Six former Post Office subpostmasters caught up in the Horizon scandal have become the first to have their names formally cleared after the Court of Appeal quashed their wrongful criminal convictions.
The decision, made by Her Honour Judge Deborah Taylor sitting at Southwark Crown Court this morning, saw six people cleared of criminal convictions the Post Office obtained by relying on its dodgy Horizon IT system.
Journalist Nick Wallis, who has been tirelessly following the case for years, tweeted the judge’s ruling this morning.
Judge allows the appeals and enters not guilty verdicts in relation to all appeals.— Nick Wallis (@nickwallis) December 11, 2020
Julie Cleife, Christopher Trousdale, Susan Rudkin, Vipinchanddra Patel, Kamran Ashraf and Jasvinder Barang have all had their names formally cleared of criminal convictions including false representation, false accounting, fraud and theft. Some of their convictions date back to 2004.
The Post Office relied on evidence from its Fujitsu-made Horizon branch office management IT system when it privately prosecuted a large number of subpostmasters during the 2000s and early 2010s. While the system was known to throw up accounting errors, managers kept this from subpostmasters. Faced with large shortfalls between reported revenues and actual takings, some desperate subpostmasters resorted to putting their own money into their franchised branch offices to balance the books.
When Horizon continued throwing up discrepancies, Post Office managers accused the subpostmasters of stealing money from the public sector body. Private prosecutions and criminal convictions followed. At least one subpostmaster later committed suicide.
It was recently alleged, as part of the Court of Appeal’s review into convictions from the Horizon scandal, that the Post Office withheld evidence in its private prosecutions that showed the IT system was prone to generating errors. Journalist Wallis previously reported that a 2013 document named Fujitsu specialists Gareth Jenkins and Anne Chambers. Both gave evidence in earlier criminal prosecutions that ended with subpostmasters being jailed for crimes they did not commit.
In a statement to the BBC, the Post Office said: "We have taken determined action to address the past, ensuring there is redress for those affected and to prevent such events ever happening again.
"Fundamental reforms have been made to forge a new relationship with postmasters, helping them to build thriving Post Office businesses for customers and communities throughout the UK." ®