The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (jfsa.org.uk) is making progress with its fight with the Post Office over flaws in the Horizon accounting system. Recently circulated was an email with updates on a meeting held with Edward Davey, Minister for Postal Affairs, in October. Alan Bates, who runs the jfsa website, attended along with lawyers who are fighting several court cases. They were allowed 45 minutes to present their case. "As you can appreciate 45 minutes is not long to try to explain everything that is wrong with POL and Horizon, but I had five pages of bullet points which I quickly went through," says Alan.

Among these was the irksome clause 12 of item 12 of the contract which says 'postmaster liable for all losses regardless'.

Alan spent a lot of time on that and how it is abused and applied to a computer system that others can access centrally. Also addressed was the lack of logs in the system to show if an office had been accessed by a third party and the lack of an option to remove any shortage showing from the balance to investigate later, and how the way it is currently configured to, in his words "entrap a subpostmaster into false accounting".

Also covered was the subject of audits lack of and also lack of standards, including the (in)competence of those carrying out the audit/stocktake, and lack of qualified personnel to undertake the work and how POL sends around "thugs in suits like the mafia" to carry out the work.

Then there was the matter of the POL informal interviews that they recorded and did not allow a solicitor to attend. Other points: the abuse of POL in using its licence to prosecute people without the cases being referred to the CPS; the ability of POL to automatically remove money from a postmasters salary; the cost of individual persons trying to obtain IT reports and the problems POL create for anyone requesting information either through the courts or otherwise; the urgent need for an external IT audit of Horizon and Crown Offices losses though Horizon.

Alan has followed this up with a letter itemising what was covered and what there had not been time to cover.

Interestingly, the Minister asked why the National Federation of Subpostmasters had not raised these points and 'why does Horizon show more shortages than overs?'

I know there are lots of arguments over the suggested privatisation of the PO, but it does make you wonder whether the private sector could possibly make such a pig's ear of it.

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