Friday 2 October 2020

First Postmaster convictions to be uncontested by the Post Office

Jo Hamilton and Seema Misra

The Post Office will not be contesting 44 of the 47 convictions referred back to the Court of Appeal and Crown Courts by the Criminal Cases Review Commission in March and June of this year.

That means 44 convicted Subpostmasters are on significant step further along the road to having their convictions formally quashed. 

Some of those who heard the news today have been waiting nearly 20 years for justice. 

Seema Misra, jailed whilst pregnant ten years ago next month said: "Thank you very much to everyone for your support. I don't have many words apart from a tear of joy."

Jo Hamilton, convicted of false accounting in 2008, said: "I am over the moon, but part of me is sad because of people like Tara [who was not recommended for appeal] who still have it all to do. What a journey we've all been on, and they needn't think for one minutes we are not going to expose the whole rotten lot. I am so so happy for us all."

Wendy Buffrey
Wendy Buffrey, who first told her story in detail on this website, before going on to give evidence in parliament said:

"It feels wonderful to have the news that the conviction will be quashed, tinged with a little sadness that we were not all given the same news. I would describe it as an empty feeling as I had geared myself for another fight."

Janet Skinner, who was convicted of false accounting in 2007 said: "This morning opening the email just absolutely floored me, in a good way. I didn’t expect it to be positive at all. Now, my emotions are all the place."

I asked Alan Bates from the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance for a comment. He wants to wait until he knows more about the three cases the Post Office intend to contest.

Lord Arbuthnot, whose former constituent Jo Hamilton alerted him to the Horizon scandal said:

"The Post Office’s decision to contest only three of the cases referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission is an admission of how very badly things went wrong over this saga.  That admission means that the Post Office and the Government must now address the issue of compensation, by putting these subpostmasters back into the position that they would have been in had the Post Office and the Government behaved properly and decently.  The Court Settlement does not cut it.  More now needs to be done."

Lord Arbuthnot also paid tribute to Jo Hamilton, who has been a tireless supporter of other Subpostmasters caught-up in the same horrible nightmare:

"Jo Hamilton’s victory is wonderful, wonderful news.  It is an astonishing achievement and very much the result of her own personality.  It was because of the sort of person she is that her village turned out to support her at her trial, and ever since then she has cheerfully, optimistically, pursued this outstanding result.  I don’t know whether it is the first time in history that a guilty plea has been overturned like this, but she deserves even more praise than I can express for her steadfast leadership of this campaign in the face of one of the largest injustices in British history."

Neil Hudgell, a solicitor representing 33 of the 47 referred Postmasters said:

“We are today obviously delighted for the people we represent. Clearing their names has been their driving goal from day one, as their reputations and livelihoods were so unfairly destroyed. For the Post Office to concede defeat and not oppose these cases is a landmark moment, not only for these individuals, but in time, potentially hundreds of others. The door to justice has been opened."

He added:

"We must never forget that these people endured years of suffering, and these allegations and convictions affected not only the individuals themselves, but their loved ones too."

Scott Darlington

Scott Darlington, who was convicted of false accounting in 2010, said:

"I am genuinely surprised that the Post Office are not going to oppose the appeal against my conviction. I'm used to it now but the first few years of walking around as convicted
criminal and the devastation to my life that this dealt me are difficult to put into words. I knew I was innocent, my family and friends also believed I was innocent. But the public and former customers and colleagues and the people of the town where I live must have thought I was guilty, I was after all convicted in a Crown Court of false accounting.

Next step... [suing them for] malicious prosecution, which I know is a whole different ball game. For today, I'm happy. Very happy."  

The Post Office sent out a press release acknowledging their decision, but not explaining it. The best the Chairman, Tim Parker, could come up with was:

“I am sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters. Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again.”

I am grateful to those Subpostmasters who have contacted me, full of joy, relief and anger at today's news. Many are only just gearing up to telling their stories publicly. There is so much more of this to come. 


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