Post Office chiefs face call to be jailed after innocent workers’ lives ruined | UK | News

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Post Office chiefs face call to be jailed after innocent workers’ lives ruined | UK | News

A minister has called for Post Office chiefs behind the scandal that ruined the lives of innocent workers to be jailed.

Kevin Hollinrake said guilty parties should face a prison sentence, saying: “Those people can be criminally prosecuted and potentially can go to jail.

« People must be held to account. Unless we start locking people up, that is the ultimate deterrent – let’s start doing that or this stuff will just carry on. »

Asked if he thought prison was appropriate, the Post Office Minister said: « I absolutely do and we should have done it in the banking scandal as well. »

Last night Tory grandee David Davis waded in, saying: « It does seem to me that actions have been taken that were designed to pervert the course of justice, and that is an incredibly serious charge. »

« If that is proven then I expect it to go to court, I expect prosecutions to happen, and what comes out of that will be up to the court. »

Mr Hollinrake made his comments on Any Questions on BBC Radio 4.

They came as it emerged that former Post Office boss Paula Vennells had branded sub-postmasters criminals in a letter to MPs, despite being aware that a faulty computer system could be to blame.

The former chief executive attempted to convince MPs that staff whose lives had been ruined were guilty of “user error” or serious crimes.

In a 2016 response to an MP asking about “operational faults” with the Horizon accounting system, she insisted: “There is overwhelming evidence the losses complained of were caused by user errors and, in some cases, deliberate dishonest conduct.”

An independent report had already revealed “defects or bugs” in the software could be responsible.

Post Office documents also reveal Ms Vennells privately raised concerns in 2015 over whether the software could be accessed remotely.

The case against postmasters hinged on claims this was impossible, meaning if money was missing they were to blame.

Victims claimed the Post Office is still spinning against them in what has been branded « one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in history ».

Jo Hamilton, wrongly prosecuted for stealing £26,000 from her Hampshire branch before her conviction was overturned, said: “The mindset’s still there – that we’re all thieves.”

Ms Vennells, chief executive of Post Office Ltd from 2012 to 2019, handed back her CBE earlier this month after anger over her role in the affair. When MP Neil Parish raised concerns, she wrote to him in 2016: “These claims have been investigated by the Post Office and a firm of independent accountants.

“No evidence has been presented that the system, which processes six million transactions for customers every working day, does not work as it should.”

The investigation actually uncovered “two incidents where defects or bugs in the Horizon software gave rise to 76 branches being affected by incorrect balances or transactions”, accountants Second Sight Support Services Ltd revealed in a 2013 interim report.

And giving evidence to a House of Commons inquiry in 2020, Second Sight Chartered Accountant Ian Henderson told MPs: “We heard evidence of Post Office or Fujitsu altering transactions and balances without the knowledge of sub-postmasters. Not only did Post Office not accept that, they refused to supply to Second Sight documents that would enable us to investigate the issue.”

The High Court hearing was also told Ms Vennells herself was unsure about whether remote access was possible.

In a memo to Post Office colleagues in 2015 she asked how to respond if MPs asked whether it is “possible to access the system remotely”, adding: “I hope we know this is not possible and that we are able to explain why that is.”

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