The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has written to around 170 former Post Office sub-postmasters and counter staff convicted for fraud, theft, or false accounting to offer help for those wanting to challenge their conviction.
These individuals had not responded to efforts by Post Office Ltd to contact them. The CCRC stepped in last month and obtained the list of names from the Post Office under its Section 17 powers.
The CCRC's letter contains details of how to apply to the CCRC to have their conviction reviewed, and information on how to appeal directly to the Courts where a right of appeal still exists.
To date the CCRC has referred 59 Post Office Horizon cases to the appeal courts.
Of those 53 have had their convictions for fraud, theft, or false accounting overturned.
The CCRC is currently considering a further 31 applications.
This week the CCRC referred its latest Post Office case to the appeal courts. Richard Ormerod was employed at the Summerhouse sub Post-Office near Darlington. He pleaded guilty at South Durham magistrates' court to three counts of false accounting and was sentenced to a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay 250 in costs. Despite his guilty plea Mr Ormerod consistently denied taking any money and believed the Horizon computer system was to blame.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher OBE yesterday said:
Recent testimonies at the independent public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon system showed the devastating impact these convictions have had on peoples' lives.
It is completely understandable that many former sub-postmasters might therefore not want anything further to do with Post Office Ltd. They may see challenging their conviction as either difficult, time-consuming, expensive, or no longer trust the system'.
The CCRC is here to help put that right. We are making it clear that we are independent, that applying to us is free and that individuals do not need a lawyer to do so. There is also no time limit on applying to us.
We are the only body with the power to refer a case back to the appeal courts if the individual has either had an unsuccessful appeal or pleaded guilty in a magistrates' court.
The CCRC plans to contact around 100 more sub-postmasters and counter staff in the coming weeks. The CCRC will also be contacting next of kin in a further handful of cases to ensure they are aware they can challenge the conviction of a deceased relative.
Further information can be found online at www.ccrc.gov.uk/postofficecases/
Notes to Editors
- The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments' Code of Practice.
- The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are exceptional circumstances.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found atwww.ccrc.gov.uk. The CCRC can be found on Twitter@ccrcupdateand Instagramthe_ccrc