'The Post Office were mendacious in the way they denied justice'

23 April 2021, 15:45

By Fiona Jones

Journalist Nick Wallis, who has covered the Post Office scandal for over a decade, reacts as dozens of former subpostmasters have had their convictions overturned in a landmark ruling.

Dozens of former subpostmasters were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office's defective Horizon IT system and today have finally had their names cleared.

The Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 39 subpostmasters on the basis that they relied on data from the faulty Horizon system and therefore were unsafe.

But, appeals from three other cases failed as data from Horizon was not "essential to the prosecution case".

The 42 former subpostmasters have been fighting for many years for their convictions to be overturned, which came between 2003 and 2013.

Nick Wallis, reacting to the news, told LBC: "The Post Office over a period of two decades has almost created a situation whereby people were being prosecuted on an industrial scale. They rolled out what they described as the largest non-military IT in Europe into individual post offices around the country.

"It didn't work, it was fundamentally unfit for purpose. It could not add up its own sums and in some cases created accounting discrepancies which subpostmasters were held accountable for."

Due to its long legacy, the Post Office has a "proximity to state power that is almost unparalleled."

Mr Wallis continued: "It was able to use its own investigation and prosecution units to bypass the CPS and the police force to prosecute its own employees to the tune of one a week for 14 years. There were 736 successful convictions just using Horizon IT evidence."

He told Shelagh that when the Post Office found out its prosecutions may be unsafe, "they covered it up."

"They went out of their way to say to campaigning MPs and the Justice for the Postmasters' Alliance that nothing was going wrong with the IT system and there was nothing wrong with their prosecution."

They then "threw tens of millions of pounds trying to deny the subpostmasters justice," Mr Wallis said.

"They were mendacious in the way they went about denying justice and they colluded with the Government in order to do this, because the Government is 100% shareholder of the Post Office and it has skin in this game."

Mr Wallis continued that there is a "real problem" with the accountability in this story, meaning commencing a counter-prosecutions will be tough.

Read more: Post Office scandal: Why were dozens of subpostmasters wrongly convicted of theft?