Former subpostmasters who brought legal action against the Post Office say they have been “vindicated” after the High Court finds that their IT system had “bugs and defects,” paving the way for further legal action.
A £58 million settlement has been approved between the Post Office and more than 550 claimants by Mr Justice Fraser.
The judge also delivered his ruling in the second of two trials, in which he made findings about the reliability of the Horizon computer system at the centre of the dispute.
The claimants alleged that the system contained a large number of software defects – which they say caused shortfalls in their accounts.
Some were made bankrupt, while others were prosecuted and even jailed for offences including false accounting, fraud and theft.
Mr Justice Fraser concluded that the system contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and that there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.
The judge further announced that he would be referring the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to evidence given by employees of Fujitsu, which developed and maintained the Horizon system, in previous court cases.
He said: “Based on the knowledge that I have gained, I have very grave concerns regarding veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system.”
Lawyers for the claimants told the court that the confidential terms of the settlement agreed with the Post Office will not prevent individual subpostmasters from bringing separate legal action over allegations of malicious prosecution.
In a statement outside court after the hearing, James Hartley, partner at Freeths law firm which represented the claimants, said: “This judgment is vindication for the claimant group of postmasters – they have finally been proved to have been right all along when they have said that the Horizon system was a possible cause of shortfalls in their branch accounts.
“These claimants can now walk with their heads held high after all these years.”