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November 18th 2021

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Number of clients to have Post Office Horizon convictions quashed surpasses 50 in ‘significant week for justice, transparency and accountability’

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

Number of clients to have Post Office Horizon convictions quashed surpasses 50 in ‘significant week for justice, transparency and accountability’

A man amongst the latest batch of former subpostmasters to have longstanding convictions quashed in court today has urged other victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal to come forward and seek redemption.

A man amongst the latest batch of former subpostmasters to have longstanding convictions quashed in court today has urged other victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal to come forward and seek redemption.

Anthony Gant, 51, of Newtown, Wales, was one of five clients of Hudgell Solicitors exonerated of wrongdoing today.

However, he admits he found it tough to ‘open up old wounds’ and begin the process of challenging a conviction which has unfairly stood against his name for the past 14 years.

He was one of hundreds prosecuted over a 15-year period from 2000 onwards as the Post Office used evidence from a faulty accounting system to convict them of crimes.

Now, Mr Gant says the ‘overwhelming’ feeling of having his conviction for false accounting overturned at Southwark Crown Court is one he hopes every other victim can experience, with their reputations restored officially by law.

And, in a week when a potentially significant breakthrough was made over evidence set to be heard at a Public Inquiry next year, he feels it is important that all who were affected now come forward.

“It was hard for me to even begin this process of challenging my conviction as in many ways I had buried all the hurt and pain it caused for so long deep down in my memory. I almost didn’t want to look back and dig it all up again,” he said.

“However, the turning point for me was when I saw a documentary on television about all the failings in the Horizon system being exposed, and how it had happened to so many other people, just like me. I then read about solicitors promising to challenge the unsafe convictions and I thought I had to do something.”

The memories of his prosecution remain difficult for Mr Gant to discuss. The subpostmaster of Nantoer Post Office, he began to struggle with continuing unexplained shortfalls in his accounts over a two year period, shortfalls he did everything to make right himself.

“No matter what I did the accounts were always short. I thought I must be doing something wrong so I borrowed money from wherever I could to make up the shortfall, putting thousands of my own money in at one point,” he said.

“I couldn’t keep getting the money though and the accounts kept showing us to be thousands short. It was horrendous. It was so worrying and I was too frightened to tell anyone because it simply couldn’t be explained.”

When an audit was carried out at his branch in April 2007, a deficit of £14,550 was found and the Post Office – a prosecuting body in its own right – pushed for conviction.

“Like almost everybody else I was told there was no issue with the computer system and that I was the only one. I was told to plead guilty to false accounting to have a charge of theft dropped,” he said.

Mr Gant was handed a six months suspended sentence, 100 hours community service and made to repay the outstanding shortfall when appearing at Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Magistrates Court.

“You can’t really explain the impact on your life,” he added.

“I had worked so hard to train to be a stockbroker, so that ended right there and then when I was a convicted criminal. I’d also coached children in rugby for many years and that ended too. Big parts of your life are taken from you.

“I can also remember being in the pub and someone saying ‘that’s the family who stole from the Post Office’. It’s so hurtful.

“All these bad memories stay with you, but I’d buried them somewhere at the back of my mind. I imagine others will have done the same. Now I would urge everybody who suffered like me to open up those old wounds and seek justice. It also ensures full transparency over what happened.

“I was lucky, I had good people support me and I found work. Others won’t have.

“I know some people probably can’t face the prospect of being let down again, and I know how they feel because there was a time when I thought we had no hope of clearing our names.

“However, the many people that have come together to fight for justice, and to bring it all to this point where we are today did give me hope. Today they have given me justice. Everyone deserves to feel like I do today.”

Hudgell Solicitors surpasses 50 successful appeals over convictions

Mr Gant was one of five people represented in court today by Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, and Tim Moloney QC of Doughty Street Chambers.

The legal team has now helped 53 clients to have their names cleared this year, and has also been instructed to represent those wrongfully convicted of crimes in their roles of Core Participants at next year’s Public Inquiry.

Hudgell Solicitors will next week represent a further five clients who are set to see their convictions quashed at the Court of Appeal, as the Post Office has confirmed those appeals won’t be contested.

The firm also represents a further four clients whose cases have been referred to the Court of Appeal but are being opposed by Post Office, and has another 41 new cases under review by its legal team for potential referral to Court of Appeal.

It has referred a further 33 cases to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) for consideration.

Mr Hudgell says it has been significant week in the fight for justice, transparency and accountability.

The latest quashings of convictions come just two days after the Post Office agreed to broadly waive legal privilege at next year’s Public Inquiry – legal protection which allows it withhold evidence relating to previously confidential communications between its staff and internal legal advisers, barristers and solicitors’ firms.

That followed a request made by Sir Wyn Williams, who will chair the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry next year, and means years of documents relating to Horizon and the prosecutions of hundreds of former subpostmasters, should now form part of the inquiry.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UK Government Investments (UKGI) and Fujitsu Services have also similarly agreed to waive legal privilege over documents for the inquiry.

“It has been another significant few days for those affected by the Horizon scandal, firstly for more of our clients in fighting for and securing justice after so long, and secondly for all who are seeking complete transparency and accountability through next year’s Public Inquiry,” said Mr Hudgell.

Post Office Horizon

“Having set out to support subpostmasters almost two years ago and to challenge every unsafe conviction, it is very pleasing for us as a law firm to have now surpassed 50 cases in which convictions have been overturned. We hope there are many, many more to come.

“It was also pleasing to see all parties waiver privilege for the purpose of the Inquiry earlier this week.

“Only the Post Office made any sort of detailed submissions, and whilst in the main they are wavering privilege, their submission appears to give them room to argue on a document by document basis.

“We will remain alive to that issue, and we are reassured by the chairman’s comments that he will be willing to re-visit the issue of legal professional privilege if necessary.

“It is imperative that the inquiry is able to do its job and hold people to account under the terms of reference which have been set out.

“For now, we are cautiously positive as the willingness of the key parties to cooperate, as all responded quickly to the request of the inquiry chair, and in positive terms too.”

Couple who ran Warrington Post Office both have convictions quashed

Other former subpostmasters to have convictions quashed in court today included couple Amanda and Norman Barber, of Warrington, Cheshire.

They were jointly charged over a deficit of £5,600 at Thelwall Post Office in 2011 and convicted of fraud by false representation. They each received a community order of 12 months and 100 hours community service and costs of £350 at the time.

Mohammed Aslam, of Langstone, Newport, saw his conviction of three counts of false accounting, relating to his time as subpostmaster of Albion Square Post Office, quashed. He was sentenced to a 12-month community and 40 hours of unpaid work in January 2007, over a shortfall of over £11,000 in the post office accounts.

Balbir Grewal, of Romford, Essex, was given a suspended sentence and community order in July 2001 at Luton Crown Court, due to a shortfall of almost £9,000 at the Hockwell Ring Post Office. His conviction was also cleared off his record today due his conviction being based on Horizon figures.

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