Over 40 former Post Office workers convicted of financial crimes will appear at the Court of Appeal this week to try to overturn their convictions. Their cases were referred to the court on the grounds that a faulty computer system could have resulted in sweeping miscarriages of justice.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred 47 cases to the Court of Appeal last year, on the basis of an abuse of process argument concerning issues with the Post Office’s Horizon computer system which ‘may have had an impact on the safety of the convictions’.
The commission said the argument ‘gives rise to a real possibility that the appeal courts will quash these convictions’. Some 42 former sub-postmasters convicted of theft, fraud or false accounting will appear at the Royal Courts of Justice this week during the four-day appeal hearing.
In December 2019, a mammoth civil claim against the Post Office was settled for £57.75m, with the Post Office admitting ‘we got things wrong in our dealings with a number of postmasters’. In judgment five days later, the High Court found it was possible that bugs, errors or defects in the Post Office’s computer system caused apparent discrepancies in branch accounts.
Mr Justice Fraser ruled that the Post Office had ‘attacked and disparaged’ the claimants during the litigation. He added that denying the Horizon computer system - which suggested workers were committing fraud - was plagued by bugs amounted ‘to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat’.
A non-statutory inquiry into the dispute is now underway.