• Monday, June 17, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Police mobilise 80 detectives for Post Office criminal inquiry

Photo: iStock

By: Pramod Thomas

POLICE are planning to assign 80 detectives for criminal investigation of the Post Office scandal, the Guardian reported, however, victims may experience a significant delay before learning whether charges will follow.

The inquiry will scrutinise potential perjury and obstruction of justice by senior Post Office officials and tech giant Fujitsu.

Discussions have commenced between law enforcement and prosecutors regarding potential criminal charges, stemming from allegations that Post Office managers were aware of flaws in their computer system but still prosecuted branch operators for theft.

According to the report, the operation will span the nation and be divided into four regional hubs, with resources comparable to those of major murder or terrorism investigations. A special grant of at least £6.75m is being sought from the government to fund this endeavour.

However, victims may face considerable delays before learning if those who wrongfully pursued them will face trials themselves.

Charging decisions will not be pursued until after the conclusion of a public inquiry expected in autumn 2025, with the Crown Prosecution Service not anticipated to reach decisions until 2026 or later.

While early investigations have identified around 20 potential suspects, more may emerge as the inquiry progresses. The investigation team will also explore the possibility of adding fraud to the list of offenses under scrutiny.

Since 2020, the Metropolitan Police has spearheaded the investigation, but its magnitude and the widespread nature of the cases have prompted the establishment of a national operation.

The next phase will be coordinated by the Met, and will be overseen by a senior officer, likely Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe.

“A team of detectives has been painstakingly working through millions of documents manually and with the help of specialist software, in parallel with the public inquiry. This is very time-consuming and we cannot cut corners and risk missing evidence,” Met commander Stephen Clayman was quoted as saying.

“Given the significant scale of the investigation, it has been agreed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) that the next phase of the investigation will be a national policing effort, coordinated by the Met, with the pursuit of justice at its heart.”

The Post Office scandal saw over 900 sub-post office operators prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 due to errors in the Horizon software system. Some faced imprisonment, financial ruin, and even loss of life.

While a new law has provided exoneration for some, the fight for justice continues for many.

Meanwhile, the ongoing public inquiry is scrutinising the actions of various organisations and government entities in relation to the scandal, with police closely monitoring the proceedings for evidence.

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