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United Kingdom: Mistrial in fraud case in postal workers scandal

United Kingdom: Mistrial in fraud case in postal workers scandal

London police are investigating “possible fraud” in the scandal of former postal agency managers who were wrongly tried for theft, Scotland Yard said on Friday evening, one of the worst miscarriages of justice in recent history in the UK.

Between 1999 and 2015, about 700 post office branch managers were prosecuted, sometimes to the point where their lives were shattered, on the basis of information from accounting software called Horizon, installed by Fujitsu.

London police announced on Friday evening that they were investigating “possible fraud crimes arising from these procedures,” for example sums of money recovered after prosecutions or civil lawsuits.

Scotland Yard was already investigating possible acts of perjury and perverting the course of justice. Two people have been questioned by investigators, but no arrests have been made since this investigation began in January 2020.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the Post Office began installing the Horizon system, but flaws in its programming led to shortfalls in branch accounts.

Postal Service executives refused to acknowledge problems with the program and forced postal workers to pay up the accounting shortfall, devastating many of them.

In December 2019, a High Court judge concluded that the system contained a number of “errors, errors and defects” and that there was a “substantial risk” of it being the cause of deficits in postal sub-accounts.

Indeed, 86 convictions have been overturned in this case, and £21 million ($32.4 million) in compensation has been paid to affected employees.

Last September, the government announced that wrongfully convicted agency heads could receive compensation of £600,000 (about $924,000) each.

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Managers of affected branches can choose to reject the offer and pursue legal action, and those who have already received compensation or reached an agreement with the Post Office for less than £600,000 will receive the difference.

The British government announced in December 2021 that it would cover compensation for the former postal employees involved and has already paid 120 million pounds ($185.4 million) to compensate, in addition to agency managers, 2,600 people affected by this scandal.

The Post Office is a public company that has been running post offices since the spin-off of Royal Mail in 2012, which was in turn privatised, listed and manages mail delivery.