Conviction set to be overturned for former postmistress from Cheltenham who was falsely accused of theft by Post Office

Wendy Buffrey was a postmistress at Hatherley Post Office in Cheltenham before being falsely accused of stealing. Credit: ITV West Country

A former postmistress from Cheltenham who was prosecuted 10 years ago for false accounting has been told her conviction is set to be overturned by the court of appeal next month.

Wendy Buffrey is one of hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses whose lives were shattered when they were falsely accused of stealing from the Post Office. It later turned out that a faulty IT system was to blame.

The Post Office has apologised for what it calls "historical failures".

Wendy says the scandal has cost her her health, reputation and ruined her financially. She is calling for someone to be held to account after years of trying to clear her name.

Wendy was falsely convicted in 2008. Credit: ITV West Country

Wendy ran Hatherley Post Office in Cheltenham before being accused of misappropriating £26,000 of takings in 2008.

Despite Wendy protesting her innocence, the Post Office blamed her and she was sentenced to 12-months community order and was made to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. The sentence also included repaying the ‘missing’ £26,256.63 to the Post Office, and paying £1,500 in costs.Charges of theft against her were dropped, but she was told she would face prison unless she admitted false accounting.

As she and her husband had to sell the Post Office to raise funds, they lost their home too.

Despite knowing she was innocent, Wendy pleaded guilty to avoid going to jail.

She told ITV News: "My barrister said to me 'you've got no chance against the Post Office, if you don't plead guilty, you are going to go to jail for five years.'

"The time I was in court, there's very little I can remember of it. But I stood there and I heard my son sob from the area above. With my mum and dad and I heard them cry. That's all I really remember about that moment."

Hatherley Post Office in Cheltenham. Credit: ITV West Country

Since then, it has emerged that a new IT system that the post office had introduced, called Horizon, was faulty, leading to accounting errors, and accusations of fraud.Wendy lost her business, her house and her reputation; but for her the most heart-breaking thing was also losing her father, and her son who died in a cycling accident while living in Norway. 

Wendy's son died in a cycling accident while living in Norway. Credit: ITV West Country

Wendy said: "He will never know that his mother has just been told she is among 44 postmasters who have just been informed that her conviction is set to be overturned in the Court of Appeal.

"I've lost my son and my father and I can't tell them, now, that this is all sorted.In the commons the business minister said that the Post Office recognises mistakes were made."

The post office sincerely apologised to postmasters for historical failings. Credit: ITV West Country

The Post Office apologised to postmasters for historical failings, and underlined its commitment to delivering a fundamental review and resetting its relationship with postmasters to make sure this never happens again. But, Wendy wants to know why no one in the Post Office has been held accountable for what happened. When asked what she thinks of the Post Office, Wendy told our reporter: "Disappointment, and disgust. That's the only two words I can think of. Disappointment and disgust."Wendy is now talking to her solicitors about the next move in what has been a long fight to clear her name, and rebuild her life.

A statement from Post Office chairman Tim Parker said: “I am sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters.

“Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again.

“Post Office wishes to ensure that all postmasters entitled to claim civil compensation because of their convictions being overturned are recompensed as quickly as possible.

“Therefore, we are considering the best process for doing that.”

In addition to full co-operation with the Criminal Cases Review Commission’s review, the Post Office said it has set up an extensive disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists, to identify material which might affect the safety of any relevant historical prosecutions.