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An inquiry examining a Post Office computer scandal will be judge-led and start this week, the Government has said.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told MPs that former High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams will chair the review into the plight of sub-postmasters involved in the Horizon IT scandal.
Campaigners have called for a judge-led inquiry for several months and have criticised delays in launching the review.
Hundreds of postmasters were wrongly accused of false accounting and theft following problems with the defective Horizon IT system.
I can confirm to the House that Sir Wyn Williams, a former High Court judge, will chair the Government’s inquiry, which begins this week
While some were sacked or made bankrupt, others were prosecuted and jailed.
Last year the Post Office paid a £57.75 million settlement after more than 550 claimants brought group legal action over the Horizon system, which was found to contain software flaws that caused financial shortfalls in the subpostmasters’ branch accounts over a number of years.
An investigation also showed that Post Office managers knew IT problems could be to blame for missing money, but still prosecuted staff.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sharma said: “I know that the plight of subpostmasters involved in the Horizon IT scandal has rightly concerned many MPs.
“There have been repeated calls for a judge-led inquiry into this matter.
“I can confirm to the House that Sir Wyn Williams, a former High Court judge, will chair the Government’s inquiry, which begins this week.
“The terms of reference have been expanded following feedback from former postmasters and MPs, and (business minister Paul Scully) who is leading the work in my department on this area will be pleased to update colleagues.”
It is essential that we determine precisely what went wrong at the Post Office during this period
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the inquiry will establish what went wrong at Post Office Ltd, assess whether lessons have been learned and what changes have taken place or are under way.
Business minister Mr Scully said in a statement: “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 Wyn said: “I am determined that the inquiry will provide the forum for a thorough and rigorous examination of all the evidence presented and that a report will be produced which all participants in the inquiry and the wider public will recognise as having addressed the terms of reference constructively and in detail.
“I fully understand that my engagement with participants in the inquiry will be crucial to achieving my aims.”