Justice has been delayed but hopefully no longer denied for the victims of the Post Office Horizon Scandal
In early 2020, I received a heartfelt message from one of my constituents, Pamela. She shared the distressing experience of losing her job at the Post Office several years ago after being falsely accused of financial impropriety. To add insult to the injustice, she was punished with 80 hours of community service for a crime she did not commit, and her good name and reputation was tarnished.
Pamela was one of over 700 victims of the Horizon Post Office Scandal, one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British legal history, which gained widespread public attention following the broadcast of the brilliant and incisive ITV drama 'Mr Bates vs the Post Office.'
The drama told the distressing story of how a number of sub-postmasters like Pamela, who ran individual post office branches, experienced difficulties with the Horizon Post Office computer system, which was introduced from 1999. Errors showed false shortfalls on the accounts of postmasters, which the Post Office then demanded they cover. Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office used information from Horizon to investigate and act against postmasters and employees. In the wake of these false allegations, sub-postmasters were suspended, prosecuted, bankrupted, many saw their health deteriorate or their family life break down, and some tragically took their own lives.
In March 2020 I asked the Government how much longer victims like Pamela would be expected to wait for compensation but was given no definitive answer.
After several more years of waiting, this January the Government finally announced that it would overturn the convictions of all those convicted in England and Wales. While this will not undo the historic wrongs victims have suffered, this is an important step to securing compensation and ensuring that justice is finally delivered for the victims.
I welcome this step forward; however, it is shocking that people have still not been able to access the compensation they are entitled to and it shouldn’t have taken a television drama to jolt the Government into taking action.
The Horizon scandal stands as a dark chapter in our history and Parliament must ensure this can never happen again. It is time to right the wrongs, provide closure to those affected, and rebuild the trust that has been shattered by this egregious miscarriage of justice.