UK PM promises faster justice for Post Office Horizon victims

Renewed focus follows TV drama

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to speed up the process of exonerating Post Office employees wrongfully convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud decades after faulty software led to one of the greatest miscarriage of justice in British history.

An ITV television drama last week began broadcasting a serialization of the story of 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses wrongfully accused and prosecuted of fraudulent accounting — some of whom spent time in prison and were left bankrupt.

It has led to a marked increase in political and mainstream media attention on a saga of the Horizon computer system, which has been widely reported in the technology press for more than a decade.

Sunak appeared to misspeak when he told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg the IT disaster was "something that happened a very long time ago, in the '90s" and went on to say it was an "appalling miscarriage of justice."

In fact, prosecutions took place between 1999 and 2015.

The prime minister also said he was working with justice minister Alex Chalk to look into ways to exonerate victims or remove the Post Office's ability to investigate and prosecute the cases.

In 2020, six former Post Office sub-postmasters caught up in the Horizon scandal became the first to have their names formally cleared after the Court of Appeal quashed their wrongful criminal convictions. The court quashed 39 more convictions in 2021.

To date, a total of 93 cases have been overturned while 30 have won a "full and final settlements" in terms of compensation.

This morning justice minister Chalk said he was due to meet the Post Office minister later today to discuss the cases.

Tory backbencher David Davis has also called for a "mass appeal" for the remaining unresolved cases to accelerate justice.

While it took a television dramatization to bring focus to Horizon scandal once more, the story is not at an end.

Calls have mounted for Paula Vennells, chief executive officer of Post Office Limited from 2012 to 2019, to be stripped of her CBE.

She is set to appear before the inquiry — which was given legal powers to force witnesses to give evidence in 2021 — later this year.

The inquiry is set to restart later this week with key witnesses from system supplier Fujitsu set to give evidence next week. ®

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