Not biased against you and not going anywhere, judge tells Post Office in Horizon IT system case

I'm sure I'll manage, rules Mr Justice Fraser

A High Court judge has said he is not biased against the Post Office as part of a long-running trial over the privatised network's infamous Horizon computer system.

Mr Justice Peter Fraser rejected the Post Office's legal claim that he was so biased against it he should stand aside in a judgment handed down late yesterday.

"I am confident that I can resolve all the existing and future issues in this litigation in a wholly impartial and judicial manner," he said in his 300-paragraph ruling (PDF, 77 pages).

The Post Office had argued that, thanks to stinging criticisms in his first judgment made in the group litigation case, Mr Justice Fraser was biased against the Post Office and therefore not fit to sit as judge.

Throwing out the Post Office's attempt to kick him off, the judge ruled that if the company truly believed he was biased it would have immediately asked for the trial to be adjourned while it made its legal application for a change of judge. Instead it carried on with the trial for another fortnight before filing it.

The case, known variously as the Horizon Trial or, more formally, as Bates and others v the Post Office, consists of around 550 former and current subpostmasters who are suing the Post Office over its Horizon accounting system, supplied by Fujitsu. They claim the system contained fundamental errors that altered sums of money being paid in, paid out and due to the Post Office.

They also claim the Post Office refused to admit there were any problems at all, covered them up and then used the system as key evidence to have some subpostmasters prosecuted for theft and fraud, leading to prison sentences.

A Post Office spokesman confirmed to the Law Society Gazette that it would be going to the Court of Appeal in its effort to get Mr Justice Fraser thrown off.

Earlier in the case, the Post Office tried to intimidate the judge by threatening "dire consequences" for the business if he dared rule against the one-time state monopoly.

The detailed Horizon computer system issues are due to be decided later this year. ®

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