As published in the Express
The Post Office Horizon scandal is the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history.
Nine hundred Post Office branch managers were wrongly handed criminal convictions after faulty Horizon accounting software made it seem money was missing from their branches. Some went to prison before the truth emerged. Some committed suicide. In short, lives were ruined.
Despite compensation schemes being set up for the victims of the scandal, the progress to pay out compensation is far too slow. A number of sub-postmasters died before receiving the money owed.
As of the end of 2023, only 93 convictions had been overturned and only 27 former Post Office staff had agreed ‘full and final’ settlements. Some victims of the scandal have even been denied permission to appeal.
The victims of the scandal have waited two decades for justice. There remain many sub-postmasters who have yet to clear their names, with more potential victims coming forward in recent weeks in the wake of the ITV docudrama, Mr Bates v. The Post Office.
The Metropolitan Police are now looking at “potential fraud offences” committed during the scandal. This is long overdue; its existing investigation, Operation Olympus, has so far failed to deliver.
Meanwhile, a petition calling for former Post Office boss Paula Vennells to be stripped of her CBE has garnered more than a million signatures.
The Post Office has chosen to avoid accountability, hiring expensive lawyers to help it dodge blame. It is entirely unacceptable for a public body – whose sole shareholder is the taxpayer – to take such a stance towards those it has wronged.
The Prime Minister says the Government is considering all measures to clear the victims. Whatever he decides, things need to be sped up.
A single appeal on behalf of all the victims is far preferable to having the courts hear every single case in minute detail. The truth is the Post Office lied, and that lie is the basis for every wrongful conviction in the entire scandal.
The convictions should be quashed in one go and then we must get on with dishing out compensation.
In time, we will need to change the law to make sure this kind of catastrophe does not recur.
The public demand a solution to this terrible injustice. And we must change the law to take away the Post Office’s own right to prosecute.
Those powers of oversight must be moved to independent bodies outside the reach of the Post Office management.
It is imperative that victims of the Horizon scandal receive justice and there is never a repeat of the terrible failings that allowed this to happen in the first place.
This is a test for the Government and for the ability of the state to recognise its own mistakes. It is time for justice.