Last Friday, the Court of Appeal officially cleared the names of 39 former sub-postmasters, following proceedings brought by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I am particularly delighted that one of those cleared is from Cheltenham. She ran the site in Up Hatherley, and despite being completely innocent has been put through hell.
This was an appalling miscarriage of justice. Lives have been shattered, and in some cases even lost. And all as a result of the failures of the Horizon IT system.
I believe very strongly that those affected must now be compensated.
The Horizon system was first rolled out in 1999 to post offices to be used for a variety of tasks including accounting and stocktaking. But its failings gradually became clear. It appeared to have significant bugs which could cause the system to misreport sums of money.
So why did the Post Office continue to use it? Why did it continue to support prosecutions despite the fact it knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon? It is a genuine scandal.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice, had referred these cases to the Court of Appeal last year following a landmark civil case against the Post Office. After more than 900 prosecutions, 550 sub-postmasters raised civil actions against the Post Office which agreed to pay £57.75 million in December 2019, although they did not admit liability. That’s why CCRC helped dozens take their cases to the Court of Appeal.
Post Office chief executive Nick Read has claimed that he wants to “put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible” and has acknowledged that compensation must be provided.
I agree. What has happened is a disgrace and there must be consequences