Statement of Chair in relation to Human Impact Hearings
1. I am very pleased to announce that public hearings relating to the human impact of the Horizon IT System (Horizon) will commence at 11:00 o’clock on 14 February 2022 at the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC) in London. At these hearings I will hear oral evidence from between 50 and 60 people (in the main former subpostmasters and subpostmistresses) who have already provided the Inquiry with witness statements detailing their experiences.
2. As I indicated would be the case in my statement of 9 December 2021, I am not asking all of those who have provided the Inquiry with witness statements about the impact of Horizon to give oral evidence. However, I am confident that those who give oral evidence will, between them, provide a comprehensive insight into the sorts of impact Horizon has had upon a very large number of people over the last 21 years and which, for many, still continue.
3. Most of the witnesses to be called will give evidence at the IDRC in London during the weeks commencing 14 February and 21 February 2022. A number of witnesses have chosen to provide their oral evidence remotely and most, if not all, of these witnesses will also be heard in these two weeks. In the week commencing 28 February 2022 evidence will be taken from witnesses in Cardiff and in the week commencing 7 March 2022 evidence will be taken from witnesses in Leeds. If there are witnesses who are still to be heard after that week a hearing or hearings will be arranged either in London or remotely during the week commencing 14 March 2022.
4. Core Participants and their Recognised Legal Representatives (who are not participating in the public hearings or focus group sessions) will be able to follow the public hearings and focus group sessions via a live feed and the public hearings and focus group sessions will be broadcast to the public via the Inquiry’s YouTube channel, with a 3-minute delay.
5. The witness statements of those who will give oral evidence will be disclosed to Core Participants in the course of the coming days and all the witness statements received relating to human impact will be disclosed to Core Participants as soon as is reasonably practicable.
6. I am also pleased to announce that more informal hearings – focus group sessions – are scheduled to take place on each Friday in March 2022. At these hearings I anticipate that groups consisting of two to four participants will give an account of their experiences with Horizon during a session lasting for about 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours. The participants at these sessions will be assisted to give their accounts by a facilitator. While these sessions are open to all persons with relevant experiences to recount, (subject only to time and numbers constraints) I am particularly anxious to hear from persons who have not provided the Inquiry with witness statements and those who are current postmasters, postmistresses and employees at branches of Post Office Limited and who have relevant information about the operation of Horizon in recent years and at the present time.