Evidence heard in Post Office scandal public inquiry
Member: Roger Isaacs
A public inquiry began on 14 February 2022 into the wrongful conviction of 706 Post Office branch managers.
The inquiry is expected to run until the end of the year into whether those convicted have been justly compensated.
An IT system called Horizon was introduced into the Post Office network by IT supplier Fujitsu in 1999 but very soon after, sub-postmasters complained about bugs in the system that made it look as though thousands of pounds were missing. Despite these concerns, between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters.
Some of those prosecuted went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft, many were financially ruined, their reputations in tatters, and some have since died.
In 2013, the Post Office hired a team of forensic IT experts to review around 150 claims by sub-postmasters as part of a mediation scheme, where sub-postmasters had previously faced allegations of false accounting and theft.
However, when their investigation highlighted problems with Horizon that could cause accounting discrepancies and suggested that legal action had been taken too quickly against many sub-postmasters, the Post Office dismissed their findings and dropped the investigation.
Despite this, the wronged sub-postmasters refused to give up and dozens of the convictions have since been quashed by High Court rulings following a large-scale investigation.
Commenting on the case, Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “555 claimants settled their claims in 2019 but the terms of the settlement provided for those claimants who had been convicted of criminal offences to retain the right to sue for damages for malicious prosecution.
“In order to make such claims, they would first have to have their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal. “So far, the convictions of a total of 72 former postmasters have been overturned, with more expected.
Typically damages in these cases will include an element of compensation for loss of earnings that will be based on a detailed forensic review of underlying tax and accounting documentation.”
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