Post Office used racist terms for sub-postmasters in official guidance

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The Post Office has apologised for using racist terms to describe postmasters wrongly investigated as part of the Horizon IT scandal.

An internal document shows fraud investigators were asked to group suspects based on racial features.

More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted for false accounting based on information from a flawed system.

The scandal has been described as “the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history”.

  • Warning: This story contains language which readers may find offensive.

The guidance, which was reportedly published between 2008 and 2011, required investigators to give sub-postmasters under suspicion a number, according to their racial background.

The numbered categories on the document include ‘Chinese/Japanese types’, ‘Dark Skinned European Types’ and ‘Negroid Types’ – an archaic and offensive term from the colonial era of the 1800s that refers to people of African descent.

A Post Office spokesperson described it as a “historic document” but said the organisation did not tolerate racism “in any shape or form” and condemned the “abhorrent” language.

“We fully support investigations into Post Office’s past wrong doings and believe the Horizon IT Inquiry will help ensure today’s Post Office has the confidence of its Postmasters and the communities it supports,” the spokesperson added.

The document was discovered as part of a freedom of information request from a campaigner supporting the more than 700 branch managers who were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 on theft, fraud and false accounting charges.

The charges were based on information from the recently installed computer system, Horizon, which was later found to have flaws.

Horizon was introduced into the Post Office network from 1999. The system, developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, was used for tasks such as transactions, accounting and stocktaking.

Sub-postmasters complained about bugs in the system after it reported shortfalls, some of which amounted to many thousands of pounds.

Some went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft, while others were financially ruined.

Dozens of convictions have since been overturned and many sub-postmasters are in line for compensation.