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MP secures debate on post-office convictions

04 Mar 2020, 14:33 ... nvictions/

Two Shropshire post office workers who say they were wrongly jailed because of a computer glitch are to have their cases debated in Parliament tomorrow.

Lucy Allan, MP for Telford, has secured a Westminster Hall debate to discuss the convictions of 56 former post office staff, who say they were wrongly convicted due to financial discrepancies created by a faulty computer system.

Rubbina Shaheen, from Shrewsbury, who was jailed for six months in 2010, and Tracy Felstead from Telford who was sentenced to 12 months in 2001, are among those fighting to clear their name in what has been branded the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history.

The Post Office agreed to a £57.75 million out-of-court settlement with 550 former post office workers, including Miss Felstead, who said they had wrongly been blamed for financial shortfalls generated by the company's computer database.

A High Court judge also ruled that glitches with the Post Office's controversial Horizon computer system could have caused the accounting shortfalls.

Mrs Shaheen and Miss Felstead have been told that their cases will be considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) at a meeting on March 24.

But Ms Allan said the process had been taking too long, and said those who had been wrongly convicted should be able to clear their names as soon as possible.

"I'm hoping those who have been wrongly convicted can have their convictions overturned as soon as possible," she said.

"At the moment they are expected to go through a very complex legal process with the CCRC, that will look at each case on an individual basis, but this is clearly a group matter and they should be treated as a group."

News about the debate has been welcomed by both Miss Felstead and Mrs Shaheen.

Miss Felstead, now 37, was an 19-year-old counter clerk when she was jailed for stealing £11,500 in 2001.

"I hope it makes a difference," said Miss Felstead, of Bournside Close, Brookside.

"I hope the truth will come out, so we can get our convictions overturned. I don't see why we have to go through the process of an appeal when we have already had two court verdicts go in our favour and an out-of-court settlement.

"Hopefully it will push a bit for a public inquiry."

Mrs Shaheen, who was sub-postmistress at Greenfields Post Office in Shrewsbury, says she was very pleased the matter would be debated in Parliament.

"It is brilliant news," she said. "The more of these MPs raising the matter the better. It has been in the media again this week and was raised in the House of Lords a fortnight ago. It is all good news and I think the Prime Minister should call an inquiry.

"It is okay for the Post Office to agree to the mistakes and say sorry, but all the postmasters and mistresses have lost their livelihood and health and should be heavily compensated."

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to agree to hold a public inquiry into the affair following a call from Jarrow MP Kate Osborne.

Mr Johnson replied: "I am indeed aware of the scandal to which the honourable lady alludes and the disasters that have befallen many post office workers, and I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

But Downing Street failed to confirm that such an inquiry would be taking place asked to clarify the matter.

A government statement said: "The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working actively with the Post Office on this matter and will hold them to account on their progress. We are also looking into what more needs to be done.”

Ms Allan said she clearly understood Mr Johnson's comment as a commitment to hold a judge-led inquiry.

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