Home Business Ex-Post Office operations boss admits 'missed opportunity' to prevent Horizon scandal

Ex-Post Office operations boss admits 'missed opportunity' to prevent Horizon scandal

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David Miller tells the inquiry that he regretted his handling of an early case related to the faulty accounting system software – denying he was part of any effort to keep a critical report quiet.
Business reporter
Tuesday 16 April 2024 13:01, UK
A former Post Office director has expressed regret over a „missed opportunity” to prevent the Horizon IT scandal at the public inquiry.
David Miller, who was chief operating officer in 2004, admitted failing to read an expert’s report claiming issues with the accounting system in the case of then Cleveleys sub-postmistress, Julie Wolstenholme.
She had been seeking almost £180,000 from Post Office for unfair dismissal in a counter-claim to a civil case brought by the company.
Ms Wolstenholme later received less than £25,000 in a settlement, meaning the critical 2003 report on the Horizon system by Jason Coyne did not come to light at the time.
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In his witness statement, Mr Miller said of a meeting with ex-head of security Tony Marsh: „He told me there was an issue with the expert advice which had led our counsel to say the case was unlikely to succeed. It was clear that he did not think much of the expert.
„The view was that we should cut our losses and pay up. He said something about Horizon – I cannot recall specifically what he said but I remember checking with him whether there were issues with Horizon (I said something like; ‘you are not saying there are issues with Horizon are you, Tony?’)
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„He said that there were no issues and I got the impression it was a one-off case.
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„Knowing what I now know about Horizon and the way it was used to wrongly prosecute and bring civil claims against sub-postmasters, I very much regret not reading the expert’s report and counsel’s advice.
„Had I done, so I would have taken action to address the issues raised. I acknowledge that by not reading them, there was a missed opportunity.”
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He admitted that the Coyne report had clearly not been „given sufficient weight”.
Hundreds of people were later wrongly convicted of stealing after bugs and errors in the accounting system, operated by Fujitsu, made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.
Victims faced prison and financial ruin. Others were ostracised by their communities, while some took their own lives.
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Fresh attention was brought to the scandal after ITV broadcast the drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, prompting government action that aims to speed up the clearing of names and payments of compensation.
The inquiry also heard that a barrister advising the Post Office in the case was told to take into account that the organisation wanted as „little publicity as possible” drawn to the Coyne report.
Mr Miller insisted those words had not been spoken by him.
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