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    Post Office says ‘racist’ identification codes created before separation

    (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    The document containing identification codes with racist descriptors used in Horizon investigators at Post Office might have been created prior to the separation of Post Office Limited in 2012, the firm said.

    Reports last month revealed a document containing racist and offensive language, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for documents held by Post Office’s Security Team during the period 2008 – 2011, that probed alleged “false accounting” by sub-postmasters.

    Post Office, which condemned the ‘language and classifications used in the historical document’, established an investigation to determine how the document came to be created.

    “Preliminary enquiries indicate that the document containing identification codes may have been created prior to the separation of Post Office Limited in 2012, when it was still part of the government owned Royal Mail Group,” the firm said in a statement on Friday, adding that investigation documents were likely transferred to Post Office Limited for its use.

    Post Office has appointed Jeremy Scott-Joynt, a barrister from Outer Temple Chambers, as an external legal advisor to review all evidence, contribute to the direction of the investigation and assist in drafting the final investigation report.

    The investigation will also look to establish whether the codes were actively used on Post Office investigation or prosecution documentation and for what reason.

    The firm confirmed that between 2008 (the date on the cover of the document released under FOI) and 2015, it brought some private criminal prosecutions in England and Wales and used identification codes in case files, but added that since the 2019 change of leadership, Post Office has been clear that it will never again carry out its own prosecutions.

    Hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly subjected to investigation for “fraud” based on information from the Horizon computer system which was later found to be faulty.

    More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 and some of them were imprisoned in what is known as “the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history”. Several convictions have since been overturned.

    The guidance for the investigation required the investigators to give sub-postmasters under suspicion a number based on their racial features.

    Post Office noted that identification codes were used by UK law enforcement to create and conduct Police National Computer record checks historically. All law enforcement and prosecuting authorities provided an identification code with investigative and prosecuting papers.

    Post Office has also begun a search of all known active and historical documents to ensure there are no other documents that may contain racist or offensive language.

    Post Office said it has and will continue to engage with the Royal Mail Group as part of this investigation.

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