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    Police to deploy 80 detectives for criminal inquiry into Post Office scandal

    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells arrives to testify at the Post Office inquiry on May 22, 2024 in London, England. Paula Vennells worked as the Post Office chief executive during the key Horizon operating years from 2012 - 2019. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Scotland Yard has recruited around 80 detectives for its criminal investigation into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, it has emerged.

    The Metropolitan Police announced a nationwide probe will examine potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice by senior executives and tech giant Fujitsu.

    Since January 2020, a core team of officers and staff has been looking at wide-ranging allegations following a referral from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

    According to a report by The Guardian, police have already started discussions with prosecutors about the investigation and potential criminal charges, which stem from the possibility that post office operators were wrongly prosecuted for stealing when those at the top allegedly knew their computer accounting system could be flawed.

    Early work has identified at least 20 potential suspects, but more could follow as the criminal inquiries get fully under way. 

    The police operation will be national and split into four regional hubs. The staffing and resources will be similar to a major murder or terrorism investigation. Police have asked government for a special grant of at least £6.75 million to fund the operation, stated the report.

    However, the police will not seek charging decisions until after the public inquiry into the Post Office scandal concludes, which is expected in autumn 2025. This in turn implies that Crown Prosecution Service will not reach charging decisions until 2026, and the wait for any criminal trials could be even longer.

    More than 900 sub-post office operators were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 after errors in the Horizon software system wrongly showed money missing from their branches.

    Some were jailed, pursued for money, financially ruined and in some cases, took their own lives. The Post Office continued to fight those who were wronged until 2019.

    This comes as convictions of hundreds of postmasters have been quashed on Friday following Royal Assent of the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Act 2024.

    Postmasters will be written to in the coming weeks as the process for notifying them of their overturned convictions commences. An open letter to postmasters to set out next steps has also been published on Friday (24).

    The Department for Business and Trade said it will continue to work on the new Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme for those who have had their convictions quashed by thes legislation. This will be fully operational by the summer.

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