Post Office warned of IT ‘trauma’ in 1999
Apologies for the slight delay in getting a newsletter together, Mrs Wallis and I stole away for a bit at the end of the half term week which threw things slightly out of whack. I spent the entirety of Friday evening watching two days worth of inquiry hearings at double speed whilst reading along on the transcripts, then forgot it all over the weekend (why didn’t I take notes?!)
Rebecca and I were due to convene on Sunday evening to record another podcast, but I had to ask for a delay until I could go back to the transcripts, which I did today, took some notes and lo… Episode 18 – Miller Time – is finally available.
I think we’ve covered the main journalistic points – the warning from Subpostmasters that Horizon was a “tragedy” waiting to happen (ably covered by Karl Flinders in Computer Weekly, too), Fujitsu’s unwillingness to let the Post Office see or test its code, the damning statement in an internal Fujitsu report about the state of the Horizon software (“Whoever wrote this code clearly has no understanding of elementary mathematics or the most basic rules of programming”) and the statement made to the Post Office board by Dave Miller, former Horizon Programme Director at the Post Office, in July 1999, that Horizon was “robust and fit for service”.
Reader, it wasn’t.
Do have a listen. All feedback welcome.
Henley-on-Thames 10 November
I am delighted to say that former Subpostmaster Pam Stubbs will be joining me for a talk I’m doing at the Kenton Theatre in Henley-on-Thames on the evening of Thursday 10 November.
Pam (pictured below) was an impressive lead witness during the Bates v Post Office high court litigation. She was treated so badly by the Post Office she gets an entire chapter to herself in my book.
Pam is also very good company and I can’t wait to share a stage with her again. We are at the just-about-breaking-even stage with ticket sales. If we can flog a few more, I would be thrilled. Please spread the word if you can’t make it yourself – the link is:
Horizon Scandal Fund helps Gizmo
There was some terrible news a couple of weeks back. Former Subpostmaster Mark Kelly was preparing to make his way to watch False Accounts, the satirical play about the Post Office scandal at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham, when his support dog Gizmo was hit by a moving vehicle. Gizmo is a mini Yorkie and even this minor collision was a very serious matter, necessitating overnight stays at the vets and a large bill.
I am delighted to say that the trustees of the Horizon Scandal Fund felt able to cover part of the cost of Gizmo’s vets fees, which had the potential to put Mark into severe financial difficulties. Mark has graciously allowed the Fund to publicise its help for Gizmo, who is incredibly important to Mark’s health and wellbeing. I am delighted to say Gizmo (pictured below at the vets) is on the mend and expected to make a full recovery.
The Horizon Scandal Fund has also been helping more humans in recent weeks. We have only been able to do this thanks to the donations of many secret emailers. When I get my Depp book done I will start working with the trustees on finding more revenue sources and spreading the word about the help available to anyone affected by the Horizon scandal. If you think you know someone, please ask them to get in touch with the trustees directly. There are no forms to fill out, and the decision-making trustees make decisions quickly, particularly if the issue is urgent financial hardship.
Great Post Office Scandal paperback
Whilst you and I probably know a fair bit about the Horizon scandal, I would hazard a guess that 95% of the population don’t. If you are thinking of a Christmas present for that lively, engaged reader in your family who might be interested in a deeper dive into the Horizon scandal, please consider sending them a paperback of the Great Post Office Scandal, which my publishers are making available for pre-sale right now, with free postage and packing. It includes a couple of new chapters covering the last 12 months’ developments and comes in at a very reasonable £13.99. I’m told they’re going to take delivery of the product this week, so they’ll be shipped to any pre-salers not long after.
False Accounts London run
The London run of the satirical play about the Post Office scandal – False Accounts – begins tomorrow at the Questors Theatre in Ealing and runs every night until Saturday (which also has a matinee at 2pm).
The reviews of the Birmingham run have been superb. I am very intrigued to see how it all holds together and will be going to see the final performance on Saturday evening. Tickets for all shows can be found here.
On Sunday I’ll be at the Derby Book Festival. If you’re in the area and want to come and say hello, please do. Tickets to that can be bought here.
I’ve been working with a secret emailer and Wizard of the Dark Arts to upgrade the postofficescandal.uk website. I hope it serves a number of functions by drawing together my journalism on the subject. I am hoping it will be as much of a resource in future as its predecessor Post Office Trial.
Both websites were entirely powered by crowdfunding, and it has been an important part of my attempt to keep as much of my output free-at-the-point-of-consumption as possible.
If you haven’t already signed up to get emails whenever I post up a new blog post, please do consider signing up – head to the News section and put your email address in the email widget.
Public inquiry rolls on
The inquiry reconvenes tomorrow with evidence from five men spread over four days of this week. The theme is ‘Corporate Knowledge’ and the individuals in the spotlight are:
Mike Coombs – former Horizon Programme Director, ICL Pathway
Stuart Sweetman – former Managing Director, Post Office Counters
Jeremy Folkes – former Infrastructure Assurance Team Leader, Horizon Programme, Post Office CountersAndrew Simpkins – former Programme Management Team (trial/rollout/releases), Post Office Counters Jonathan Evans – former Network Director, Post Office Counters Ltd; former Company Secretary, Post Office
The inquiry’s very useful youtube channel is here, and you can read each witness’s written statement once it has been put into evidence on the inquiry website here.
Correct link to Japanese article about the Horizon Scandal
A couple of newsletters back I managed to paste the wrong link to the Japanese article written by a very nice journalist who approached me (and, I think, Second Sight’s Ron Warmington) after we had spoken at the Leatherhead Theatre in July.
A secret emailer with knowledge of Japanese and some interest in the article wrote to alert me to this state of affairs. This is the correct link, with apologies. My correspondent reports the piece ‘seems like a trenchant summary of your book. The article recaps what has already been uncovered about Fujitsu’s involvement in Horizon, and the failure of any of the parties responsible – Including Fujitsu UK and its employees – to deal with the fallout of the bugs and other problems in the software in an honourable way.’
The author ‘ends by quoting your opinion that people in Japan need to know about Fujitsu’s role in the scandal and its failure to come clean. I will look through it again, but he doesn’t seem to have interviewed anyone on the Japan end, which is a shame.’
Even if you don’t have Japanese, the piece does have some nice pictures.
Thanks to everyone who has joined the swelling ranks of secret emailers in recent days, howsoever you found us. I am deeply grateful for all the correspondence, ideas, queries and thoughts. I am very sorry I am not in a position to respond to every email I get, but I do read them all.
Rebecca and I are going to the inquiry on Friday to try to pull together the week’s evidence into a single podcast episode and newsletter, though I’m not sure what state I’ll be in. I have been invited to a snooker club in Byfleet to watch the actual Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor recreate their famous 1985 World Snooker Championship “Black Ball” final. It could be a long night. Snooker is, after all, a looooong game.
Keep well and enjoy the bonus photo of Gizmo in full flight (below), pre-accident. I am sure we all wish Gizmo and Mark the very best for the future.