Former Post Office IT chief that Horizon inquiry insisted couldn't be found speaks out


The former Post Office IT chief that the inquiry into the ­Horizon scandal insisted could not be found has spoken out after being tracked down by our sister publication the Mirror.

Mike Young accused ex-CEO Paula Vennells of trying to shift the blame for the wrongful convictions of subpostmasters over missing cash later blamed on the faulty ­Horizon IT system.

He also insisted it would have been easy for the inquiry to find him and said he would give evidence. Ms Vennells last week told it Mr Young was one of five people ­responsible for the scandal.

Mr Young said: “Paula needs an out. She’s using me and four others. Hey, she’s got to do what she thinks is right for her. She was the CEO. My phone number and my email has remained the same for 35 years. I’m not hiding anywhere, I’ve got nothing to hide from.”

Mr Young ran computer systems for the Post Office from 2008 to 2012, during which time some postmasters were wrongly prosecuted for stealing.

But he insisted: “I don’t bear any responsibility for the Post Office scandal. Tell me what you would have done in my place?”

Mr Young, who lives in a £1.5million Berkshire house, then appeared to backtrack, adding: “I find it hard to work out what I would do differently.

"I didn’t say I don’t bear responsibility… I don’t know.” Referring to a mechanism in the system which allowed remote access, that has emerged key to the scandal, he said: “The bloody back door was found a year later [after his 2012 departure].”

On May 30 campaigning subpostmaster Alan Bates said he was taken aback by Mr Young’s comments and explained: “They are all passing the buck.”

Giving evidence at the inquiry last Friday, Ms Vennells was asked by a lawyer representing victims: “Who do you blame?”

Pushed to reveal those “you think you shouldn’t have trusted because they let you down”, she gave Mr Young’s name among others.

But chair Sir Wyn Williams said the inquiry had been “unable to trace” Mr Young. Ms Vennells said she did not “know what he’s doing now”.

Former sub-postmaster and founder of Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, Alan Bates, addresses the media after Vennells gave evidence
Former sub-postmaster and founder of Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, Alan Bates, addresses the media after Vennells gave evidence -Credit:PA

Mr Young has been working for a taxpayer-funded research project run by the University of Exeter’s business school.

The former IT chief does not ­understand why his ­whereabouts were a mystery.

Mr Young, the Post Office’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “I’ve spoken to the inquiry well before last week. The back office doesn’t know what the front office has done. I’ve reached out.

“They reached out to me on the 2nd of April, I replied on the 2nd of April.” Mr Young insisted he would be more than happy to give evidence.

He said: “I wasn’t in the court case, or the Parliamentary-type process. This was the first time I’ve been mentioned and when they [the inquiry] send you a registered letter… and then they say they can’t get hold of you, it’s ridiculous.

“I did several jobs after the Post Office. I left well before it [Horizon] became a big issue. At that point, I had no sight of the ­prosecutions, I had no sight of a lot of the stuff that has since been aired in the inquiry. How the hell am I supposed to react to that?”

Fujitsu, the computer giant behind the Horizon system, had remote access to records – despite the Post Office claiming branch accounts could not be accessed that way. Second Sight, appointed to review Horizon, said in a July 2013 interim report the Post Office had “disclosed… that, in 2011 and 2012, it had found ‘defects’ in Horizon online”.

Among issues reported by ­subpostmasters “of particular concern about the Horizon system”, the document said: “The receipt of centrally input, overnight ‘corrections’ and other changes allegedly not input by subpostmasters or their staff”. Mr Young said: “I left in April 2012.

“The back door wasn’t found until, what, June 2013 when Second Sight made its interim report to Paula and the board or certainly to Paula and Susan Crichton [former Post Office general counsel].” In a written evidence submission to the inquiry dated March 8, Ms Vennells made ­reference to a 2009 article in Computer Weekly about Horizon. She said: “Mike told us the article was ­critical of Horizon.

“Mike was dismissive of Computer Weekly. He said it was a trade ­magazine that did not know what it was talking about in relation to Horizon. Mike said he was handling it. I spoke to him after the meeting as I was still concerned.

“He assured me that there was nothing wrong with the system and that the article was nonsense [or words to that effect]. I was assured by Mike, POL’s most senior IT manager, that it was no cause for concern and that the system was working properly.”

More than 900 subpostmasters were prosecuted. Just over 100 convictions have been overturned as of March this year. A spokesman for the £150m inquiry said: “Mr Young has rightly responded to the Inquiry’s requests for ­information, and ­information he has shared is currently being ­considered by Inquiry lawyers.

“We will be contacting him to clarify the position. The Inquiry is an ongoing legal process so we are unable to comment further at this time.”

The scandal was dramatised in hit ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which pulled in more than 13 million viewers. Asked if he had anything to say to victims of the scandal, Mr Young said: “I’m appalled by it. I genuinely am absolutely appalled by it.” The University of Exeter said Mr Young was working “in unpaid ­advisory role”.

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