The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is calling on more of the 736 subpostmasters prosecuted for financial crimes based on computer evidence from the Post Office to come forward to have their convictions reviewed.
A total of 83 former subpostmaster criminal convictions have been overturned since April 2021. This year, as part of its work reviewing victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal, the CCRC has written to 326 people who could have been wrongly convicted of theft and fraud – but only 39 people have responded so far.
When, in 2000, the Post Office replaced manual accounting practices with the Horizon computer system from Fujitsu, subpostmasters began reporting unexplained shortfalls in significant numbers. The Post Office told each of them that nobody else was experiencing problems and covered up the computer errors.
Former subpostmasters and branch workers were convicted of financial crimes after being blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls in Post Office branches, some of whom were sent to prison. Thousands suffered losses, many subpostmasters were made bankrupt and there are suicides linked to the suffering caused.
A High Court group litigation, which ended in December 2019, proved that the computer system used in branches contained errors which could cause unexplained shortfalls.
Despite wide media coverage today, many potential wrongful convictions have not been reviewed. CCRC chair Helen Pitcher said: “Some former Post Office workers may be unaware of the services we offer, which are completely free to use. Others might understandably still be traumatised by what has happened to them and to their loved ones. But we can help, and we would encourage them to contact us. Seeking advice from us on how to challenge a conviction might ultimately lead to the case being overturned, and a miscarriage of justice being corrected.
“We want all of those who were convicted and damaged by these unprecedented failings to receive the justice they deserve, if they want to challenge their convictions.
Helen Pitcher, CCRC
The CCRC has this week referred its 64th case back to the courts for appeal. The statutory body also has a further 24 cases under review.
The latest referral is that of former Post Office clerk Amer Hussain, who was convicted of eight counts of theft in 2005, when he pleaded guilty at a Bristol Magistrates’ Court to eight counts of theft amounting to about £3,300. He was sentenced to a community punishment and curfew order, and ordered to pay compensation of £6,750.
The case was referred over concerns about the Horizon computer system. Of the 83 former subpostmaster convictions that have been overturned, most were referred to appeal by the CCRC.
Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the IT system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters being blamed for unexplained losses (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below).
There is currently a statutory public inquiry into the scandal, which will run until autumn 2023. Hearings in phase two of seven of the inquiry have just been concluded.