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Unisys investigating potential involvement in controversial Post Office system

Unisys has launched an investigation into its role in the distribution of the Post Office’s Capture accounting software, which is now being linked to the potential wrongful prosecutions and suffering of subpostmasters.

Since the airing of ITV’s drama about the long-running Post Office Horizon scandal, former subpostmasters have come forward who had suffered similar problems with the Capture software that pre-dated Horizon, which they used to do their accounts.

Computer Weekly understands that Unisys preinstalled the software, which was developed by Post Office IT teams at a centre in Farnborough, into hardware before it was distributed to subpostmasters, but had no involvement in the software’s development.

Unisys has until now not answered Computer Weekly questions about its role, but has now confirmed it has launched an internal investigation “given the importance of the matter”.

“We know the Post Office Horizon issue has drawn significant public attention in the UK, and we empathise with the subpostmasters and their families who have been impacted.

“Given the lengthy time that has passed and difficulty locating documentation from that far back, we are currently unaware of Unisys developing the software at issue.  Given the importance of the matter, however, we have launched an investigation.

The Post Office has also  cited the passage time as a reason it is unable to identify where the software was developed.

Computer Weekly has established that the software was developed by the Post Office, although the organisation itself said its investigations have failed to identify which company created the software.

In a freedom of information response, it said: “We are currently unable to locate from our records the information you have requested but please note that Post Office is undertaking an investigation into Capture, following serious concerns that have been raised.

“Given the passage of time, around 30 years ago, and changes to data storage systems since Post Office separated from Royal Mail Group, we do not yet have a complete picture of Capture, but are progressing our investigations as quickly as possible. We will be continuing to update our website with findings.”

Labour MP Kevan Jones, a campaigner for justice for wronged Horizon users, is also supporting former subpostmasters who experienced unexplained losses when using the Capture system.

“Why can the Post Office not answer basic questions about how many people received and operated this software? Why were known faults in the software not taken into account when subpostmasters experienced shortfalls and unexplained anomalies?” he said.

He added that the Post Office and Unisys have a responsibility to provide answers.

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

Watch: ITV’s Post Office scandal documentary, Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The real story

Computer Weekly first exposed the scandal in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered as a result of the Horizon system (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below). 

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