Post Office Horizon scandal – Sir Wyn Williams to head inquiry

Postal, Post Office (PO)

Wednesday 30th September 2020

“One cheer, but we’re reserving our second,” was CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey’s reaction to yesterday’s news that the Government has appointed a senior and widely respected former High Court judge to lead the investigation into what many have dubbed “one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice.”

Postal Affairs Minister Paul Scully announced yesterday that Sir Wyn Williams – a former Senior Presiding Judge with 28 years of judicial service – will preside over the inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal and that his work will “start immediately.”

In his statement, Mr Scully said: “It is essential that we determine precisely what went wrong at the Post Office during this period, so we can ensure the right lessons have been learnt, and establish what must change to make sure this cannot happen again.”

Sir Williams commented that he is “very much looking forward to this inquiry” and explained that his “terms of reference include a new commitment to build upon the findings of the court case by establishing a clear account of the implementation and failings of Horizon over its lifecycle.

“To achieve this, the inquiry will obtain all available relevant evidence from Post Office Ltd, Fujitsu and BEIS from the period in question.

“Among other things,” he added: “The inquiry will examine the governance and whistleblowing controls now in place at Post Office Ltd and whether they are sufficient to ensure that the failings that led to the Horizon case do not happen again.”

                   Andy Furey

Speaking to CWU News, Andy Furey said that he’s “pleased on several counts.

“I’m glad that the inquiry is now finally under way – it was promised by the PM way back in February and although it’s totally understandable that the terrible Covid pandemic has been top priority, Postmasters have still be waiting too long for accountability and justice.

“The expansion of the terms of reference, which Sir Williams has explained, is also welcomed, as is the choice of this extremely experienced and senior judge to head the process.”   

But Andy is disappointed that the investigation, although being described as an ‘inquiry’, does not have ‘statutory’ status or powers, which means that witnesses cannot be compelled to appear and this is relevant as a number of senior directors who were involved are no longer employed by the Post Office. 

“I see that Sir Williams reports that both Post Office Ltd and Fujitsu, which supplied the Horizon system, have committed to fully cooperate with the inquiry, but I fear that if any other person of interest refused to appear at a hearing, there would not be the full force of the law to make them attend,” Andy explained.

“So, my overall reaction is that we cautiously welcome this development whilst still having reservations and concerns that justice will finally be done. Indeed, the terms of reference appear to have a glaring omission in not focussing on who is accountable for this scandal.

“In the meantime, we warmly welcome Sir Williams’s appointment, we welcome the opening of this investigation and of course we, the CWU will fully and 100 per cent commit to providing any help, assistance or co-operation that this investigation requires and hopefully justice will be provided for the hundreds of postmaster victims”

Marion Fellows MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Post Office, said that “the appointment of retired Judge Wyn Williams to the Horizon Inquiry merely masks the fact that this is still not the Inquiry the Prime Minister promised.

“It is not a statutory inquiry and has no power to call witnesses. Another sleight of hand by a Government which likes to think of Post Offices and the Horizon scandal as someone else’s problem despite being the single shareholder.”