The public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal, mandated by law, reached its fourth phase as barristers concluded their submissions. The inquiry has garnered increased attention from the public, particularly following the airing of an ITV dramatization of the scandal. KC Tim Moloney, representing former subpostmasters affected by the scandal, highlighted the significant revelations of the inquiry phase, which exposed malpractice by the Post Office and external parties involved. He also criticized the “institutional amnesia” that hindered the inquiry and the burden of proof placed on subpostmasters. Another KC, Sam Stein, referred to former and current staff of the Post Office as “liars and amnesiacs” with a contemptuous attitude towards subpostmasters. The delayed phase four of the inquiry, which began in July, will be followed by the combined fifth and sixth phases starting on April 9. Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells, director Angela van den Bogerd, and Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey will all face questioning. The inquiry was plagued by delays due to the Post Office’s failure to provide documents on time.
The statutory public inquiry was established in response to a 2019 High Court ruling that held the Horizon system responsible for the losses suffered by subpostmasters. It was initiated in May 2021, following a demand by former subpostmaster and justice campaigner Alan Bates. The inquiry consists of seven phases, including hearings on the human impact, Horizon IT system, its operation and knowledge of errors, and legal action against subpostmasters. The scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, highlighting the experiences of seven subpostmasters and the challenges they faced due to the Horizon system. The scandal resulted in the prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters, imprisonment for about 200, and the subsequent overturning of wrongful convictions for 100 individuals. Many subpostmasters also suffered financial ruin by being forced to repay nonexistent shortfalls.