The criminal convictions of a further 10 former subpostmasters are set to be overturned as the Post Office said it will support their applications.
The Post Office is opposing 15 appeals, which are part of the latest group sent to the Court of Appeal. In a further three cases, the Post Office has requested more information before making its decision.
Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 736 former subpostmasters were convicted based on evidence from the Horizon accounting and retail system used by Post Office branches, which, in 2019, was found in the High Court to be error-prone.
A total of 47 subpostmasters have already had their convictions overturned, with hundreds more possible. In April, 39 convictions were overturned in the Court of Appeal. There have also been eight convictions quashed in Southwark Crown.
Neil Hudgell, solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors, representing the claimants, said: “We are obviously very pleased on behalf of the 10 further clients whose names are now set to be cleared at the Court of Appeal.
“These are all people with very similar stories to those who have already quite rightly had their convictions quashed, and again includes some people who spent time in prison as a result of these wrongful convictions,” he added.
Concerning the appeals that the Post Office opposed, Hudgell said: “We will now review the Post Office’s response in each of those cases and consider the next steps with our clients individually. Each case is specific and needs to be reviewed carefully, which is something our full legal team will be doing over the coming days.”
Over a 15-year period, subpostmasters were prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with some sent to jail and many ruined. This is known as the Post Office Horizon scandal, and it is regarded as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history.
Subpostmasters began suffering accounting shortfalls they could not explain soon after the introduction of the Horizon IT system from Fujitsu, which was introduced in 1999 to automate manual processes.
Over the years, many subpostmasters claimed that unexplained accounting shortfalls were not caused by them, but by faults in the Post Office’s retail and accounting computer system used in branches.
Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below).
The Post Office always denied that Horizon could be to blame for the shortfalls, and subpostmasters and their families had their lives turned upside down, with criminal prosecutions for hundreds and many more financially ruined.
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..
Following the latest appeals, the Post Office said in a statement: “Post Office is sincerely sorry for past failures and we are making strenuous efforts to fairly address historical miscarriages of justice.
“This includes an extensive review of prosecutions since 1999 to identify and disclose all material which might affect the safety of convictions. We are also transforming our organisation to prevent such events ever happening again and to re-set our relationship with postmasters.”