Scandal-hit Horizon system may ‘operate in Post Office branches for another five years’

1 June 2024, 07:47

The Horizon system is reportedly expected to run in the Post Office for another five years.
The Horizon system is reportedly expected to run in the Post Office for another five years. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The Post Office has allegedly penned a £180 million deal to keep operating with Fujitsu’s scandal-hit Horizon system for another five years.

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More than 900 were wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 due to the faulty Horizon software. Some were even jailed for theft and false accounting.

The Post Office has been looking for a replacement system for next year, but Fujitsu is now expected to continue operating in branches for five more years, according to reports.

It comes after the Japanese firm said it would not apply for work with any more "new government customers".

Fujitsu’s contract was due to end by March 2025, with the Post Office hoping to replace the IT system by then.

Richard Trinder, who manages the victim campaign group Voice of the Postmaster, told The Telegraph: “We want the new system to be the right one when it does come in, so we understand that there needs to be a new system.

“However, it would have been nice to Fujitsu to do this work for free and donate the £180million to victims of the scandal.”

He added: “It is a possibility that people will be put off buying post offices if they know Horizon software is still installed.”

However, now the Post Office has reportedly extended the deadline to 2030 and has allegedly asked the Treasury for £1 billion in additional public money due to difficulties creating a sufficient in-house system, Computer Weekly reports.

Some 20 potential suspects at the Post Office have been identified, however, decisions on whether to bring charges are unlikely before 2026, according to The Guardian.

Read more: 'Selective amnesia': Alan Bates criticises Paula Vennells Post Office inquiry evidence

Read more: Crying Paula Vennells insists she ‘loved Post Office’ as she's accused of being in ‘la la land’ on final day of evidence

The Post Office could push back its deadline for a new contract to 2030.
The Post Office could push back its deadline for a new contract to 2030. Picture: Alamy

Earlier this week, it was reported that the police are planning to deploy 80 detectives for their criminal inquiry into the Post Office scandal, with staffing and resources “similar to a major murder or terrorism investigation”.

Investigators for the probe are yet to be recruited. Police have reportedly asked the government for a grant of at least £6.75m to fund the operation.

It comes after the former CEO of the Post Office Paula Vennells, who was chief from 2012 to 2019,  gave evidence at the Horizon Inquiry last week.

Ms Vennells was being questioned by victims' lawyers on her final day of giving evidence to the inquiry.

She said she "loved the Post Office" before starting to cry again. The former Post Office boss' first day of giving evidence was also punctuated by tearful episodes.

It comes after former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells gave evidence at the Horizon Inquiry last week.
It comes after former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells gave evidence at the Horizon Inquiry last week. Picture: Alamy

Fighting through the tears, Ms Vennells said: "I worked as hard as I possibly could to deliver the best Post Office for the UK."

The inquiry says it plans to issue its report in 2025, and then the police will need the following year to carry out their work.

MPs also finalised a Bill to quash convictions of theft, fraud, false accounting and other offences against su-postmasters and to scrub it from their records.

The Bill will apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, affecting those who were prosecuted by the Post Office, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Northern Ireland authorities in the years 1996 to 2018.

Scottish Parliament will pass its own law which is expected to have a similar outline.

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