Kroll investigation into predecessor to Post Office's Horizon software to report in autumn

An investigation into the accounting software the Post Office used before its controversial Horizon system has begun contacting sub-postmasters and is due to report its findings in the autumn, it has been announced.

Risk advisory and financial solutions company Kroll has been appointed to conduct an independent, forensic investigation into the system called Capture which was used in the 1990s before Horizon was rolled out across Post Office branches.

A number of former sub-postmasters and mistresses have expressed concern there were similar glitches in the Capture system to those in the Horizon software that led to the wrongful conviction of hundreds of people who worked in branches.

The news has been welcomed by a former sub-postmaster and user of Capture, Steve Marston, who believes he was wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting.

"Definitely feeling very optimistic about it," Mr Marston told Sky News.

Data from Horizon was used to prosecute more than 700 sub-postmasters and was why many more were forced to pay back alleged shortfalls in branches across the UK, experiencing significant hardship in the process.

A separate independent statutory public inquiry is under way into the implementation and failings of the Horizon at the Post Office.

What's happening now

On Tuesday, sub-postmasters who say they were wrongly convicted through Capture errors were written to with the news that Kroll had been appointed by the Department for Business and Trade to conduct the forensic investigation.

The work will "assess if the design, implementation and use of the Post Office Capture system could have resulted in postmasters suffering any detriment", Kroll said.

It will also examine whether the Post Office properly investigated issues associated with the system.

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The fact the Post Office will have no involvement was also welcomed by Mr Marston.

"They've got no connection at all with the Post Office in the sense that they can't influence what's said which is very important in what's going to be happening," he said.

The investigation was first announced in April after Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake met with a former sub-postmaster and a solicitor representing 35 people who believe they were wrongly accused of stealing.

They agreed that an independent IT expert would assess evidence claiming to "prove" Capture software was prone to glitches.

Kroll also said it is collecting information about Capture from postmasters that may be relevant to the investigation.

'A long time coming'

While no more precise a timeline other than "autumn" was given by Kroll, Mr Marston said he was more than happy to wait.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "I mean, this goes back to the 1990s.

"We only started this process in the middle of January... it's come a long, long way."

The process should not take as long as the Horizon inquiry - which was established in September 2020 - because Capture was a small, simplistic programme, Mr Marston said.

It was a standalone system and did not involve the complex networking inherent in Horizon.

What next

Mr Marston said he's confident the report will contain evidence which will allow Capture convictions to be reassessed.

He does worry, however, about the post-election government and the commitment to resolving Capture issues.

"We're mindful of the fact that the election is imminent. And obviously, it's a worry... if there's a change of government, will the incoming government follow through with what we've been promised?"