Post Office expert IT witness Gareth Jenkins resigns BCS membership

The IT expert at the centre of the Post Office Horizon scandal has resigned as a member of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, after he was informed the professional association could investigate his part in the widest miscarriage of justice in history.

Gareth Jenkins, who was chief architect at Fujitsu and acted as an expert witness for the Post Office when it prosecuted subpostmasters based on computer evidence, also relinquished his Chartered IT Professional Status.

Subpostmasters who were convicted of financial crimes, at trials where Jenkins provided expert IT evidence claiming the Horizon system could not be to blame for losses, have since had their convictions overturned.

The BCS said: “[Our] CEO Rashik Parmar wrote to Jenkins earlier this month to advise him that investigative action under our code of conduct was a potential outcome, pending evidence due to be heard from him at the inquiry.

“In his reply, Jenkins resigned his membership of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, which includes Chartered IT Professional Status

(CITP)

.”

Commenting earlier, Parmar said: “The Horizon scandal has highlighted the vital importance of independent standards of professionalism and ethics in the application, development and deployment of technology.

“With so many lives devastated by this tragedy, the transparency provided by a statutory public inquiry is essential to getting justice for the subpostmasters and to retaining trust in technology as a force for good.

“BCS and other professional bodies should work together to adopt and support any relevant recommendations once the inquiry and criminal investigations conclude. For us, that will include taking any appropriate action under our code of conduct.”

Hundreds of subpostmasters were convicted of crimes after unexplained shortfalls appeared in their accounts. A Computer Weekly investigation in 2009 revealed that subpostmasters, who run and own Post Office branches, were being blamed for financial losses, which they claimed were caused by errors in the Horizon IT system, supplied by Fujitsu.

The Post Office denied this, and many subpostmasters were subsequently prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with prison sentences, community service, criminal records and heavy fines among the injustices they suffered as a result. A multimillion-pound High Court trial in 2018/19 proved that the Horizon system was error-prone and caused unexplained losses.

Jenkins begins four days of questioning by barristers at the Post Office scandal inquiry tomorrow (25 June).

He is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan Police for potentially committing perjury during the prosecutions of subpostmasters. The police launched its investigation into Jenkins and former Fujitsu colleague Anne Chambers in November 2020, after High Court judge Peter Fraser referred them to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

About 900 subpostmasters were prosecuted for financial crimes based on evidence from the Horizon system, all of whom will now have their wrongful convictions overturned after the government forced through legislation to do so.

Jenkins was used as an expert IT witness by the Post Office until 2013, when a lawyer working for the organisation said he had given misleading evidence about the existence of software bugs and couldn’t be used again.

During a recent public inquiry hearing, Ian Henderson, director at forensic accountancy firm Second Sight, which revealed problems with the Horizon system, described Jenkins as helpful during his investigation.

In an email to his business partner, Ron Warmington, during Second Sight’s investigation of Horizon from 2012 to 2015, Henderson said: “Gareth Jenkins has always struck me as, you know, straight as a die.”

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters – including Alan Bates – and the problems they suffered due to the Horizon accounting software. It’s one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history (see below for timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009).

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal •

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story •

Source

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