A further 38 subpostmasters convicted of financial crimes after being prosecuted by the Post Office have submitted appeals to the Court of Appeal following the court’s overturning of 39 convictions last week.
The convictions of former subpostmasters, blamed for accounting shortfalls, were overturned last week after it was shown that the losses were caused by faults in the Horizon computer system they used in branches, and that the Post Office had failed to give them a fair trial.
Hudgell Solicitors, representing the latest appellants, said a further 20 inquiries had been made by potential victims over the weekend, following the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
On Friday, the court overturned 39 of 42 appeals being heard, on two grounds of appeal. These were that the computer evidence on which their prosecutions were based was unreliable (“Limb 1”) and that the Post Office knew subpostmasters could not get a fair trial, but prosecuted them anyway (“Limb 2”).
After spending many years with criminal records for crimes they did not commit, these subpostmasters won their long fight for justice.
Over a period of almost 15 years, some were sent to prison, many were heavily fined, large numbers were made bankrupt and families were ruined. It has been described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history and has been linked to at least one suicide.
Computer Weekly first revealed the scandal in 2009, with the stories of seven subpostmasters (see timeline below of Computer Weekly articles since 2009).
Hudgell Solicitors was able to send the latest 38 appeals directly to the Court of Appeal because those people have not appealed before and were convicted in a Crown Court.
Neil Hudgell, solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors, which represented 33 of the former subpostmasters who had their convictions overturned last week, said more than 70 others are now being supported by his firm to try to overturn their convictions.
“I said outside court on Friday that the strength and significance of the judges’ findings were such that the doors were opened for potentially hundreds of people convicted as a result of failings in the Post Office’s Horizon IT system to come forward with confidence to seek to have those convictions overturned,” he said.
A total of 736 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office based on evidence from the Horizon computer system between 2000 and 2015.
Hudgell added: “We are already well down the road with regard to supporting another 50 people through the process, having gathered evidence on their behalf and submitted their cases directly to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Court of Appeal.”
Hudgell Solicitors will soon launch its first claims for compensation from the Post Office for malicious prosecution, seeking “very significant sums” on behalf of its clients.
Hudgell added his voice to calls for a full statutory judge-led public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal. “The current review which us under way is simply not sufficient to investigate such a huge miscarriage of justice and does not have the power to make sure serious questions don’t continue to be dodged, as they have been for almost 20 years in many cases,” he said.
“To serve its proper purpose, any inquiry must have full teeth required to ensure that all people involved come under scrutiny, which has been dodged until now.”