A criminal investigation has been launched into the Post Office computer experts who gave evidence in the trials of convicted postmasters.
Over 15 years, dozens of postmasters were wrongly convicted of stealing from their own branches after unexplained shortfalls were found in their accounts.
Many of the former Post Office staffers were jailed, sacked and given criminal records they still carry today. Last year, following a lengthy fight in the High Court, it was found that the missing cash was actually caused by bugs in the IT systems, called Horizon.
Yesterday the Metropolitan Police launched a formal investigation, meaning the IT experts who testified in postmasters’ trials could be probed for crimes such as perjury.
It follows an intervention from a judge, who damned the ‘veracity’ of evidence given in the postmasters’ trials, and asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to step in.
Seema Misra, 44, who was wrongly jailed for 15 months while she was pregnant, said last night: ‘It’s been a long time, but maybe now justice will be done.’
She is one of 44 postmasters who are expected to have their convictions lifted in the Court of Appeal after a decade-long fight. A further 900 prosecutions are being reviewed.
Seema Misra, 44, (pictured at home) who was wrongly jailed for 15 months while she was pregnant, said last night: ‘It’s been a long time, but maybe now justice will be done’
The family of one postmaster said he died a broken man after being forced to clean graves as punishment for a crime he did not commit.
Julian Wilson was shattered by injustice and exhausted by his attempts to clear his name, they said. He died in 2016, at the age of 67, of bowel cancer. His wife Karen says the disease had it roots in the trauma he endured and the all-consuming campaign for redemption.
For years the Post Office had stubbornly insisted its IT systems – called Horizon and designed by a company called Fujitsu – never lied, calling them ‘robust’.
Last year, following a court case brought by 557 postmasters, Mr Justice Fraser branded Horizon not ‘remotely robust’.
He added: ‘This approach by the Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred.
‘It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat.’
Julian Wilson (pictured with his wife Karen) was shattered by injustice and exhausted by his attempts to clear his name, they said. He died in 2016, at the age of 67, of bowel cancer. His wife Karen says the disease had it roots in the trauma he endured and the all-consuming campaign for redemption
Addressing the court, he said: ‘I have very grave concerns regarding the veracity of evidence given by Fujitsu employees to other courts in previous proceedings about the known existence of bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system. I have decided to write to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill, to see if any of these should be a matter of public prosecution.’
Last night the Met Police said: ‘On January 20, the Met Police received a letter from Mr Justice Fraser via the CPS. The contents of the letter have been assessed and a criminal investigation has been opened.’
The Post Office has already paid a £58 million settlement to postmasters, and in the summer it launched a compensation scheme for more than 2,200 potential victims.
The Post Office has already paid a £58 million settlement to postmasters, and in the summer it launched a compensation scheme for more than 2,200 potential victims. (file photo)
Up to 61 convictions could be overturned in the Court of Appeal. Three separate inquiries have now been launched to find out how an arm of the state was allowed to persecute its own staff for so long.
The Daily Mail has led the way in exposing the scandal as part of the Save Our Post Offices campaign.
Last month, MPs said former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells should be stripped of her CBE over the scandal.
Fujitsu said it was cooperating fully with the investigation.