As published in the Daily Mirror
Millions of TV viewers across the country were left appalled as they heard the story of the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history.
ITV’s docudrama, Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, brought home the sheer horror of Post Office Horizon scandal. Nine hundred Post Office branch managers were wrongly handed criminal convictions after faulty Horizon accounting software made it seem money had disappeared from their branches.
By the end of 2023, only 93 convictions had been overturned. Some victims of the scandal have even been denied permission to appeal. And the vast majority still have not got due compensation.
Having supported one of the victims, I know just how terrible an impact the scandal has had on those involved. Financial ruined. Homes lost. Livelihoods destroyed. Reputations wrecked. Families devastated. Some of the accused were even driven to suicide.
Years after the truth came to light, the Post Office continues to try and dodge accountability, hiring expensive lawyers to wear down its victims. It is outrageous that a state-owned body can behave so disrespectfully towards the very people it has abused in the past. It is an insult to all of us as taxpayers.
Clearly, the current system for dealing with the fallout from the scandal is insufficient. The victims have been waiting for justice for long enough. Things need to be sped up.
The best course of action is a single appeal on behalf of all the victims, allowing them to be exonerated en-masse. Every single wrongful conviction is based on the same lie – that only those convicted had access to their Post Office accounts. This lie has done untold damage to the lives of countless loyal and hardworking Post Office staff. Now the lie has been exposed, all these convictions must be thrown out in one go.
This will achieve the goal of formally clearing the names of the victims. And it will allow us to crack on with getting proper compensation for all those cleared.
It will also help us find out who is really responsible for the whole disaster, and hold them to account. More than a million people have signed a petition calling for former Post Office boss Paula Vennells to lose her CBE. We need a thorough criminal investigation to determine precisely what involvement people like her had, who made the decision to lie and who should be punished.
And we must change the law to take away the Post Office’s own right to prosecute. It must be overseen properly by an independent body. Only then can we ensure this human tragedy never happens again.