The charity is doing great work helping former Subpostmasters, their families (and occasionally their support animals!) – anything you can give would be gratefully received.
Enjoy your week