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June 23rd 2020

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Specialist forensic accountants who investigated Post Office Horizon IT system working with lawyers seeking to overturn convictions

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

Specialist forensic accountants who investigated Post Office Horizon IT system working with lawyers seeking to overturn convictions

Specialist forensic accountants previously hired by the Post Office to investigate discrepancies in the branch accounts of sub-postmasters are now supporting Hudgell Solicitors to gather evidence and overturn dozens of criminal convictions related to the Horizon IT scandal.

Specialist forensic accountants previously hired by the Post Office to investigate discrepancies in the branch accounts of sub-postmasters are now supporting Hudgell Solicitors to gather evidence and overturn dozens of criminal convictions related to the Horizon IT scandal.

Ron Warmington and Ian Henderson, from Second Sight, were tasked with reviewing approximately 150 claims by sub-postmasters as part of a mediation scheme in 2013, where sub-postmasters had previously faced allegations of false accounting and theft.

However, when their investigation highlighted problems with Horizon which could cause accounting discrepancies, and suggested that legal action had been taken too quickly against many sub-postmasters, the Post Office dismissed Second Sight’s findings and dropped the investigation.

Now, solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, who is representing a significant number of former sub-postmasters in challenging their convictions, says the background knowledge of Second Sight, and their understanding of specific cases, will be crucial as they prepare submissions to the Court of Appeal.

“We are delighted to have Ron and Ian working alongside us as we continue to seek justice for this group of people who have been through so much, but are still having to fight for every single inch in the battle to clear their names,” said Mr Hudgell.

“Of the clients we are representing, Ron and Ian have extensive knowledge of many of their cases as they actually prepared multiple reports on them when initially investigating on behalf of the Post Office.

“We are confident that their support will help us take huge strides forward in gathering the evidence we need to best represent our clients.

“Second Sight reported concerns that in many cases the Post Office had failed to identify the underlying root cause of accounts shortfalls prior to criminal proceedings being pursued. In many cases sub-postmasters had highlighted their own suspicions over the reliability and failings of the Horizon software.

“Sadly, just as they should have been delving deeper into the matter, Ron and Ian found information they needed was less accessible or forthcoming from the Post Office and their investigation was halted.

“The difference this time is that there will be nobody to pull the plug on their work. We will work together to get to the very bottom of these cases and clear the names of those who were shamefully let down by the Post Office.”

Ian Henderson, of Second Sight, said:  “We are delighted to have this opportunity to assist Neil and his colleagues in pursuing justice for those who have been improperly convicted of criminal offences where serious doubt now exists as to the true causes of the shortfalls for which they were blamed.”

As many as 900 potential unsafe convictions identified

The Post Office has identified around 900 cases where sub-postmasters could have been wrongly prosecuted for crimes as a result of errors in the Horizon IT system it has used for the past two decades.

It follows a High Court ruling last December which concluded that a number of “bugs, errors and defects” in the Horizon system had caused “discrepancies” in sub-postmasters’ branch accounts.

As yet only 47 cases have been sent to the Court of Appeal by The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to consider potential miscarriages of justice.

Mr Hudgell is representing 28 of those former sub-postmasters, and is also challenging a number of decisions by the CCRC not to refer cases to appeal on behalf of other clients.

Earlier this month his legal team initiated a period of evidence gathering as the first batch of cases hit the Court of Appeal, preparing details for the court and setting out the grounds for each appeal.

The news comes as more than £10,000 has been donated to a crowdfunding page, established by the Justice For Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) to support others not yet at the Court of Appeal or with the CCRC seeking to overturn their convictions.

Mr Hudgell added: “We’re delighted with the support shown by the public so far. People are quite rightly shocked and appalled at how lives were ruined.

“Given we have already had a number of cases which the CCRC has initially said it will not be referring to the Court of Appeal, we need more donations to ensure we can properly represent each and every person wrongfully convicted of crimes, as we pledged to do at the start.

“We won’t give up on people, they need people to stand by them all the way.”

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