1. 34
  1.  

  2. 11

    There may be thermoclines of truth, but that is not what happened here. (I guess there’s a thermocline of truth reliability from primary sources to secondary sources to opinion pieces, too.)

    The court found it its judgement that the failures of the accounting software were known to those in charge of Post Office Ltd., and not disclosed to the accused. These actions by POL, the court ruled, denied the accused the possibility of a fair trial, and constitute perversion of the course of justice.

    I’ll post links to judgement and secondary sources later, when I’m at a PC. In the meantime, you can find both in the recent posts at https://twitter.com/davidallengreen

    1. 5

      The judgements:

      A bit of timeline:

      • Horizon was developed and introduced in the Post Office from 1999 by International Computers Ltd (acquired in 2002 by Fujitsu).
      • 2000-(2015 or later) Many accounting problems, including phantom entries, were reported by postmasters to POL, and relevant bugs were fixed by ICL/Fujitsu.
      • The appelants were convicted between 2003 and 2013, of (accusations of) offences committed during the period 2000-2012.
      • In an exchange of internal memoranda in August 2009, a defence request for disclosure of Horizon data was met with objections based upon the cost of obtaining such information from Fujitsu.
      • Mr. Clarke wrote internal advice to POL that there was exculpatory evidence must be disclosed in July/August 2013.
      • Victims brought and won a civil case against POL in 2019
      • The criminal convictions were quashed just now, in April 2021
      1. 4

        Two tidbits from Justice Fraser’s civil judgment, but really you should read the whole thing:

        1. There were no evident attempts on this occasion to mislead me in [Van Den Bogerd, senior director at PO] oral evidence, or avoid uncomfortable points through a claim of ignorance (with the possible exception of the PEAK referred to at [210] above) or of not having seen a document before. When she told me that she had not seen a particular document before, I accept that. However, she also told me that she had been assisted in preparing her evidence by a team of ten people, and the Post Office had devoted “high level resources” to her evidence, as one would expect. It is therefore very surprising that she had not seen many of the important documents that Mr Green put to her in cross-examination. Some, such as the master PEAK on phantom sales, one of the recurring issues on Horizon, would have been the obvious place for anyone, still less a team of ten, to start when considering preparation of evidence for a witness statement. She explained that there was some pressure of time in terms of how long was available to her to prepare the statement, and this was further explained in supplementary re-examination, but I do not accept insufficient time as a valid explanation for her lack of knowledge on such important points. For example, she told me that at the time of preparing her witness statement, she had not even heard of the Callendar Square bug, one of two bugs that the Post Office accepted some time ago had been present in the Horizon system. This is an extraordinary gap in her knowledge. She did not know that there was a KEL dealing with failed recoveries, originally raised by Anne Chambers in Fujitsu as long ago as 2010, which is called KEL acha959T and which was updated most recently in 2017. This described failed recoveries, and seemed on its face to accept that these would recur, and was very close to the experience of both Mr Tank and also Mrs Burke. I do not see how Mrs Van Den Bogerd (assisted by her team of ten, and with the benefit of the Post Office’s considerable resources) could seek to give accurate evidence in the Horizon Issues trial without referring to this KEL, still less without even knowing about it. I am also somewhat disappointed – putting it at its very best for the Post Office – that a team of ten could have assisted Mrs Van Den Bogerd in preparing a witness statement that was so inaccurate on such important points as I have identified above.

        […]

        1. Finally, and this is a point in Mrs Van Den Bogerd’s favour, there is no doubt that the Post Office is not as sufficiently close to the detail of what has occurred over the years on Legacy Horizon and Horizon Online, as Fujitsu. As will be seen from my analysis of the Fujitsu evidence of fact, I have certain views about the lack of accuracy on the part of Fujitsu witnesses in their evidence. If that lack of accuracy has also been included in reporting to the Post Office by Fujitsu, then that goes some way to explaining the Post Office’s lack of grasp of so much material that is consistent with the claimants’ case. As at late 2019, the date of this judgment, the Post Office also has the added benefit of the views of both the IT experts in the litigation, their four joint statements, the agreed number of bugs in the bug table (12, if one takes the number accepted by Dr Worden), the total number of bugs Mr Coyne says he has discovered (which so far as Horizon Issue 1 is concerned became 21), and collectively my findings on the Horizon Issues. These are not restricted solely to the number of bugs which I have found to exist which relate to Horizon Issue 1, but also those that relate to Horizon Issue 4. There are multiple bugs, errors and defects in both Legacy Horizon and Horizon Online in its HNG-X form.

        And the other thing, because I can’t post two replies to the same comment:

        From the Court of Appeal’s judgment:

        1. Mr Clarke wrote a further advice on 2 August 2013. From this it is apparent that, before sending his earlier advice, he had advised POL in conference on 3 July 2013. At that conference he had advised the creation of a single hub to collate all Horizon-related defects, bugs, complaints, queries and Fujitsu remedies, so there would be a single source of information for disclosure purposes in future prosecutions. POL had accepted his advice and had set up a weekly conference call, three of which had taken place by the time Mr Clarke wrote his later advice. After the third, he said, the following information had been relayed to him:

        “(i) The minutes of a previous call had been typed and emailed to a number of persons. An instruction was then given that those emails and minutes should be, and have been, destroyed: the word ‘shredded’ was conveyed to me.

        (ii) Handwritten minutes were not to be typed and should be forwarded to POL Head of Security.

        (iii) Advice had been given to POL which I report as relayed to me verbatim: ‘If it’s not minuted it’s not in the public domain and therefore not disclosable.’ ‘If it’s produced it’s available for disclosure - if not minuted then technically it’s not.’

        1. […] [quoting further advice by Clarke] “Regardless of the position in civil law, any advice to the effect that, if material is not minuted or otherwise written down, it does not fall to be disclosed is, in the field of criminal law, wrong. It is wrong in law and principle and such a view represents a failing to fully appreciate the duties of fairness and integrity placed upon a prosecutor’s shoulders.”

        2. Again, we commend the firmness and clarity of Mr Clarke’s advice. That he should have had to give it is, if anything, even more extraordinary than the fact that he needed to write his earlier advice. The need to give it suggests there was a culture, amongst at least some in positions of responsibility within POL, of seeking to avoid legal obligations when fulfilment of those obligations would be inconvenient and/or costly to POL.

        1. 3

          Holy cow. The people affected by these bugs should at the very least be paid truckloads of money. Campaigns should be run to restore their pride. Treated as veterans of a war, perhaps. They sacrificed a LOT for their country, without a choice in the matter.

          We like to focus on bugs that cause death as the Big Deal. Nope, turns out floating point errors can be Big Deals too.

          Within any organization there will be “thermoclines of truth” wherever the culture encourages them, be they at every level or never. Such cultures will eradicate their host company given enough time, but people need to be aware of that, to stamp out the culture before it has a chance to train managers and escape the poisoned company.

      2. 3

        If I read the article and some of your other links the thermocline had risen to just below Vennells by the time she took office…. ie. Her direct reports full on plain lied to her.

        At what point she passed through it I don’t know and would like to know.

        In your https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2019/3408.html point 948 she seems to be, in good faith, as at July 2016 attempting understand wtf is happening.

        I wouldn’t put it passed such unmitigated slime balls to propel a lady through the glass ceiling merely to take the fall.

        1. 2

          Well spotted, I had missed that. On the other hand, point 950 says she sent a message later that same day canceling the request to look into this… Regardless of whether the CEO (Vennells, and before her someone else (2010-2012), and before that Adam Crozier (2003-2010)) knew, the people in charge of prosecuting/persecuting the subpostmasters knew. So this was not a matter of mistakes due to deficient knowledge.

          I suppose my main point is this: The Post Office case was a tasteless choice to illustrate the thermocline of truth, because that draws attention away from the fact that there was something far worse going on.

          Now if only I could have put that this compactly yesterday.

      3. 3

        I’m serving as Tech Lead on a project for the first time, and this comparison resonated with me!

        1. 3

          The source article linked in this post is well worth reading.

          1. 3

            I loved reading this article. It is amazing how far the shit pyramid gymnastics can stretch.

            1. 1

              It seems inconceivable to me that reconciliation of cash accounts against external sources would fail to reveal the truth. Is the Post Office its own bank? Or do such large organizations not actually do this type of reconciliation because it’s too complicated?