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Third police probe into Post Office scandal under consideration

A third police investigation into potential crimes committed by individuals in the Post Office scandal could be launched as the Metropolitan Police Service is “looking at” a potential probe.

In January, subpostmaster campaigner Alan Bates said if the police don’t investigate, he and fellow campaigners will raise the funds needed to pursue private prosecutions.

When Bates met with Metropolitan Police officials to discuss a potential investigation into the Post Office and individuals, he was told the force was looking into it.

He told Computer Weekly: “I met up with some senior officers before the public inquiry on Monday. They clarified their position and gave us the security that they were looking at all of it.”

Bates’ meeting with the police followed a letter he wrote to Metropolitan Police commissioner Mark Rowley, requesting clarification on what the force was doing, before moving forward with a plan to launch private prosecutions.

Bates had earlier said the subpostmaster campaigners would consider privately prosecuting the individuals responsible for the Post Office scandal. Such a move could see the subpostmasters use the same powers to prosecute former Post Office staff as the organisation used to wrongly prosecute hundreds of subpostmasters. While it is an expensive process, no one will doubt the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance’s ability to raise the funds.

The Metropolitan Police had not replied to Computer Weekly’s questions at the time this article was published.

If an investigation is launched, it will be the third police probe into potential crimes committed in the Post Office scandal. As revealed by Computer Weekly in April 2020, the Met Police began investigating whether tech executives at Fujitsu, which supplied the Post Office’s Horizon retail and accounting system, committed perjury during prosecutions of subpostmasters. In November of that same year, the Met opened a full investigation, which is ongoing.

In January this year, a second Metropolitan Police investigation was launched into potential crimes linked to the Post Office strategy of recovering phantom losses from prosecuted subpostmasters. Between 2000 and 2015, the Post Office prosecuted 736 subpostmasters over unexplained shortfalls, for crimes including theft and false accounting. The Post Office forced subpostmasters to pay for the shortfalls, despite there being no evidence of cash being stolen, only the shortfalls incorrectly recorded by the Horizon system.

The Metropolitan Police said it was “investigating potential fraud offences arising out of these prosecutions”, which included “monies recovered from subpostmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions”.

Separately, six more former subpostmasters have had wrongful convictions overturned, which were based on evidence from the flawed Post Office Horizon system. Campaigners will be watching Parliament in the hope that legislation on overturning convictions en masse is rushed through Parliament, before it is prorogued before the General Election on 4 July.

The Post Office Horizon scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to accounting software (see below timeline of all Computer Weekly articles about the Horizon scandal, since 2009).

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story

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