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Horizon scandal and public inquiry

Many of the current debates about management culture at the Post Office relate to the Horizon affair, how the Post Office responded to it, or the current ongoing inquiry into it.

The Horizon scandal has been described as one of the UK’s most widespread miscarriages of justice.

A number of postmasters, who run individual post office branches, experienced difficulties with the Horizon Post Office computer system, which was introduced from 1999. Errors in the system showed false shortfalls on the accounts of postmasters, which the Post Office then demanded they cover.

The Post Office used information from Horizon to investigate and take action against postmasters. There were suspensions, prosecutions, bankruptcies, health problems, family breakdowns and suicides.

This has been a long and complicated saga, stretching back over two decades, involving a long campaign for justice, various court cases, compensation schemes and currently a public inquiry.

Questions about Post Office management culture have been raised repeatedly.

Recent issues and developments

Recent issues include:

  • the removal of the Chair of the Post Office board
  • failures by the Post Office to disclose documents to the public inquiry with sufficient notice
  • various questions about compensation schemes and how well they are being run
  • problems with earlier Post Office computer systems coming to light

Other developments in 2024 include:

  • increased attention on the Horizon scandal following an ITV documentary, Mr Bates vs The Post Office
  • the announcement of a new law that will be brought forward to overturn convictions
  • Paula Vennells, former Post Office chief executive, saying she will give back her CBE, following a public petition
  • Fujitsu, which developed the Horizon system, saying it would contribute to compensation for Horizon victims

Further information

Please see the attached briefing for further information and sources.

Documents to download

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