Six more subpostmasters cleared of any wrongdoing at Court of Appeal in Post Office IT scandal 


Six former Post Office workers wrongly convicted of stealing from their employer because of a flaw in the computing system have finally had their names cleared following a years-long legal battle.  

The ex-postmasters had all noticed cash shortfalls in the Fujitsu-developed Horizon computer system – in use between 1999 and 2015 – but had no idea where the missing money had gone.

The Post Office had known about the issues in the accounting software at the time but failed to inform the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about them, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Scores of employees were then accused of stealing from their own tills and pressured into pleading guilty to crimes they never committed. 

The scandal has been described as one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice. 

But after years of legal battles, Norman Barber, 62, and wife Amanda Barber, 51, of Warrington, Cheshire, along with Mohamed Aslam, 60, Anthony John Gant, 51, of Shrewsbury, Balbir Grewal, 66, of Luton, and David Hughes, 35, also of Warrington, were all cleared on Thursday.  

Judge Deborah Taylor told the six: ‘It may have taken some time but each of these defendants walk away from the court with no stain on their character.’

Six former postmasters had their convictions relating to the Post Office Horizon IT scandal quashed on Thursday (Pictured right to left: Norman Barker, Amanda Barker, Balbir Grewal, Kirsty Gant, Anthony Gant and his stepdaughter Megan)

Six former postmasters had their convictions relating to the Post Office Horizon IT scandal quashed on Thursday (Pictured right to left: Norman Barker, Amanda Barker, Balbir Grewal, Kirsty Gant, Anthony Gant and his stepdaughter Megan) 

Mr Gant had pleaded guilty to false accounting at Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Magistrates' Court on October 29 2007 and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work - he has now had his name cleared

Mr Gant had pleaded guilty to false accounting at Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Magistrates’ Court on October 29 2007 and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work – he has now had his name cleared

Mr Gant was all smiles with his wife and step-daughter outside court on Thursday after having his conviction quashed

Mr Gant was all smiles with his wife and step-daughter outside court on Thursday after having his conviction quashed 

The group's convictions were quashed after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in January 2001. This takes the total number of Post Office referrals made by the CCRC to 57

The group’s convictions were quashed after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in January 2001. This takes the total number of Post Office referrals made by the CCRC to 57

They had attended court alongside supporters to finally see their convictions overturned.

Their convictions were quashed after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in January 2001. 

This takes the total number of Post Office referrals made by the CCRC to 57.

But hundreds more convicted postmasters are expected to have their names cleared as their cases make their way through the courts.

Simon Baker, QC, for the Post Office, told the court there are ‘clear and cogent reasons’ to quash the convictions for each of the appellants.

Had the CPS been aware that the Horizon system was showing shortfalls where none existed, none of the postmasters would have been prosecuted at the time, the court heard.

Six postmasters cleared after being pressured into admitting crimes they never committed  

The six postmasters cleared today are among hundreds who are believed to have admitted crimes they did not commit in the Post Office Horizon scandal. The six had admitted to the following:

Mr Aslam pleaded guilty to false accounting at Newport Magistrates’ Court on January 23 2007 and was sentenced to 60 hours of unpaid work and a £300 fine.

Mrs Barber pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on June 6 2012 and was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Barber also pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on June 6 2012 and was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Gant pleaded guilty to false accounting at Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Magistrates’ Court on October 29 2007 and was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Grewal pleaded guilty to false accounting at Luton Magistrates’ Court on August 13 2001 and was sentenced to a suspended sentence and a community order.

Mr Hughes pleaded guilty to making a false instrument at Workington Magistrates’ Court and was sentence to a community order of 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work.

‘In all of these cases, the Post Office cases that were brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, verdicts of not guilty will be entered against all of the appellant for the reasons set out by the Court of Appeal in the case of Hamilton and others,’ said Judge Taylor.

It comes after the Post Office agreed this week to hand over secret emails from its lawyers which could explain why hundreds of its subpostmasters were wrongly prosecuted for fraud, theft and false accounting. 

Insiders estimate that the ongoing inquiry will be given tens of millions of documents, spanning over 20 years of e-mails and letters between Post Office staff and internal legal advisers, barristers and solicitors’ firms.

The documents will allow the inquiry to test claims made by the Post Office’s former chief executive, Paula Vennells, a part-time priest, that she was led astray by her legal advisers.

The Post Office does not legally have to hand over the papers but volunteered them at the request of the inquiry’s chairman, Sir Wyn Williams.

Postmasters had argued that it would be impossible to uncover how thousands of them were targeted without considering the advice given to senior managers by their lawyers.

The inquiry would have had no legal power to order the Post Office to hand over the documents if it had not voluntarily given it up, legal sources said.

Sir Wyn said: ‘There is now a great deal of work to be done in organising and obtaining disclosure of relevant documents statement here.’

A Post Office spokeswoman said: ‘Following the request by the inquiry chairman, the Post Office has agreed to waive relevant legal privilege for the purpose of the Inquiry to over 20 years of documentation, reflecting our desire to assist the Inquiry in obtaining the information necessary to complete their investigations.

‘While the Inquiries Act does not compel this step, and legal privilege is an important feature of our justice system, this is the right thing to do for all those affected by the Horizon IT scandal.’

It has declined to waive privilege in respect of the postmasters’ compensation scheme, the Historical Shortfall Scheme.

The scandal is expected to cost the taxpayer in excess of £250 million in legal fees and compensation. 

It comes after it was revealed that the boss at the heart of the scandal made a ‘palpably false’ statement when she told a minister there was nothing to suggest there had been miscarriages of justice.   

Earlier this month, a law professor told the first open hearing of a public inquiry into the scandal of fresh evidence suggesting Paula Vennells, who was chief executive between 2012 and 2019, made false statements to MPs and a minister after evidence of miscarriages of justice came to light.

The 62-year-old mother-of-two, who is also an ordained priest, has been accused of covering up the scandal and spending more than £30 million of taxpayers’ money fighting her former staff in court to conceal the truth.

The inquiry was told that she wrote to a government minister in June 2015 to say that ‘we have found nothing to suggest that, in criminal cases, any conviction is unsafe’.

Richard Moorhead, a professor of law and professional ethics at the University of Exeter, told the inquiry: ‘That statement was palpably false, whether Mrs Vennells knew it or not.’

The letter to Tory MP George Freeman, then a parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, was sent two years after the Post Office was handed a report revealing one of its IT experts may have misled ‘many’ criminal trials by failing to tell them about computer bugs.

Yesterday, a law professor told the first open hearing of a public inquiry into the scandal of fresh evidence suggesting Paula Vennells, (pictured) who was chief executive between 2012 and 2019, made false statements to MPs and a minister after evidence of miscarriages of justice came to light

Yesterday, a law professor told the first open hearing of a public inquiry into the scandal of fresh evidence suggesting Paula Vennells, (pictured) who was chief executive between 2012 and 2019, made false statements to MPs and a minister after evidence of miscarriages of justice came to light

The inquiry was told that she wrote to MP George Freeman (pictured) in June 2015 to say that 'we have found nothing to suggest that, in criminal cases, any conviction is unsafe'

The inquiry was told that she wrote to MP George Freeman (pictured) in June 2015 to say that ‘we have found nothing to suggest that, in criminal cases, any conviction is unsafe’

Mrs Vennells made similar comments to a select committee in February 2015, telling them there was ‘no evidence’ that any postmaster had suffered a miscarriage of justice.

Her involvement in the scandal has sparked calls for her to be stripped of her CBE, which was awarded for services to charity and the Post Office. 

Mrs Vennells walked away in 2019 with £4.9 million in pay and bonuses, and into jobs in the NHS and the Cabinet Office, from which she has now resigned. 

The Daily Mail has led the way in exposing the scandal as part of the Save Our Post Offices campaign.

The hearing in London has heard how postmasters suffered ‘enormous psychological toll’ and the ‘shame and humiliation of arrest and prosecution’. 

The Post Office said it had ‘implemented fundamental reforms to ensure that such events of the past could never happen again’ and was ‘participating fully in the inquiry’.  

Mrs Vennells declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper. 

What was the Horizon computer system and how did it go wrong? 

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of postmasters were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to go missing from their branch accounts (file image)

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of postmasters were sacked or prosecuted after money appeared to go missing from their branch accounts (file image) 

Horizon, an IT system developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, was rolled out by the Post Office from 1999.

The system was used for tasks such as transactions, accounting and stocktaking. However, subpostmasters complained about defects after it reported shortfalls – some of which amounted to thousands of pounds.  

Some subpostmasters attempted to plug the gap with their own money, even remortgaging their homes, in an attempt to correct an error.

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of subpostmasters were sacked or prosecuted due to the glitches. The ex-workers blamed flaws in the IT system, Horizon, but the Post Office denied there was a problem.

In case after case the Post Office bullied postmasters into pleading guilty to crimes they knew they had not committed.

Many others who were not convicted were hounded out of their jobs or forced to pay back thousands of pounds of ‘missing’ money.

The Post Office spent £32million to deny any fault in their IT system, before capitulating. 

However, the postmasters and postmistresses said the scandal ruined their lives as they had to cope with the impact of a conviction and imprisonment, some while they had been pregnant or had young children.

Marriages broke down, and courts have heard how some families believe the stress led to health conditions, addiction and premature deaths.



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