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The Post Office Scandal is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice this country has seen

Last week, an investigation was launched over one of the greatest miscarriages of justice you may never have heard of. 

Monday 14th February saw the commencement of a public inquiry, led by Sir Wyn Williams, into a formal investigation into the Horizon scandal, where large numbers of Post Office sub-postmasters were convicted of crimes that they simply did not commit because of a covering up from Post Office top brass.

Between the years 2000 and 2014, more than 700 employees in Post Offices faced serious criminal charges – and serious ostracisation in their lives and communities – on the grounds that vast amounts of money was going ‘missing’ on their watch. Across the country, Postmasters began noticing massive shortfalls in their system.

This problem had nothing to do with them – it was purely down to Horizon. The system, which was commissioned by the government in 1995 to modernise the Post Office’s accounting system was meant to be high-tech. However, as IT workers revealed in secrecy to investigative journalists like Nick Wallis, the system was full of flaws that meant it often registered financial losses when there were not, in fact, any.

In some cases, these losses were to the tune of thousands of pounds, and these significant numbers could be rising day after day. For these Postmasters – decent people who had played by the rules their entire lives, who never had any reason to doubt ‘the system’ – their lives became a living hell. They turned from being respected members of the community to underhand thieves overnight.

Such stigma was a hard blow to take for the wrongly accused. Some began to suffer from profound mental health issues as a result of their convictions or imprisonment. Others suffered bankruptcy or even homelessness as they poured their own money back into Post Office systems to correct the faults that weren’t their own – and couldn’t be corrected anyway. Most shockingly, it is believed that four Postmasters took their own lives.

But with the aid of investigative journalists like Wallis, workers united in a struggle to clear their names. Thousands were gripped by The Great Post Office Trial, a BBC radio programme which brought their story to national focus. And last year, 72 of these innocent women and men had their names cleared.

But this isn’t enough for many victims. And neither is it for us in the Communication Workers Union. As we speak, the Post Office is looking at compensation claims of around £1 billion from these people who have so unnecessarily suffered. 

But now, there’s an almost unanimous feeling across the country that senior figures responsible for this disgraceful injustice face appropriate legal action. We need to take this unity of sentiment as a mandate for real movement on these questions. We can’t let the question of justice slip away into the distance. For the real criminals in this story – the top brass - there must be no hiding place.

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