SIX Post Office bosses ‘could face charges for possible criminal offences’ in handling of IT scandal that saw postmasters hounded, bullied and wrongly prosecuted for fraud, lawyer says
- More than 700 branch managers were prosecuted of crimes including fraud
- Post Office hounded them and bullied many into pleading guilty
- But 39 postmasters had convictions quashed following decade-long fight
Six Post Office staff may have committed criminal offences in their handling of the IT scandal, according to one of its own lawyers.
More than 700 branch managers were prosecuted of crimes including fraud and theft when money went ‘missing’ from their accounts.
The Post Office hounded them, bullying many into pleading guilty, and then squandered millions in public money trying to cover it up.
Last month 39 postmasters had their convictions quashed following a decade-long fight.
The Court of Appeal case revealed that key evidence which could have proven their innocence was not disclosed. One 2013 document, labelled a ‘smoking gun’, revealed that an expert witness had misled the criminal court in several trials – but it became public only last year.
Six Post Office staff may have committed criminal offences in their handling of the IT scandal, according to one of its own lawyers. Pictured: Post Office chairman, Tim Parker and Post Office chief executive, Paula Vennells
Now a former legal adviser has blown the whistle. In a BBC Radio 4 documentary tonight, she says several staff could have a case to answer for perverting the course of justice.
She said: ‘Everyone involved in the prosecution process has a duty to comply with the rules, and a deliberate failure to comply with the rules usually amounts to a perversion of the course of justice. I can probably name half a dozen people, with hindsight, who should be very worried.’
The comments have sparked fresh calls from MPs for a criminal investigation. The police are already investigating two Post Office IT boffins, which could lead to charges of perjury.
The Government has launched a public inquiry with statutory powers to call and cross-examine witnesses. It will take evidence from former bosses, including Paula Vennells, who is blamed for the cover-up, and Alice Perkins, the £100,000-a-year chairman of the Post Office from 2011 until 2015.
Last month 39 postmasters had their convictions quashed following a decade-long fight. The Court of Appeal case revealed that key evidence which could have proven their innocence was not disclosed. Pictured: Postmasters accused of theft celebrating outside High Court
Tory peer Lord Arbuthnot, who has campaigned for postmasters for more a decade, said the Post Office ‘perverted the course of justice and misled Parliament’.
Labour business spokesman Chi Onwurah called for a criminal investigation, and Tory MP Lucy Allan added: ‘For justice to be done, those responsible must be held to account.’
There is growing pressure on Post Office chairman Tim Parker – who last week stepped down as chairman of the National Trust after a revolt of its members over woke policies – and finance chief Al Cameron to be sacked over their role in the failed High Court fight.
Andy Furey, of the Communication Workers’ Union, said: ‘These people are responsible for spending taxpayers’ money in trying to defend the indefensible.’ Lord Arbuthnot added they ‘should be sacked immediately’.
The Post Office said: ‘We continue to take determined action to address the past.’
The Great Post Office Trial: The Reckoning will be broadcast at 8pm tonight on Radio 4