POST OFFICE: POSTMASTERS: HORIZON INQUIRY – COURT OF APPEAL – 39 CONVICTIONS QUASHED
Further to LTB 116/21 dated 23rd March.
The Court of Appeal announced its decision last Friday in relation to the main group of appellants (former Postmasters and victims of the Horizon scandal) asking for their convictions to be overturned. 39 had their convictions quashed and when added to the 6 former Postmasters who had their convictions overturned at Southwark Crown Court last year, this makes 45 people who were wrongfully prosecuted and whose lives were ruined by the Post Office through this horrific scandal.
The Court of Appeal quashed the 39 convictions on the following grounds:
- Ground 1: “that the reliability of Horizon data was essential to the prosecution” and “it was not possible for the trial process to be fair”
- Ground 2: that the evidence shows “it was an affront to the public conscience for the appellants to face prosecution”.
Broadly, the Post Office didn’t object to and appeal against ground 1, but generally contested ground 2.
This is the biggest miscarriage of justice in the UK’s legal history with the Court of Appeal judges stating in the ruling:- “Post Office Limited’s failures of investigation and disclosure were so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the ‘Horizon cases’ an affront to the conscience of the court.”
The decision of the Court of Appeal received significant major news channel and wider media coverage on Friday and this has continued over the weekend and into this week, with the story still making headlines. Below are a number of relevant media links:
Since Friday’s Court of Appeal’s outcome, a further 38 former Postmasters who were previously convicted after being prosecuted by the Post Office have submitted appeals. We suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more of those who have been wrongfully criminalised will come forward to be exonerated.
In light of this development, there have been further calls for a full statutory judge-led public inquiry into the scandal as the current inquiry being undertaken by retired judge Sir Wyn Williams does not have the power to compel witnesses to attend or be cross-examined.
Paula Vennells (Former CEO) Steps down from Exec Roles Amid Calls for her to be Stripped of her CBE
Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells announced yesterday she was stepping down from her positions on the Boards of Morrisons and Dunelm and she has also ceased her role as an associate Church of England minister. Ms Vennells had already quit her roles as chair of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and non-executive board member of the Cabinet Office.
The following are some of the many media articles covering this aspect of the story:
There has also been a significant amount of pressure and demands for Paula Vennells to be stripped of her CBE which she was awarded in 2019 for “services to the Post Office and to charity” and also for her to repay bonuses of more than £2.2m which she received during her tenure. The following articles were published in the Tribune, Evening Standard and Daily Mail:
In addition, Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham yesterday wrote a second letter to the Honours Forfeiture Committee to urge its Chair to rescind the CBE awarded to Paula Vennells. Kevan Jones stated on Twitter “The CBE award is utterly wrong and deeply insulting to those who suffered during her period at the Post Office.” A link to a copy of his letter is as follows:
The Union is also calling for a criminal investigation against the senior figures within Post Office who put these loyal Postmasters in this situation. It is abundantly clear there must be full accountability for this appalling scandal and we need to uncover the scale of the corruption and expose those who are responsible for this travesty of justice.
We await the ministerial statement from Paul Scully, BEIS Minister later today with interest. We will be disappointed if the Minister doesn’t announce a criminal investigation into what has undoubtedly been an unprecedented scandal in terms of both scale and duration.
Further developments will be reported.