The convictions of 39 former postmasters have been quashed by judges following the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice.
The flawed Horizon computer system led to some postmasters being accused of theft, fraud and false accounting, with some being imprisoned and shunned by their communities.
The system was in use from 1999 and any suggestion that it was at fault was “effectively steamrolled” by the Post Office (PO), which “consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable”.
Those convicted always protested their innocence, with some postmasters losing their homes and subsequently struggling to find work. Some have since passed away while awaiting justice.
Lord Justice Holroyde said the PO “knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon” and had a “clear duty to investigate” the system’s inadequacies.
In a statement given to media, the PO apologised for “serious failures in historical prosecutions” and said the “quashing of historical convictions is significant milestone”, claiming “fundamental reform of operations and culture” had since been implemented.
PO chairman Tim Parker said: “The PO is extremely sorry for the impact on the lives of these postmasters and their families that was caused by historical failures.
“PO stopped prosecutions soon after its separation from Royal Mail a decade ago and has throughout this appeals process supported the overturning of the vast majority of convictions.
“We are contacting other postmasters and Post Office workers with criminal convictions from past private Post Office prosecutions that may be affected, to assist them to appeal should they wish. Post Office continues to reform its operations and culture to ensure such events can never happen again.”
The Court of Appeal’s ruling allows for further claims of compensation against the PO by those affected by the decades-long scandal and attempted cover-up.
The judgement was greeted with cheers and applause from former postmasters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
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