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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

SSS 24 Call for Abstracts (May 23)

The Safety Critical Systems Symposium SSS'24 will be held 13th - 15th February 2024 in-person in Bristol, UK.

first call for abstracts has been announced.

Abstracts can cover any systems safety area, and industrially-relevant topics are especially welcome.

Please note abstracts have to be submitted by 30th June 2023 to

IET Young Women Engineer of the Year Award 2023 (Apr 23)

The IET has announced the Young Women Engineer of the Year Awards 2023, 

This is a great initiative and any women working in systems safety are encouraged to apply. The awards ceremony held last year in London was a fantastic event and well worth attending.

Time Set for National Mobile Phone Emergency Alert Test (Apr 23)

On Sunday 23rd April 2023 at 3pm UK time there will be a test of the national mobile phone emergency alert system which should send a message to about 90% of phones in the UK. In the future true alerts could be more localised to a specific area. This could be a very useful system. Any info about how it is being implemented, and presumably assured, would be appreciated.

UK Def Stan 00-056 Issue 8 for public review (Mar 23)

Def Stan 00-056: Safety Management Requirements for Defence Systems

Issue 8 of Defence Standard 00-056, Part 1 (Requirements and Guidance),  has been released for review together with its counterpart, Part 2 (Guidance on Establishing a Means of Complying with Part 1) which is at Issue 6.

Please see this Safety Standards Watch post for more information on the standard and the review process.

Safety-Critical Systems Symposium - presentations and videos (Mar 23)

The 31st Safety-Critical Systems Symposium was held at the Principal Hotel in York UK from 7th to 9th February.

All of the papers from the proceedings, presentations and videos of the presentations are available now at'23.

This was an extremely successful event with over 140 participants, most of whom were attending in person.

Feedback includes:

…thank you for a fantastic Symposium over the past three days - a really enlightening experience that has prompted a few different ways of thinking.

Thank you both for a very successful conference. Every year is getting better, and better!

It was great to attend a well-run SCSC symposium again.