Shameful and Appailling

Fujitsu’s Europe chief, Paul Patterson, giving evidence at the Post Office scandal inquiry at Aldwych House, central London. Photograph: Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry/PA


Very bad

Appalling weather
The drive home was appalling.

Shocking and very bad

Appalling injuries
Prisoners were kept in the most appalling conditions.

Post office scandal: Fujitsu boss admits ‘shameful’ omissions during inquiry

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Post Office deleted ‘bugs and errors’ references from witness statements, Fujitsu boss claims

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The Post Office deleted references to bugs and errors from Fujitsu witness statements, the director of Fujitsu has claimed.

William Paul Patterson said that Fujitsu witness statements submitted to the Post Office to use in court proceedings against accused subpostmasters had been tampered with when they appeared in court.

Mr Patterson made the claims whilst giving evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, which is investigating the miscarriage of justice of more than 700 subpostmasters being wrongly convicted of fraud due to a faulty IT system.

Post Office: ‘appalling’ that courts not told of bugs, Fujitsu boss admits

Europe chief of tech firm embroiled in Horizon IT scandal tells inquiry that bugs were identified as early at 1999

Fujitsu’s Europe chief has admitted it is “shameful and appalling” that courts hearing cases against post office operators over missing funds were not told of 29 bugs identified as early as 1999 in the accounting system it built.

Evidence was heard on Friday at a public inquiry into the scandal of a reluctance at the Japanese software company to make the Post Office aware of a “known error log” chronicling all the Horizon system’s defects.

When bugs were acknowledged, witness statements from Fujitsu staff due to be heard in court were then edited by the Post Office as it sought to maintain the line that the system was working well as it pursued innocent people through the courts.

Paul Patterson agreed that both organisations had failed those accused. “I am surprised that that detail was not included in the witness statements given by Fujitsu staff to the Post Office and I have seen some evidence of editing witness statements by others,” he said.

Asked by the lead counsel of the public inquiry, Jason Beer KC, whether he agreed that this was shameful, Patterson, who has worked at the company for 14 years, said: “That would be one word I would use. Shameful and appalling. My understanding of how our laws work in this country, is that all of the evidence should have been put in front of the subpostmasters that the Post Office was relying on to prosecute them.”

Patterson said Fujitsu had “let society down” and that the company would contribute to a fund to compensate “victims of this crime”, although he admitted to not having met a single post office operator as he had not believed it appropriate.

There has been slow progress in compensating victims of the scandal. On Friday, it was reported that Ben Tidswell, a former lawyer with the international law firm Ashurst who became a director of the Post Office in July 2021, had quit a board overseeing payments to operators just a year into a three-year term.

About 900 post office operators were convicted between 1999 and 2015 on the basis of shortages falsely recorded on the Horizon IT system, which was said repeatedly by the organisation inside and out of court to be unimpeachable.

The Post Office has also been asked by government to examine whether its previous accounting system, known as Capture, also led to false convictions after earlier potential miscarriages of justice came to light.

The public inquiry, led by the retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams, heard that 29 bugs and defects in the Horizon system were identified from as early as November 1999 and they led to false records being posted.

Patterson said there was “evidence” that Fujitsu employees had a “don’t share with the Post Office” approach to a document chronicling the known errors in the system.

He said the “vast majority” of bugs, errors and defects (BEDs) in the Horizon system were shared with the Post Office contemporaneously.

But post office operators were neither informed about known errors nor provided with the accessible raw data. Patterson admitted that Fujitsu’s witness statements in support of Post Office cases in the criminal and civil courts had been misleading.

Fujitsu has admitted to a failure to provide the level of information it should have in a range of cases including that of Lee Castleton, who was made bankrupt after being ordered to pay a £25,000 shortfall that did not exist and £321,000 in legal costs in 2007 when the high court ruled in the Post Office’s favour.

Asked by Beer whether he agreed that this was a “startling admission”, Patterson said: “I agree that it is. But importantly it is the truth.”

The company was paid £850,000 a year to provide data used for prosecutions and further funds for the provision of witnesses.

The inquiry heard that a former software support centre worker, Anne Chambers, had in 2007 set out a list of concerns internally relating to the case against Castleton, now 56, including that Fujitsu had made a “major legal blunder” by not disclosing all the “relevant evidence that was in existence”.

Beer said that the evidence suggested she had been given a “pat on the head” but that it was “business as usual”. “I would agree – these are missed opportunities,” Patterson said.

Fujitsu had previously described its audit data as “gold standard”.

Pressed on this, Patterson responded: “No, it wasn’t.” Offered the alternatives of “bronze standard or copper standard”, Patterson said, “I wouldn’t use that characterisation at all”. Beer responded: “Pewter?”

Patterson, the most senior Fujitsu Services Ltd director, who started his career at the company in sales, had opened his evidence with an apology to the men and women pursued by the Post Office with the assistance of his company. The highest-paid director in Fujitsu Services Ltd was paid £409,000 last year and £1.3m in 2022.

Patterson said: “To the subpostmasters and their families, we apologise, Fujitsu apologises and is sorry for our part in this appalling miscarriage of justice.

“We are determined to support this inquiry and get to the truth, wherever it lies, and at the conclusion of the inquiry and the guidance from this inquiry engage with government on suitable contributions and redress to the subpostmasters and their families.”

The Guardian

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Nail Gun Gone Wrong

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OUCH! This gag has got random people shooting nails into a construction worker’s foot!

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