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Firm that investigated controversial Post Office IT system to support criminal conviction appeals

Second Sight is working with law firm in appeals by subpostmasters against criminal convictions in Horizon IT scandal

The forensic accounting company that examined the Post Office’s controversial IT system is working with subpostmasters to try to overturn their wrongful convictions for financial crimes.

Law firm Hudgell Solicitors, which is representing subpostmasters who have had their cases referred to the Court of Appeal as well as some that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) did not refer, is working with Second Sight, once described in reference to the Horizon IT scandal as “the organisation that knows where all the bodies are buried”.

The true nature of how Second Sight will support the appeals is yet to be finalised.

Originally hired by the Post Office to back up its claims that the Horizon IT system was not causing accounting shortfalls, Second Sight’s investigations actually revealed that the system could cause unexplained shortfalls.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of several subpostmasters who had received heavy fines and even jail terms for alleged false accounting, which they blamed on the Horizon accounting system provided by the Post Office. Years of investigation have followed (see timeline below).

The findings published in Second Sight’s report for the Post Office included that the Post Office had failed to investigate unexplained losses and was too quick to take legal action against subpostmasters. The Post office subsequently produced another report to refute the expert findings of Second Sight and ended its contract with it.

In December 2019, a High Court judge ruled that the subpostmasters were right that unexplained accounting shorfalls could be caused by Horizon errors and that the Post Office’s denials were wrong.

A few months later, the CCRC referred its first batch of 39 subpostmasters’ cases of potential wrongful conviction to the Court of Appeal.

A total of 61 cases of potential miscarriages of justice were reviewed by the CCRC, which referred 47 to the Court of Appeal. It made a provisional decision not to appeal seven, but that is not a final decision, with the individuals able to respond to the CCRC’s reasoning before a final decision is made. The remaining seven cases are still under review.

Hudgell Solicitors is representing 28 subpostmasters in their appeals against wrongful conviction at the Court of Appeal, and is challenging the CCRC’s decision not to refer four other subpostmasters’ cases.

Ron Warmington, head of Second Sight, said discussions are ongoing about how the company will be involved. “We know our way around the data that has been supplied and we are acutely aware of Post Office tactics, time-wasting and pleading ignorance,” he said.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell of Hudgell Solicitors said: “Of the clients we are representing, Second Sight 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.”

There could be hundreds more wrongful prosecutions of subpostmasters as a result of Horizon errors. The Post Office has identified about 900 cases of subpostmasters who were prosecuted based on Horizon data.

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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