The Post office Decides not to oppose 44 of the 47 appeals by former branch office managers who have been convicted of false accountability, theft or fraud in a scandal that exposed serious flaws in the Horizon IT system.
Acknowledging the “historic failures,” post office chief Tim Parker said the organization would cooperate with the Criminal Cases Review Committee, which referred cases to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration.
The confession is another blow to the post office which wrongly accused a large number of sub-post officials of criminal activity due to inaccurate records in the Horizon IT system, which was introduced to the post office branches in 1999.
The directors ’plight was exacerbated by the fact that the Post Office is the special prosecution authority, the presumed victim and guardian of contested evidence in all cases.
Parker said: “I sincerely regret on behalf of the Post Office the historical failures that have seriously affected some postmasters.
“The Post Office is resetting its relationship with post managers through reforms that prevent such past events from happening again.
“All postal directors are entitled to claim civil damages due to the cancellation of their convictions [should be] Be compensated as soon as possible. “
A disclosure process is being implemented, supervised by outside criminal law professionals, to identify material that may affect the integrity of trials.
Paul Harris, attorney at law firm Edward Feille Bradshaw and Watterson, Sam Stein QC, who represented three claimants, said: “This comes after a late acceptance of the post office because of the unreliability of the material created by Horizon and the post office’s failure to properly disclose.
“We hope that this will be the first step towards achieving justice for them and putting an end to the suffering they have caused due to these improper prosecutions.”
Hodgel’s lawyer, who represents 33 clients, said the convictions would now be quashed by the appeals court.
“The post office’s admission of defeat and the lack of opposition to these cases is a historic moment, not only for these individuals but, over time, maybe hundreds of others,” said attorney Neil Hodgel.
Wiping their names has been their motivating goal since day one, as their reputations and livelihoods have been unfairly destroyed.
“We must never forget that these people have endured years of suffering and how these allegations and condemnations have affected not only the individuals themselves, but their loved ones as well.
“We got what amounts to clear recognition from the Post Office that people have been convicted of crimes based on insecure and unreliable evidence.”
Four years after losing her husband Julian to bowel cancer, and 12 years after he was found guilty of false accountability by the Post Office, Karen Wilson, 65, spoke out about her intention to clear his name.
He was “meticulous” in running the post office, which he bought into Astwood Bank, Worcestershire in 2001. After his first profitable two years, he began to have problems with the Horizon system.
When the auditors arrived, he was initially “pleased” that he thought the problems would be solved. He had a deficit of over £ 27,000 and handed over nine years’ worth of accounts to auditors for investigation.
The post office stopped him and said his only option was to plead guilty to false accountability, as that would prevent him from going to jail.
The couple had to sell their post office to pay off the money that was allegedly lost. “He had 300 hours of community service and had to go out to clean the graves with other criminals. It was heartbreaking to see my husband, who had done nothing wrong, had to do so.”
“He knew it was the right system from the start, but no one listened. Nobody wanted to listen. I decided to pursue this matter until his name was cleared and his conviction was revoked.”