Andy Burnham calls for Post Office to lose prosecution power after Horizon Scandal as he slams 'pattern of injustice'

8 January 2024, 19:49

Andy Burnham has called for action on the Post Office scandal
Andy Burnham has called for action on the Post Office scandal. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Andy Burnham has called for the Post Office to be stripped of its prosecution powers after the Horizon Scandal that saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongfully prosecuted.

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Labour's Greater Manchester mayor told LBC's Andrew Marr that the Post Office bosses were "guilty of treating people appallingly" for years.

Over 700 branch managers were convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud based on faulty software.

The Post Office acted as a prosecutor as it brought cases against sub-postmasters between 1999 and 2015, leaving many wrongfully imprisoned.

Some have since had their convictions overturned, and the government has said it is trying to find a way to speed up the exoneration process. Ministers are also considering stripping the Post Office of its power to prosecute independently.

Read more: After the Horizon scandal disgraced Post Office boss Paula Vennells must hand back her CBE now!

Read more: Sunak backs review into ex-Post Office boss' CBE as petition calling for her to be stripped of honour passes 1m

Andy Burnham on Ed Davey's 'duty of candor', stating that MPs' officials can 'lie'

Mr Burnham told LBC's Andrew Marr said he "would certainly support those changes with regard to prosecutions."

He added: "There is a serious injustice which we’ve all seen on our TV screens over the break".

He was speaking after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also said that prosecution "should be taken out of the hands of the Post Office and given to the Crown Prosecution Service."

Sir Keir told reporters: "I used to run the Crown Prosecution Service, we’ve prosecuted for other departments, we can do it here – that should be done straight away."

Meanwhile over a million people have called for former Post Office boss Paula Vennells to be stripped of her CBE, which she was given in 2019 - years after the scandal had been highlighted.

Paula Vennells
Paula Vennells. Picture: Alamy

Mr Burnham said: he didn't know about Ms Vennells' individual case, but added that "it should be looked at."

Rishi Sunak said on Monday that he would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee should it decide to look at revoking Ms Vennells' CBE.

Mr Burnham said that he saw the Post Office debacle as part of a series of scandals where ordinary people were the victims of unaccountable public bodies.

He said: "From my point of view, as someone who has worked on contaminated blood..., Grenfell, Hillsborough, I see a pattern in this country that keeps on repeating.

"We have a situation where public bodies, or bodies in a position that you just described, are not sufficiently accountable to ministers or to Parliament, and in situations where there has been wrongdoing they are able to blame the victims of that wrongdoing as we’ve seen here."

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham. Picture: Getty

Mr Burnham said that it's "something that keeps on repeating itself," and added that he was calling for a 'Hillsborough Law' to "rebalance things in favour of ordinary people, who are victims of injustice".

This would impose a "duty of candour not just of police but of all public servants, to tell the truth at the first time of asking."

Mr Burnham also said that officials lied to him during his tenure as Labour's Health Secretary over the contaminated blood scandal.

He said: "There is major structural change needed. The question everyone needs to ask is why does this pattern of injustice keep repeating?

"Why do victims get blamed in the way that sub-postmasters and postmistresses were blamed?

"Something is fundamentally wrong here… why is Parliament not correcting these injustices at a much earlier stage? That’s because in my view there is too much power in the unelected state."

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