39 postmasters have fraud and theft convictions quashed at Court of Appeal

  • Andy Dickenson spoke to Pauline Thomson, a former sub-postmaster after her name was cleared

They had fought for 20 years to clear their names in a huge miscarriage of justice. Today, 39 sub-postmasters and mistresses had their convictions for theft and fraud quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Ordinary men and women in the South East received criminal records, with some jailed, because of errors in a new Post Office computer system.

There wasn't any missing money. And, although the Post Office knew of problems, it maintained the software was reliable. 

An embrace of joy after the verdict was read Credit: ITV News Meridian

In some ways it is a bitter-sweet victory because while their names are now clear, they have lost years of their life fighting to put the record straight.

There were joyous scenes outside the court of appeal after the 39 names were read out by the judge, who said the Post Office effectively steamrolled over any sub-postmaster who challenged them.

There were cheers, tears and hugs as the emotional weight of such a huge injustice was lifted.

William Graeme was accused of stealing 65 thousand pounds from his post office near Sevenoaks. He almost lost his home and found it difficult to get work.

  • William Graeme, former sub-postmaster

He said: "It's absolutely fantastic. The relief, the peace of mind that I can now say I don't have a criminal conviction. I'm not a criminal".

He continued: "At the start it was very difficult, I was very insular. I wasn't outgoing, I never told anyone. Family didn't know. Only people that needed to know knew".

When asked if this secrecy was through embarrassment he said: "Yeah. Shame. because that's how it made me feel".

A scene of joy and solidarity as the former sub-postmasters were proven to be innocent Credit: ITV News Meridian

The lawyers that represented the former sub-posters, Neil Hudgell said: "Today is a landmark generally in the field of miscarriages of justice".

"But for the specifics of the clients, it's obviously just an eruption of emotion based on them being exonerated".

Former sub-postmaster, Pauline Thomson, was so emotionally affected by the ordeal that she didn't feel able to go to the Court of Appeal today.

  • Pauline Thomson, former sub-postmaster

She reflected on the trauma of the injustice: "I had my face all over the Courier. I had to sell the paper with my face all over it".

She continued: "We were evicted from our house because my salary stopped instantly. It was terrible".

The Government, who own the Post Office, is carrying out its own investigation.

In a Tweet earlier the Prime Minister said lessons will be learnt but campaigners say that's not enough.

ITV News Meridian has been covering the ordeals of these Postmasters and Mistresses for years and their fight now is for a full judge-led inquiry.

For those in charge of the Post Office to be held to account, and for there to be compensation. These are the thoughts of Lord Arbuthnot, who is part of the campaign.

  • Lord Arbuthnot, Conservative peer

He said: "This isn't going away. We're only in the foothills of the campaign to achieve proper justice. And we will achieve it one day".

Today was a day that many of the 39 thought would never happen.

ITV News Meridian reporter James Dunham asked former sub-postmaster, William Graeme, how he plans to celebrate.

He said: "a takeaway and his beer with my family".