Hudgell Solicitors and Doughty Street Chambers are this week representing a further 30 former subpostmasters who are seeking to have convictions of theft, fraud and false accounting quashed.
The Post Office Horizon scandal saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of crimes when accounts showed unexplained shortfalls and discrepancies.
Many were forced to ‘repay’ thousands of pounds and told they’d likely face jail unless they admitted to taking the money out of Post Office funds.
However, in 2019 the High Court ruled that many of the accounting shortfalls and discrepancies were likely to have been caused by the faulty Horizon IT system which had been installed into thousands of branches as long ago as 2000.
That paved the way for the first six successful appeals last December, and today a further 42 former subpostmasters were beginning their cases at the Court of Appeal, having being referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).
Case for subpostmasters set out at Royal Courts of Justice
Opening their cases today, Tim Moloney QC, of Doughty Street Chambers (instructed by Hudgell Solicitors) said many of the former subpostmasters had pleaded guilty to crimes they had not committed due to ‘being deprived of any meaningful way of defending themselves.’
He said: “All had the shame and humiliation of arrest and prosecution. All experienced the enormous psychological toll associated with that process”, adding that many “received a custodial sentence – many immediately went to prison”.
“Some saw their marriages break up, others suffered bankruptcy and some are dead, having gone to their graves with their previous convictions still extant,” he added.
Mr Moloney said “extensive damage” was “caused by unfair recovery of alleged debt and unfair trials stemming from the defective software and an abject failure on the part of the respondents to effectively assess, let alone effectively address, the defects in that software”.
Mr Moloney argued that “the very highest levels of management and governance in the Post Office were on notice of the real potential for Horizon to malfunction and misfire”, adding that the Post Office “chose to disbelieve the subpostmasters” and “chose to ignore the distress that was being suffered by those subpostmasters.”
The hearing before Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Picken and Mrs Justice Farbey is expected to conclude on Thursday or Friday, and it is expected that they will give their ruling at a later date.
Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This is another huge week in our continuing campaign to ensure that each and every individual wronged as a result of this scandal has their name cleared and reputation restored.
“We had a historic day in December when the first six convictions were overturned and we hope the hearings this week pave the way for many more.”