Postmasters ‘rejoice’ as convictions enchantment granted

Seema Misra outside court
Image caption The case in opposition to Seema Misra is one which has been despatched to the Court of Appeal

Dozens of former sub-postmasters and postmistresses may have convictions of fraud, theft and false accounting despatched to the Court of Appeal.

They had been accused of stealing cash after the Post Office put in a brand new pc system, with some imprisoned.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission discovered their prosecutions had been an abuse of course of.

Thirty 9 out of 61 instances are to be referred, with the rest nonetheless beneath scrutiny.

Jo Hamilton is among the individuals who now has added hope that her conviction might be quashed.

“It’s just amazing,” she stated, “How a few years have I been ready for this second.

“It’s fabulous, the chance to clear my name and get rid of my criminal record.”

Her life was turned inside out after the sub-postmistress was accused by the Post Office of taking £36,000 from the village store she ran in Hampshire.

After a distressing two-year course of, she ultimately pleaded responsible to false accounting at Winchester Crown Court to be able to escape a extra severe cost of theft.

Image copyright Jo Hamilton
Image caption Jo Hamilton stated it was ‘superb’ to have the chance to enchantment

Another former sub-postmistress, Seema Misra, was pregnant together with her second baby when she was convicted of theft and despatched to jail in 2010. Her case has additionally been despatched to the Court of Appeal.

Ms Misra stated she was “so, so happy” on listening to of the enchantment. “No words can do justice to how I feel,” she added.

“In Hindi there is a saying Satyameva Jayate which means ‘truth will always win’ and we were always a strong believer in that.”

Helen Pitcher, chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, stated: “This is by far the most important variety of instances we’ll ever have referred for enchantment at one time.

“Our team has got through a huge amount of work, particularly since the judgment in December, in order to identify the grounds on which we are referring these cases.”

Image copyright PA

The discovering comes after the Post Office agreed in December to pay almost £58m to settle the long-running dispute with sub-postmasters and postmistresses.

The settlement introduced an finish to a mammoth collection of court docket instances over the Horizon IT system used to manage native submit workplace funds since 1999.

Ms Hamilton has had to surrender her store and located it tough to get a brand new job as a consequence of her prison file. She made ends meet by doing cleansing jobs for individuals in her village who didn’t imagine she was responsible.

“I couldn’t get car insurance,” she stated, and needed to go to a specialist supplier with greater premiums. “I couldn’t be left alone with my grand-daughter in her classroom.”

A bunch of postmasters stated faults in Horizon led to them wrongly being accused of fraud. The Post Office accepted it had “got things wrong in our dealings with a number of postmasters” previously.

Long-running grievance

Ms Hamilton’s battle echoes that of different postmasters searching for justice. She stated points within the Horizon system led to huge discrepancies in her accounts, which she reported to her Post Office space supervisor.

But that supervisor might discover nothing unsuitable with the system, and he or she was put in a scenario the place “you had to prove your innocence”.

Sub-postmasters run Post Office franchises throughout the UK, which generally present some however not all the companies of a important submit workplace.

A bunch of 550 claimants joined a civil motion to win compensation in 2018, however their grievance goes again a lot additional.

They alleged that the Horizon IT system – which was put in between 1999 and 2000 – contained a lot of defects.

Some stated their lives had been ruined after they have been pursued for funds which managers claimed have been lacking. Others, like Seema Misra, even went to jail after being convicted.

In December, the Post Office apologised to the claimants, saying it was grateful to them “for holding us to account in circumstances where, in the past, we have fallen short”.

Reacting to the Court of Appeal move, a Post Office spokesman stated the corporate had been aiding the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

“We have not yet received statements of reasons from the Commission about the referrals they are making to the Court of Appeal,” he stated.

“We will be looking carefully at the Commission’s decision when we have that information and continue to fulfil all their requirements of us.”

He added that the Post Office was “doing all we can to ensure that… further disclosure is provided as appropriate in other cases where Post Office acted as prosecutor, not just those reviewed by the CCRC”.