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CCRC refers six more subpostmaster convictions for appeal

An additional six subpostmasters’ convictions have been referred for appeal in Post Office IT scandal

The Criminal Courts Review Commission (CCRC) has referred the appeals of six more former subpostmasters who were convicted based on evidence from an error-prone computer system.

The appeals of Mohammed Aslam, Amanda Barber, Norman Barber, Anthony Gant, Balbir Grewal and David Hughes will go to Southwark Crown Court on a date yet to be confirmed.

This takes the total number of Post Office referrals made by the CCRC to 57, with 47 of these so far quashed. As yet, the total number of former subpostmaster convictions quashed in the Horizon scandal is 63, including four not yet quashed but uncontested by the Post Office. Some appeals have gone directly to the Court of Appeal.

Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters being blamed for unexplained losses (see timeline below for more).

Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 736 subpostmasters who ran Post Office branches were convicted based on evidence from the Horizon accounting and retail system used by Post Office branches.

The government-owned Post Office always denied the system, supplied by Fujitsu, could be to blame for the accounting shortfalls, resulting in subpostmasters and their families having their lives turned upside down, with criminal prosecutions for hundreds and many more financially ruined. Some were sent to prison, there is at least one linked suicide, and all affected subpostmasters faced financial ruin and a criminal record.

In December 2019, a multimillion-pound group litigation, brought by 555 subpostmasters, ended with the Post Office conceding that the Horizon computer system was to blame for shortfalls.

According to the CCRC, the latest cases were referred on the basis of an abuse of process because errors in Post Office’s Horizon computer system may have had an impact on the safety of the convictions.  

All six former subpostmasters had pleaded guilty to offences in the magistrates’ court – this was common because subpostmasters were often offered the chance to avoid prison sentences if they pleaded guilty. In many cases, through fear of prison, they accepted the offer despite their innocence.

The CCRC has around a further 30 further cases under review, but many more have lodged appeals directly with the Court of Appeal.

The government, which owns the Post Office, has already agreed that every subpostmaster who has their conviction overturned will receive compensation, with each of them being offered an interim sum of up to £100,000 before the final sums are calculated.

The 2019 court victory for subpostmasters forced the Post Office compensation scheme for any subpostmasters who experienced losses caused by Horizon errors.

Around 2,500 subpostmasters have applied for the scheme, known as the Historic Shortfalls Scheme, and an estimated £300m of taxpayers’ money is expected to be used to pay what these people rightly deserve.

No former Post Office executive or government official has ever been held to account for their roles in the scandal. Fujitsu, the company that supplied the system and was part of a cover up, is still winning millions of pounds of government IT services contracts.

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

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