BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has known as for reform to the best way laptop proof is handled in courts, following the wrongful prosecutions of subpostmasters.
The IT skilled physique additionally needs the federal government’s statutory inquiry into the scandal to contemplate the present guidelines on digital proof.
“We’re calling for a swift evaluate of how laptop proof is handled by the courts,” mentioned Paul Fletcher, CEO on the BCS.
From 2000 for a interval of 15 years, the Put up Workplace blamed subpostmasters for unexplained shortfalls of their accounts. It used proof from the Horizon retail and accounting system, which subpostmasters use in branches, to prosecute people who couldn’t account for shortfalls.
However the subpostmasters claimed the Horizon system was in charge, as a result of the shortfalls solely began after Horizon was launched in 1999/2000. They had been proved proper in a Excessive Court docket group litigation order in 2019.
A complete of 736 subpostmasters had been prosecuted primarily based on Horizon information, with some despatched to jail, many made bankrupt and households ruined. A complete of 47 former subpostmasters not too long ago had their prison data quashed after years of campaigning, and a whole lot extra might observe.
The Put up Workplace was in a position to prosecute the subpostmasters utilizing Horizon proof, regardless of its errors, due to a change in court docket guidelines regarding laptop proof, which got here into power in 1999.
Earlier than then, prosecutors who relied on digital proof in court docket needed to show that the pc system had labored because it ought to. Nevertheless, the change to the principles that yr meant it was now presumed that the pc system labored appropriately except there was specific proof on the contrary.
Fletcher mentioned this shouldn’t be the case and organisations that relied on information from laptop techniques to help prosecutions ought to be required to show the integrity of that information.
BCS mentioned it needs an “finish to the authorized presumption that laptop techniques information is at all times appropriate, with no burden on the prosecution to show it”.
Earlier this month, the Put up Workplace contacted an extra 540 former subpostmasters informing them that it may need wrongly prosecuted them utilizing unreliable laptop proof.
Fletcher added: “The Horizon case uncovered a variety of points which can be key to the fame of our trade, together with the connection between expertise and organisational tradition, in addition to the important significance of assembly impartial requirements of professionalism, belief and ethics.”
Laptop Weekly first revealed the scandal in 2009 with the tales of seven subpostmasters (see timeline beneath of Laptop Weekly articles since 2009).
Sam De Silva, accomplice at worldwide legislation agency CMS and chair of the BCS’s Legislation Specialist Group, mentioned the Put up Workplace scandal highlights the risks of accepting the output of automated techniques with out query.
“It was for the subpostmasters to show that the outputs and logs from the pc system had been flawed or not correct,” mentioned De Silva. “But how might non-IT specialists be anticipated to show this when even some skilled IT professionals would discover it a problem to take action?”