Former Darlington sub-postmaster has Post Office Horizon scandal conviction overturned

Hundreds of post office workers were prosecuted between 2000 and 2014, after information from a newly-installed computer system - Horizon - suggested they may be stealing money from branches. Credit: PA Images

A former sub-postmaster from Darlington has been exonerated over the Post Office Horizon scandal, taking the number of overturned convictions to 75.

Richard Ormerod, who owned a Post Office in Darlington, was cleared of three charges of fraud by false accounting, amounting to £31,097, at an unopposed appeal hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday (9 June).

The 79-year-old was among hundreds of people who ran Post Office branches who were convicted of various offences based on evidence from the faulty IT system used by the Post Office from 2000.

Back in 2019, after a long-running campaign, the supreme court found in favour of sub-postmasters who claimed the Post Office had abused its position to unlawfully take action against people who ran branch offices.

Mr Ormerod - who was employed at the Summerhouse Post Office near Darlington - pleaded guilty at South Durham Magistrates’ Court, in 2004 and was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £250 costs.

Despite his guilty plea, Mr Ormerod had consistently denied taking any money and Judge Deborah Taylor said on Thursday: "The court will allow the appeals. The convictions are quashed.

"Mr Ormerod has been of good character throughout. It is a recognition and a public exoneration of you."

Mr Ormerod thanked the judge, as he was supported by loved ones in the public gallery.

Graeme Hall, representing the appellant, said the convictions had "plagued their lives for many years".

Mr Ormerod said he could not believe that the hundreds of sub-postmasters convicted were all guilty and that it must have been the Horizon system all along.

"They were so heavy-handed at the top end, and they couldn't bear to face the truth," he said.

"Nothing will happen to them, they have just been allowed to carry on."

Simon Baker QC, representing the Post Office, said the case "in which the convictions were predicated upon the Horizon computer system with which the court is now familiar."

"The Post Office does not oppose the appeal."

Their convictions are the latest to be overturned after some 39 former sub-postmasters who were convicted and even jailed for theft, fraud and false accounting had their names cleared in April last year – some after fighting for nearly 20 years.

A total of 75 have now had their convictions overturned, with all but one of the original prosecutions brought by the Post Office.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, the firm representing a total of 62 people who have now had their convictions quashed, said: "Each and every conviction overturned is a hugely important milestone.

"Each new case at court is as important as the very first because every case relates to lives ruined by the Post Office.

"Every sub-postmaster affected deserves their day in court to have their names and reputations cleared, but they also deserve so much more. They deserve offers of meaningful compensation, and soon."

Post Office spokesman said: "We are sincerely sorry for the impact of historical failures on the lives of the people affected.

"We continue to take extensive action to fully address the past and to ensure past shortcomings can never be repeated.

"We have undertaken fundamental reforms to rebuild trust and forge a new relationship with our current postmasters."