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Those who didn’t play by the principles in Post Office Horizon scandal “should face prosecution”

Lucy Allan, MP for Telford, has fought for justice for victims of institutional obstinacy earlier than, and is now offering important armoury for subpostmasters combating for redress of the injustices inflicted on them by the Post Office, which blamed them for issues emanating from its Horizon IT system.

Allan has develop into a loud voice in a rising group of MPs who’re making use of strain in parliament for redress of subpostmaster grievances past the £57.75m awarded to the group of 550 subpostmasters that took on and defeated the Post Office in an enormous group litigation, which led to an out-of-court settlement in December 2019.

All however about £10m of the payout went on authorized prices, and the rest doesn’t get near even protecting the cash subpostmasters misplaced – by no means thoughts compensating for the companies and lives that have been destroyed.

This got here after a few years of strain from subpostmasters, led by Alan Bates, a former subpostmaster who first alerted the Post Office to issues with Horizon in 2000, simply months after it was launched. In 2004, he contacted Computer Weekly in regards to the issues, however such was the Post Office’s dedication to maintain it quiet, it was not till 2009 when Computer Weekly had sufficient proof to publish an article with out worry of Post Office litigation.

After the article was revealed, subpostmasters that have been instructed they have been the one ones struggling unexplained account shortfalls realised this was not the case. If Bates’s early marketing campaign is section one of many battle, section two started after the publication of the primary article and the creation of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance marketing campaign group in 2009, and ended final yr with authorized victory.

Phase three has now begun, with MPs key to serving to subpostmasters get actual justice. Criminal information must be quashed and compensation that at the least covers subpostmaster losses must be paid – to not point out a correct apology. As Bates instructed Computer Weekly following the courtroom victory, the combat is now in Parliament.

The distinction now could be the judgment handed down by Judge Fraser, which have been to many commentators essentially the most damning indictments of a company cover-up they’ve ever seen.

These judgments set in stone that the IT system was at fault and Post Office and Fujitsu administration have been its accomplices, and provides MPs the platform they wanted to combat for subpostmasters.

Some MPs have proven assist for the subpostmasters over the previous years. Former MP and now peer James Arbuthnot is a distinguished instance, as are Andrew Bridgen and Kevan Jones. But now there are extra, and Conservative MP Lucy Allan, who signalled her intent to combat for justice for affected subpostmasters, is one which stands out. Most lately, she secured a debate on the matter in Parliament.

“It is we, in this place, who must now find a solution to this grotesque injustice, a miscarriage of justice of immense proportions, and we must do so, whatever obstacles come our way,” stated Allan.

She turned concerned after being contacted by constituent Tracy Felstead, who was despatched to jail for theft – one thing she at all times denied and, following the courtroom judgment, was confirmed proper about.

Subpostmasters have a confirmed campaigner on their facet in Allan, who fought for victims of kid sexual exploitation in Telford when the authorities stated no investigation was essential, and was concerned in forcing investigation into maternity deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital, which she stated have been “dismissed, underplayed and said to be historic”.

These have parallels with the Post Office scandal. Thousands of pages of detailed judgments from High Court Judge Fraser, within the Horizon authorized dispute, depart any reader shocked and questioning why all people and organisations seem to have escaped severe ramifications, whereas harmless subpostmasters have been summarily prosecuted with few questions requested.

Facing justice

Allan is set to place this proper. Speaking to Computer Weekly, she stated that in terms of the injustices inflicted by the Post Office, people who haven’t performed by the principles – no matter their place – ought to face justice.

“Anyone found to have deliberately misled the court or to have encouraged others to do so, thus causing a miscarriage of justice, should be prosecuted, no matter how mighty they are – we are all equal under the law and, in such a serious case, a prison sentence should be expected,” she stated.

Allan lately tweeted: “Those responsible see the settlement as the end. It isn’t.”

Public inquiry

There is an excessive amount of investigation to undergo to get thus far, however prime minister Boris Johnson lately appeared to agree {that a} public inquiry can be held to “get to the bottom of” the scandal. And whereas his phrases have been ambiguous and subsequent bulletins by the federal government make a public inquiry much less sure, Allan is evident about what she heard throughout Prime Minister’s Questions on 26 February.

“I interpret what he said as a commitment to an inquiry,” she stated. “Some very senior people in government believe there to have been a miscarriage of justice.”

Allan lately pushed and obtained approval for a 90-minute debate on the Horizon scandal in parliament, titled Criminal Cases Review Commission’s course of for evaluation of convictions regarding the Post Office and Horizon accounting system. This is a part of her plan to have the convictions of those that have been wrongfully convicted overturned – an important first step.

“I believe there are sufficient grounds, given the judgments handed down by the courts, for government to devise a mechanism for a blanket pardon for all those whose conviction relied on the now-discredited Horizon IT system,” stated Allan. “If the evidence relied upon was flawed, it follows that the conviction was flawed.”

She stated preliminary discussions with the justice division have been optimistic as a result of “they get it and see it as a significant injustice”.

A head of steam

The Ministry of Justice just isn’t the one group that “gets it”. As the 90-minute debate in parliament revealed, there’s a head of steam constructing round this in Parliament, with sturdy feeling throughout the House of Commons.

During the controversy, Karl Turner, Labour MP for East Hull, described the behaviour of the Post Office as “the most disgusting example of predatory capitalism that I have ever come across”. There have been many extra passionate speeches through the debate, and the extra that that is debated publicly, the extra doubtless justice will prevail.

But the federal government division chargeable for the Post Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), appears unlikely to say something apart from what has been stated earlier than, stated Allan. Meanwhile, the Post Office has its head within the sand.

“I thought that now the courts have ruled on this matter, the Post Office would be interested in helping subpostmasters get on with their lives and having their convictions quashed,” she stated. “But, regrettably, this is not the case. They give the appearance of believing that the convictions are still sound despite the courts finding that the evidence used to prosecute the workers was flawed.”

Allan emphasised that names have to be cleared as a precedence. “Now a settlement has been agreed between the events, these wrongfully convicted who have been a part of that settlement won’t be getting additional compensation.

“After legal costs, some Post Office workers will not even get back the money the Post Office wrongfully extorted from them, with threats of jail if they did not pay up,” she stated. “They usually are not going to get the monetary compensation for the loss they suffered, however they may get their convictions quashed and a correct apology.

“This should come before a public inquiry,” stated Allan. “A public inquiry will take many years, and while it is an effective mechanism for holding those responsible to account, in the meantime workers still have the wrongful convictions to contend with, which prevents them from getting on with their lives.”

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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