Correos: “Joy” because hundreds of convictions will be annulled

Correos: “Joy” because hundreds of convictions will be annulled

  • Author, Nick Edser
  • Role, business reporter

One of hundreds of deputy postmasters whose convictions over the Post Office scandal will be quashed has spoken of his “absolute delight” at the move.

Lee Williamson, former deputy postmaster in Northern Ireland, told the BBC he was “overjoyed and very grateful.”

Parliament on Thursday passed a law overturning convictions arising from the Horizon IT scandal.

It was one of the last bills to be passed before MPs dissolved ahead of the July general election.

The law applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the Scottish parliament will pass its own bill to overturn convictions.

The case is seen as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 subpostmasters were unfairly prosecuted due to faulty accounting software called Horizon, which showed errors that did not exist.

Many subpostmasters went to prison for false accounting and theft, and several were financially ruined.

Lee Williamson, the former deputy postmaster of Northern Ireland who was wrongly convicted, is among those to be acquitted by the new bill.

He had been convicted in 2014 and received an 18-month sentence suspended for three years.

“Really the predominant emotion is absolute joy,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

However, Williamson said there were also mixed emotions.

He said he was “overjoyed and so grateful that this day has come… and then anger bubbles underneath because it has taken 12 years of your life.”

The speed at which things have developed in recent months “has been surreal,” Williamson said.

“I know this may seem a little hollow, but the compensation is really secondary,” he added.

“The fight over these last few years was to clear our names. Clearing our names is actually the equivalent of having a million pound compensation.”

A public inquiry into the Horizon scandal is underway and this week we heard from former Postmaster General Paula Vennells.

The passage of the Post Office Horizon System Crimes Bill means all convictions of people convicted of theft or false accounting between 1996 and 2018 while working at a post office using its faulty computer system will be quashed.

Those who have their convictions quashed will be eligible to receive compensation payments from the Horizon Conviction Redress Scheme, which will be established after the legislation is passed.

This unprecedented law was passed following public outcry sparked by the broadcast of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

The law has been controversial among judges because for centuries it has been the job of the courts to deal with unsafe sentences, not Parliament.

But the government argues that the exceptional scale and circumstances of the scandal mean it will not set a precedent.