Fujitsu Ltd. and Britain’s Post Office always knew about software errors that led to the wrongful conviction of hundreds of people for theft and false accounting, the company’s European head told a public inquiry.
“Right from the very start of deployment of the system, there were bugs and errors and defects which were very well known to all parties,” Fujitsu’s Paul Patterson said Friday. Glitches in the Japanese company’s Horizon software resulted in the Post Office prosecuting large numbers of its branch managers between 1999 and 2015, in one of the biggest injustices in modern British history.
Patterson was appearing in front of the inquiry led by former High Court judge Wyn Williams. He added that references to bugs were not included in past witness statements made by Fujitsu staff. “I’ve seen some evidence of editing of witness statements by others,” he said, without specifying who had edited the statements.
Lead counsel to the inquiry, Jason Beer, asked Patterson if he would describe the editing of witness statements as shameful. “That would be one word I would use,” Patterson responded, adding that it was also “appalling.”
The U.K. government has vowed to overturn hundreds of convictions, and to speed up compensation payments due to wrongly prosecuted Post Office branch managers, known as sub-postmasters. Fujitsu said earlier this week that it would contribute to compensation, and has written to the government promising it
Patterson said Friday that Fujitsu did not realize at first how the Post Office was using reports it received from Fujitsu about bugs. “But certainly latterly, of course the company became more aware that it was being used nearly solely for prosecutions,” Patterson said.
Bugs in Fujitsu’s Horizon software included issues such as a loss of data which meant payments and receipts didn’t balance. Another glitch meant an incorrect mathematical symbol was used, so when a sum should have been deducted, it was instead doubled.
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