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January 20th 2021

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Lawyers say ‘another barrier to justice removed’ as previously rejected Post Office Horizon conviction appeals will now be considered in court

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

Lawyers say ‘another barrier to justice removed’ as previously rejected Post Office Horizon conviction appeals will now be considered in court

Lawyers spearheading a campaign to clear the names of all former subpostmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal say ‘another barrier to justice has been removed’ today as cases previously rejected for appeal will now be heard by the courts.

Lawyers spearheading a campaign to clear the names of all former subpostmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal say ‘another barrier to justice has been removed’ today as cases previously rejected for appeal will now be heard by the courts.

Hudgell Solicitors have already successfully ensured that unsafe convictions of many will eventually be overturned, with the Post Office confirming it would not oppose 44 cases back in October of last year. The first six of those were officially quashed in court in December.

Now, a further two of Hudgells’ clients, who saw their cases provisionally rejected by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) last year, have now been told their cases will progress to be considered at court.

The change in stance from the CCRC comes after Hudgells and barristers Tim Moloney QC and Kate O’Raghallaigh of Doughty Street Chambers, who have worked free of charge on behalf of subpostmasters to overturn convictions, made further submissions on their behalf to challenge the initial rejection.

In those submissions, they highlighted how people had been pressured to make false admissions to crimes including false accounting, fraud and theft when accounts showed unexplained shortfalls and discrepancies.

The cases have now been referred to Southwark Crown Court, for which the Post Office will now respond to either challenge, or not contest as it has done in 47 instances so far.

The CCRC has also today confirmed a further two individuals have also had their cases referred, making a total of 51 so far to reach the appeal stage.

Mr Hudgell says it is another significant day in the bid to ensure ‘nobody is left behind’ in what has become known as one of the country’s biggest ever miscarriages of justice.

It saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of crimes including false accounting, fraud and theft when accounts showed unexplained shortfalls and discrepancies, likely to have been caused by a failing IT system. Many were also forced to ‘repay’ thousands of pounds.

Decision comes as lawyers said ‘confessions’ had been ‘under duress’

Both clients represented by Hudgell Solicitors had pleaded guilty to crimes when accounts showed significant shortfalls, despite insisting they had not taken any of the money. Such was the pressure placed upon them, they ‘made up’ stories as to how the ‘missing’ money had been spent.

One of them was Oyeteju (Teju) Adedayo, who says she has ‘lived with the unbearable shame’ of her conviction for the past 15 years having being convicted of false accounting, over a ‘missing’ £50,000 from her community Post Office she ran in Gillingham.

Unable to explain the losses, she says she was told to make up a story as to where the money had gone, and that if she tried to blame the Post Office’s Horizon IT accounting system, she’d likely go to jail.

She as previously spoken about how she has at times ‘thought about ending it all’ due to the shame it caused her family and how it impacted on her three children.

Mrs Adedayo insists Post Office officials told her she was the only one of thousands using the accounting software to be showing a shortfall in her accounts, but in reality, she wasn’t.

In 2006, she was handed 50-week sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours under a community punishment order for false accounting. She and her husband then had to remortgage their family home to raise funds and pay off the £50,000 which was apparently missing.

Also now seeing his case referred for appeal is Parmod Kalia, who was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at Croydon Crown Court in March 2002, having pleaded guilty to theft.

He served three months in jail and three months at home on license, and never told his mother about his jail sentence, having borrowed £22,000 from her to pay back the amount alleged to have gone missing.

“The only reason I ever said I had taken the money is because I was told that was my only option to avoid jail, as £22,000 was missing from the accounts and I was told I was the only one running a Post Office across the country that it had happened to,” he recalled.

“I was told I needed to repay the money and make up a story as to where the £22,000 had gone.”

Cases referred to Southwark Crown Court and await Post Office response

Mr Hudgell said: “We’re delighted with this positive news for more our clients today as it demonstrates that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has recognised the many stories of significant duress placed on subpostmasters to plead guilty to crimes they simply hadn’t committed. They were actively discouraged from mentioning issues they had with the technology.

“We believe confessions in those circumstances should not be used as the overriding evidence, particularly given all we know about the failures in this accounting system and the many subpostmasters who have independently shared their experiences of feeling bullied and backed into a corner.

“Stories put before the courts at the time of conviction simply were not reflective of what happened, and that was certainly the case in relation to these two people.

“Of course, we still have to see how the Post Office responds to these two cases. There are no guarantees these appeals will not be contested like the others so far, but this is another barrier to justice removed and another step closer for these two clients to potentially clearing their names, so it is a significant day for them.

“We are particularly pleased as whilst we have had plenty to celebrate in the past few months, we have been determined to ensure nobody is left behind.

“We have 30 clients who have been told their convictions will be quashed, a significant number more at the initial stage of submitting their cases to the CCRC, and a handful still awaiting decisions from them.

“We keep going until we’ve overturned the convictions of each and every person wronged as a result of his scandal.”

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