Three Court of Appeal judges castigated the Government-owned Post Office in April for hounding its own staff before squandering public money trying to cover up the scandal.
Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of postmasters were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to go missing from their branch accounts (file image)
Former subpostmasters Janet Skinner (left) and Tracy Felstead (right) outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, ahead of their appeal against a conviction of theft, fraud and false accounting
Former subpostmasters who say they were wrongly implicated over the Post Office’s defective Horizon IT system have said they feel their bid to overturn their convictions represents ‘the beginning of the end’.
Postal workers attending the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday morning described the relief of having their appeals heard.
Janet Skinner, 50, who was jailed for nine months in 2007 after pleading guilty to false accounting, said: ‘It feels like the beginning of the end here today.
‘Obviously we don’t know which way it’s going to go, it’s in the hands of the judges now.
‘But did I think I would ever get to this stage? No. So it’s important for me to be here.
‘We just want to clear our names.
‘The Post Office feels like too big a company to be messing with when you’re on your own.
‘They portrayed themselves as this most trusted British company, and they were not.’
Miss Skinner, from Hull, described her prison ordeal as awful.
She said: ‘It was not a good time for me.
‘I had two teenage children at the time and so I refused to let them see me in jail.
‘I didn’t want them to have a memory of that. It was tough.’
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the cases of 42 former subpostmasters to the Court of Appeal last year, following a landmark civil case against the Post Office.
They had all been prosecuted by Post Office Limited between 2000 and 2013.
Former subpostmaster Nicki Arch said on Monday: ‘Obviously, I totally refused to do a deal, although I was offered one, and had my own barristers and I pleaded not guilty.
‘I was in front of a jury, had a full four-day trial and was proved innocent.’
She added: ‘I was proved innocent in 2001 … and the Post Office did not learn a single thing. They carried on and carried on and I got nothing.
‘I lost my house, I lost my business, I lost my health and everything else and I thought, ‘Well, I might just save one person from going through what I did’.’
Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of postmasters were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to go missing from their branch accounts.
Post Office bosses were told glitches in the Fujitsu-developed Horizon computer terminals in branches may be to blame but pursued prosecutions anyway.
In 2019, the Post Office paid a £58million settlement to 557 postmasters following an acrimonious High Court battle, which found the Horizon accounting system contained ‘bugs, errors and defects’.
And last year, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the cases of 42 former subpostmasters – many of whom went to prison – to the Court of Appeal.
The Treasury is braced for payouts that could total hundreds of millions as many of the 685 sub-postmasters who were convicted could claim damages.
‘The scandal, labelled the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history, has already cost the taxpayer £254million in legal fees and compensation.
Campaigners have demanded that police investigate Post Office bosses and Paula Vennells, who presided over the scandal as chief executive from 2012 to 2019, has faced calls to be stripped of her CBE.
Tory peer Lord Arbuthnot said: ‘It wasn’t until November last year we discovered the Post Office had known for many, many years that their entire prosecution process was riddled with deception, something they then tried to cover up with their shredding of documents.
‘It is high time the police began to take a serious look at whether the Post Office management have been perverting the course of justice.’
In total there are believed to be 3,000 postmaster victims who lost their livelihoods, were bankrupted and fell into ill-health after being chased for ‘missing’ cash.
The Prime Minister has launched an independent inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal and the police are investigating two Post Office IT experts, which could result in charges of perjury.
Last year a judge said the Post Office’s computer experts knew about problems in its IT system in 1999 – 15 years before the company stopped prosecuting postmasters.
But despite the gravity of the case, not a single Post Office boss, civil servant or minister has been sacked.
Paula Vennells, 62, who ran the company between 2012 and 2019, is accused of covering up the fiasco and dragging hundreds of postmasters into the costly court battle.
She has been forced to resign from a series of prestigious roles but has held on to her CBE for ‘services to the Post Office and charity’.
The Post Office earlier said:
‘Our priority is to fairly resolve the applications… as soon as possible.’