Whether it’s just a few or the many still remains to be worked out but there are definitely those at the Post Office who should be slung into jail:
The Post Office computer flaw that meant hundreds of postmasters were wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit could cost the taxpayer £233 million as the Government sets aside funds for payouts.
The Government has disclosed in its accounts that it is setting aside the money for compensation for those accused of theft and false accounting in 1999 and 2000.
The government is having to provide the money because the Post Office – no, no the mail – is a government owned firm.
As to what actually happened, in a nutshell:
Fujitsu shouldn’t be off the hook for the system either. From what I’ve read it seems the system didn’t implement one of the crucial features of a database – an update should happen in full or not at all – the ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability) property. Transactions partially completed in communication failures leading to an inconsistency in accounting entries between the sub-postmaster syatem and the central Post Office system. That is an unforgivable design flaw.
I’ve not seen anyone who knows their stuff – The Register and so on – disagreeing with that basic thought.
To explain it to the non-tech – like me.
So, you’re a post office – of sub-post office. You do something with money. Pay out some benefits, cash a cheque, take in money from selling stamps. At some point your till and point of sale thingie is going to have to talk to the central computer. OK.
This was all done over dial up modems and stuff – we are talking 20 years ago on a system designed 5 and 10 years before that.
OK, so there are going to be times when the update doesn’t complete. Dropped phone lines, computer says no, electronic wilfullness and so on. So, what happens then?
Every other such system in the world – say, that of any retail chain at all – says “Ooops! non-complete. We’ll not count that. We’ll start again and only add it to the central numbers once we get the full file.”
The Post Office system would – sometimes at least – count as valid the half completed data transfer. And then count it again when it was resent. Which is what the problem was.
That in itself is bad enough. Just cheap, lousy, terrible, sodding awful government computer procurement. It’s what happened next:
Of course the Post Office people who continued with prosecutions knowing of the flaw should really be flung into the worst Category A prison & forgotten.
And yes, they did know:
It is unbelievable how obvious a mistake it was and how long they took to correct it.
There’s a lot of people who should be done for perjury as the testimony that the system couldn’t possibly make this type of mistake was instrumental in the convictions.
They operated in a parallel universe. Read the brief descriptions of the judgments here:
Initially the PO wanted all the evidence dismissed because it didn’t help them (judgement 2)
Then they lost (judgment 3) and their witnesses were found to be unreliable.
Before J3 was even given the PO decided to ask the judge to recuse himself mainly because he did not agree with the PO. The judge told them they were morons. (Judgment 4).
The PO appeals. The CoA says the judge was right and the PO are morons. recusal appeal fails.
The PO wants leave to appeal the judgment for the same reasons as their desire to have the evidence dismissed (J2) and because they don’t like the judge (J4). Judge says no, you cannot appeal. The CoA agrees with the judge.
This is two years ago. And now the morons want the taxpayers to pay. The only way these idiots should get the money is after we prosecute their in house lawyers for malicious prosecution and after the idiots have purged their own ranks of the idiots involved and gone after them for civil damages. Gross negligence does not even begin to cover this.
Jail time. Lots of it. And yes, that includes CEO types.
If we don’t scrag those in government who fuck the people then those in government will continue to fuck the people, won’t they?