Post Office scandal: Postmasters whose lives were 'ruined' over theft claims sob with relief as convictions overturned

FORMER subpostmasters who were accused of theft, fraud and false accounting wept as their convictions were overturned today.

Thirty nine ex-Post Office workers had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal after their lives were "ruined" when they were prosecuted for stealing money in one of Britain's biggest miscarriages of justice.


The group lost jobs, homes and marriages after they were prosecuted by the Post Office because of a defective accounting system, the court heard.

Some were jailed after the Post Office installed a Horizon computer system, with some dying before their names were cleared.

The Post Office knew its IT system had "faults and bugs from the earliest days of its operation", the Court of Appeal heard last month.

Lawyers representing 42 former subpostmasters said evidence of serious defects was "concealed from the courts, prosecutors and defence", in order to protect the Post Office "at all costs".

'APPALLING INJUSTICE'

Boris Johnson welcomed today's court ruling as he spoke out against the "appalling injustice which has had a devastating impact on these families for years".

The PM added: "Lessons should and will be learnt to ensure this never happens again."

The convictions were referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) last year following a landmark High Court case against the Post Office.

The Post Office conceded that 39 of the 42 former subpostmasters should have their convictions overturned on the basis that "they did not or could not have a fair trial".

CONVICTIONS QUASHED

But it opposed 35 of those 39 cases on a second ground of appeal, which is that the prosecutions were "an affront to the public conscience".

At the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Friday, 39 of the former subpostmasters finally had their names cleared.

Announcing the court's ruling, Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office "knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon" and had a "clear duty to investigate" the system's defects.

But the Post Office "consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable" and "effectively steamrolled over any subpostmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy", the judge added.

The Court of Appeal also allowed the appeals on the basis that their prosecutions were an affront to justice.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Picken and Mrs Justice Farbey, said: "Post Office Limited's failures of investigation and disclosure were so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the 'Horizon cases' an affront to the conscience of the court."

Three of the former subpostmasters – Wendy Cousins, Stanley Fell and Neelam Hussain – had their appeals dismissed by the court.

Lord Justice Holroyde said the Court of Appeal had concluded that, in those three cases, "the reliability of Horizon data was not essential to the prosecution case and that the convictions are safe".

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