Expert investigating Capture system refuses to meet ‘untrustworthy’ Post Office


A former long-serving Post Office executive, who is campaigning for users of a second controversial Post Office IT system, has turned down his former employer’s offer to meet to discuss the controversial Capture system.

The Post Office is currently investigating claims that, like the Horizon system, Capture led to the prosecution and unfair dismissal of former subpostmasters.

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The Capture system was introduced in 1993. Described as a glorified spreadsheet, it enabled subpostmasters to automate accounting. Unlike the Horizon system, it was not a complex core system rolled out across the Post Office branch network, but standalone software on an individual user’s computer. But it did have problems, and since the broadcasting of ITVs dramatisation of the Post Office scandal, former users have come forward with traumatic stories of unexplained shortfalls, prosecution and financial ruin.

Rupert Lloyd Thomas, who spent 27 years at the Post Office in various senior roles, including in IT, from the early 1970s, said the Post Office has “reached out” to him since he began investigating the Capture system and its faults.

But Lloyd Thomas said he would not work with the organisation, due to a lack of trust. “There are people that are tainted by the Post Office still working there and I won’t work with them because they are untrustworthy,” he said. “I watched the inquiry and there are lots of bad seeds there.”

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Users of the Capture system suffered the same fate as many victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal – they were blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls, which they believe were down to computer errors, and some were prosecuted.

Meanwhile, using floppy disks discovered by Computer Weekly, Thomas’s own investigation into Capture errors has revealed more problems with the software.

Lloyd Thomas recently unearthed a Capture troubleshooting guide from the early 1990s, which reveals that power cuts could corrupt data and cause inaccurate accounts.

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The guide describes the problem as “corrupt data – ie summaries not printing correct number of transactions or value shown on screen” or “the total value shown at the bottom of the screen differs from number of transactions shown above”.

It states the cause as “switching off the computer or a power cut (even if only for a few seconds) whilst in the Capture program”.

Photo of a Post Office-branded Capture software installation floppy disk
Post Office-branded Capture installation disk

Lloyd Thomas is calling for former subpostmasters to help him and others investigate further, through the supply of further disks. He called for version C50, in particular, or any versions for the London region, which was different to the Provincial versions used outside London.

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A Post Office spokesperson said: “We continue to actively investigate a number of lines of inquiry relating to Capture, and throughout this, we have regularly kept the Department for Business and Trade and Kevan Jones MP up to date with our findings. We have now shared a recommendation with the department about what should happen next and hope to provide further information with past users of Capture as soon as we’re able to.”

The government recently agreed to appoint an independent IT expert to examine the Capture system, which the Post Office appears to know little about.

Forensic IT expert Jason Coyne, who played a key role in exposing flaws in the Horizon system, said he would be prepared to take on the job. Posting on X, formerly Twitter, following the government’s announcement, he wrote: “Using the same robust IT forensic investigation processes used in 2003 whilst looking at the Cleveleys Post Office and the 2017-2019 Horizon investigation commended by judge Fraser, I would be happy to take on the Post Office Capture investigation, given appropriate instructions.”

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to the accounting software (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal below).

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story

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