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SCSC Post Office Horizon Position

* The Post Office Horizon system would not normally be regarded as a safety system, yet it is a computer-based system that has indirectly led to widespread harm.

* The ongoing public enquiry has raised important legal, ethical and technical concerns. Problems highlighted include: sub-postmasters could not see what was going on (for example, figures changed remotely without sub-postmaster knowledge), poor quality coding and lack of both audit and fault logging.

* The SCSC fully supports the public enquiry and other investigations, and we agree with professional computer bodies (e.g. the British Computer Society) that there should be a review of how computer-based system evidence is treated by the courts.

* We will look to adopt relevant recommendations and encourage our members to do the same once the enquiry and investigations conclude.

* We propose that organisations relying on computer-based system evidence in court should, where challenged, be required to justify that the system, including aspects such as hardware, software, data and service delivery, is reliable. Furthermore the evidence should be shown to be trustworthy. The justification should also show appropriate confidence in use, including in the way that reported problems are managed. Courts should not accept evidence relating to the computer-based system without this justification.

* Where there are disputes involving computer-based systems there must be fair treatment; i.e. where relevant, there must be access for both sides to technical experts who in turn must be given access to appropriate software and data.

* Post Office Horizon is an example of how systems, organisations, agreements, people and processes came together within a delivered service to result in indirect but severe harm. We suggest that the SCSC Service Assurance Guidance could be useful in such situations to reduce risks.

* We will extend the remit of the SCSC to cover any computer-based systems and services which could cause harm. This will include harm in the wider context of the system including all stakeholders, the environment and consequential harms, not just harm caused directly by the system or service itself.

Note: Here “computer-based system” includes aspects such as hardware, software, data and service delivery. 

AI Investment

Microsoft is opening a new office in London dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI) research and development:
This technology is going to impact us in so many ways - the SCSC will look at some of the safety implications in a series of seminars this year. The first seminar looking at frameworks is on 25th April:

IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2024

Applications for the IET Young Woman Engineer (YWE) of the Year Awards are now open, It would be great to see a Safety Engineer win this!

News archive:Page

Early Bird Bookings for SSS 24 (Nov 23)

Early bird bookings for SSS'24 are now open. Book before 15th December for a £100 discount! Full details at

AI Safety is Big News (Oct 23)

There have been many significant announcements about AI safety, the biggest of which is from the US today. This initiative has potentially huge consequences for those developing and deploying AI worldwide. It is also the week of the UK government AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park which could have some useful outputs. Note that at SSS'24 in February we have a special "Can we make safe AI" session with talks and panel of experts, All our 1-day seminars are AI-themed next year too, starting with the first one in April. AI will continue to make the news...

SSS 24 Posters (Sep 23)

If you would like to present a poster at SSS'24 please contact A poster is an opportunity to present your work in an informal way. There will be 2 dedicated poster sessions at the event and any associated abstracts or papers can be published in the symposium proceedings book. See for more details.

NATS Outage (Sep 23)

The recent air traffic control disruption at NATS due to a flight plan has made many headlines and details of the causes are now being made public. It looks like some unexpected data in the plan caused the primary and backup software to fail. Both the upcoming SCSC Working Group meetings on Data Safety and Complex Systems will discuss the incident. However we shouldn't forget that the whole arrangement of aircraft and crews, rosters and allowable hours contributed to the problems - highlighting an astonishingly fragile complex system (in fact a service). From a robustness perspective, there should have been contingencies at every level so that the knock-on effects were reduced. We await the formal reports into the matter but there are clear lessons already: expect the unexpected and have backups which are diverse in nature.

National Risk Register (Aug 23)

The government has published its 2023 edition of the National Risk Register. It makes interesting reading - there are quite a few systems-related risks, for instance: Rail Accident, Aviation Collision, Malicious Drone Incident and Deliberate disruption of UK space systems and space-based services. It is probably worth considering if your risk register should include some of these wider risks...