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39 former Post Office workers have fraud convictons quashed after ‘appalling injustice’

Emily Goddard and Matt Mathers
·3-min read
<p>Former post office worker Janet Skinner (centre), with her niece Hayley Adams (right) and her daughter Toni Sisson, celebrating outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after having her conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal</p> (PA)

Former post office worker Janet Skinner (centre), with her niece Hayley Adams (right) and her daughter Toni Sisson, celebrating outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after having her conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal

(PA)

Dozens of former postmasters were cheered as they left court on Friday after having their historic fraud convictions quashed followed what prime minister Boris Johnson called an “appalling injustice.”

Thirty-nine former employees were charged with offences including theft and false accounting due to a defective Fujitsu-developed IT accounting system, which the Post Office knew had "faults and bugs" when it was introduced.

The Post Office "concealed from the courts, prosecutors and defence" evidence of serious defects in the Horizon system in order to protect itself "at all costs", lawyers said.

Many employees’ lives were "irreparably ruined" as they lost their jobs, homes and marriages after they were prosecuted by the Post Office.

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

At the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Friday, 39 of the 42 former subpostmasters involved in the action finally had their names cleared.

Post Office chief executive Nick Read said he had no doubt about "the human cost" the mistakes had caused.

He added: "Many of those postmasters involved have been fighting for justice for a considerable length of time and sadly there are some who are not here to see the outcome today and whose families have taken forward appeals in their memory. I am very moved by their courage.

"The quashing of historical convictions is a vital milestone in fully and properly addressing the past as I work to put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible, and there must be compensation that reflects what has happened.

Janet Skinner, who was sentenced to nine months in prisonfor false accounting in 2007, left the Royal Courts of Justice in London to cheers from former subpostmasters and their supporters.

She was "relieved" to have finally cleared her name and that to win her case was "amazing".

Mr Johnson welcomed the decision and gave his best wishes to the victims.

He said: "I know the distress many subpostmasters and their families have felt for a very long time now through the Horizon scandal and I'm pleased that we've got the right judgment.

"Our thoughts are very much with the victims and we'll have to make sure that people get properly looked after because it's clear that an appalling injustice has been done.

"Everybody in my profession knows somebody in the Post Office world who has suffered from this and it's very sad what has happened.”

Alison Hall, 52, who ran a post office in West Yorkshire, told PA: “It’s been horrendous, Absolutely awful. My health has had so many issues I can’t talk about it, I’ve just bottled it up for 11 years.”

Her partner Richard Walker said: “People think there’s no smoke without fire.

“Our post office still operates and we live on the premises so you can imagine how difficult that is, every day we’re reminded of what happened. It’s been gruelling.”

Ms Hall added: “I would like a personal apology from the Post Office but I know I’m not going to get one. It all needs to come out.

“It’s the end of it all after 11 years of hell, now we’re here now, the day has come. It was so nice listening to it especially when your name got called out and when he said that word, quashed, that was the word we could hear.”

Asked what she would do after the ruling, she said: “We’re going to go find a pub and have a glass of champagne.”

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