Nick Wallis digs deep into the shameful story of justice denied
ON 23 April 2021, the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of 39 former subpostmasters and ruled their prosecutions were an affront to the public conscience. It is a scandal that has been described as one of the most widespread and significant miscarriages of justice in UK legal history.
The court found the Post Office knew its system was unreliable, but hid the evidence for years
The Great Post Office Scandal - the definitive account of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal - has now been published. The book’s author, award-winning journalist and broadcaster Nick Wallis, covered the story for more than a decade.
The 39 were just a few of the 738 people who, between 2000 and 2015, had been prosecuted by the Post Office for theft, false accounting and fraud. The prosecutions were based largely on evidence drawn from Horizon, the Post Office’s deeply flawed software system that threw up duplicate entries, lost transactions and made erroneous calculations.
If these errors resulted in apparent losses, subpostmasters were forced to settle the discrepancies from their own pockets, sometimes for tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. Those who could not pay were sacked and taken to court.
Proud pillars of their communities were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods. Many were forced into bankruptcy and or borrowed from friends and family to give the Post Office thousands they did not owe. Some took their own lives.
Lisa Brennan from Liverpool was one of the “Post Office 39”. Ms Brennan had become a counter clerk when she was 16-years-old.
In September 2003, she was convicted by a jury of 27 counts of theft and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment suspended for two years. She appealed against conviction on the basis of inconsistent verdicts, but this appeal was dismissed. As a result of the proceedings against her, she was forced to file for bankruptcy.
Lisa Brennan’s conviction was quashed on 23 April 2021, along with 38 other sub-postmasters in a landmark judgment at the Court of Appeal. The court found the Post Office knew its system was unreliable, but hid the evidence for years.
A total of 72 subpostmasters have had their convictions quashed to date. Many hundreds more could follow.
Proud pillars of their communities were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods
In 2010, Nick met a taxi driver who told him his pregnant wife had been sent to prison for a crime she did not commit. Since then, he has recorded interviews with dozens of victims, insiders and experts, uncovering hundreds of documents to build up an unparalleled understanding of the story.
The Great Post Office Scandal is the story of how these innocent people fought back to clear their names against a background of institutional arrogance and obfuscation, a fight dragged out by the Post Office’s refusal to accept responsibility for its failings.
The Great Post Office Scandal is published by Bath Publishing and available directly from the publishers at bathpublishing.com and other booksellers. 10% of the book’s income will be given to subpostmasters via the soon-to-be launched Horizon Scandal Fund.
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