Fujitsu has a “moral obligation” to help pay compensation to more than 900 British postal workers who were wrongly accused of theft and convicted following a bug in its software, said the head of its European branch. He admitted that the company knew about the errors from the beginning.
“Fujitsu would like to apologize for our involvement in this appalling miscarriage of justice. We have been involved from the very beginning. We had errors and flaws in the system and assisted the Post Office in prosecuting postal workers, and for that we are truly sorry,” said Paul Patterson, director of Fujitsu’s European branch, testifying before the parliamentary committee on business and trade.
Asked when company executives first learned about problems with Horizon’s software, he said he didn’t know exactly, but it was at a “very early stage.”
One of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history
The case, which is described as one of the largest miscarriages of justice in the history of British justice, involves over 900 people involved, mainly under the franchise, Post Office facilities. Between 1999 and 2015, the company accused them of stealing money and financial embezzlement. The accusations were unjust because the reason for the disappearance of money from accounts was faulty Horizon accounting software from the Japanese company Fujitsu, which was installed in Post Office branches in 1999.
The managers of these facilities raised comments about irregularities in the software, but they were ignored. As a result of the accusations, many people went to prison, went bankrupt, lost their health, and at least four people committed suicide. Until recently, 736 people were known to have been wrongly convicted, but after the case came into the spotlight again in early January, others came forward and currently, according to the media, there are over 900 people.
Prime Minister’s announcements
Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that all wrongfully convicted people would be cleared by Act of Parliament and receive compensation. Kevin Hollinrake, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Business and Trade, whose responsibilities include, among others: postal services, told the committee on Tuesday that the government has allocated over £1 billion to compensate postal workers, but the final amount will probably be even higher.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday it was announced that the mini-series “Mr Bates vs the Post Office”, broadcast on ITV since the beginning of January, which tells the story of the struggles of Post Office franchisees, including the titular Alan Bates, with the company and which contributed to renewed public interest in the scandal, was one of the most watched series in recent years. It was watched by an average of 9.75 million people, and the last of the four episodes – 10.32 million.
Main photo source: TOLGA AKMEN/EPA/PAP