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Post Office and Horizon Software — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:13 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 2:13 pm, 5th March 2020

The hon. Member for Telford made it absolutely clear that the Post Office and the authorities should hang their heads in shame about how they acted.

Before I became a Member of Parliament, I worked on a campaign with the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It was a murder conviction of four individuals called Latimer, Allen, Bell and Hegan. I had to try to find fresh factors or new evidence that would overcome a very high standard to persuade the commission to send that case to the High Court for a retrial. I found that the statements had been wrongly written, which sufficed to get the case back to court. Ultimately, three of those murder convictions were overturned on that basis.

In this case, the Post Office admitted in court that it had got it wrong. A letter from the former Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Kelly Tolhurst, states that the Post Office had not only “got things wrong” but “apologised” for its actions to all the postmasters. A statement from the most senior lord justice says that what the Post Office has done

“amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat”,

and that the Post Office has completely ignored reality.

According to my reading of the Criminal Cases Review Commission process, those statements alone show that there are fresh factors on the table and new evidence that was not available before. Those cases should be expedited and brought to the courts without delay. There should be a fast-track process for those people so that they can get justice at last, have their day in court, have their reputations restored to them, have some semblance of normality and have the right to say, “We were not wrong. We have faced an injustice and it must now be put right.” The earlier that happens, the better, because the fresh factors and new evidence are there and should be raised.

As the Minister knows, there is a double injustice in this case. On the one hand, the postmasters thought that they had won through the mediation process and were handed a secret solution or compensation package. But on the other hand, when it was within a hand’s grasp, like Lady Macbeth, it disappeared in front of them when they went to take it. It was no longer there. It is an atrocious set of circumstances where the lawyers have been allowed to win and the postmasters have faced a double injustice and will not get their compensation.

Some people have said that it is up to the Government to pay, but I leave that to the Government. It is up to the Post Office to pay. The Post Office put that injustice on my constituent—on our constituents. Someone is responsible here. The Government could step in and hold the line until the matter is resolved, but ultimately the Post Office should be made to pay.