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Law firm pulls in top team to challenge every 'unsafe' Post Office Horizon IT conviction

30 Apr 2020, 13:56

https://www.business-live.co.uk/profess ... m-18176338

Hudgell Solicitors works alongside justice group and Shadow Justice Minister

A Hull legal firm has brought together a highly-experienced team to work alongside campaigners and politicians committed to ‘challenging every unsafe conviction’ as a result of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

Hudgell Solicitors' move has been welcomed by the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA), who were instrumental in a £58 million damages settlement being awarded following a group action on behalf of 550 subpostmasters against the Post Office last year.

Significant variations in many subpostmasters’ accounts led to hundreds either having their contracts terminated, being forced into repaying thousands of pounds or being prosecuted and jailed.

However, the discrepancies had in many cases occurred due to the faulty Horizon IT system used by the Post Office.

Neil Hudgell, owner and managing director of Hudgell Solicitors, has already been working alongside Hull East MP and Westminster champion of the issue, Karl Turner, in exploring potential civil claims for those who were affected but not part of the first initial group damages settlement.

Hudgell has also now instructed one of the UK’s leading appellant barristers, Tim Moloney QC of London's Doughty Street Chambers, as they look to help all who were wrongly prosecuted to overturn their convictions.

As many as 500 wrongful convictions are estimated, and Hudgell has announced its intention to offer its expertise to those prosecuted by the Post Office as the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) - which investigates possible miscarriages of justice - has referred a first batch of convictions to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Hudgell said those people must be represented to help clear their names.

“This has quite simply been an absolutely appalling scandal which has led to a host of wrongful convictions," he said. "At this stage we are unable to accurately predict the number of unsafe convictions, but they are well into three figures.

“Many were either convicted of offences or coerced into a guilty plea in the face of what seemed overwhelming evidence from an infallible IT system.

“The unreliability of the Horizon software was exposed and accepted in the High Court so it is only right that every potential unsafe conviction is now fully investigated and challenged.”

Mr Hudgell says that should people successfully have convictions overturned it could open the door to yet more civil cases to seek damages for malicious prosecution and to compensate for the impact such as loss of reputation, loss of liberty, property, and financial loss.

“We’ve established a strong legal team with one of the country’s top appeals QCs in Tim Moloney leading our work on the wrongful convictions,” he said.

“The time has come for all subpostmasters affected by this to have the full force of the legal profession and the law on their side, and that is what we are looking to do through this team.”
Hull East MP Karl Turner, now Shadow Justice Minister. (Image: srenilson)

Mr Turner, himself a criminal barrister, former Shadow Attorney General and now Shadow Justice Minister, has been campaigning for a judge-led public inquiry.

He said: “The JFSA, myself and Hudgell Solicitors are determined to ensure that as many people affected by this scandal as possible get the justice they deserve for what happened to them.

“For too long this has been something the Post Office has been able to brush aside, and the settlement last December did not go far enough. It only scratched the surface in terms of the scale of investigation carried out, and also in terms of justice being served. We won’t let this one go.”

The JFSA worked with Freeths Solicitors to take the group litigation against the Post Office which resulted in the £58 million damages settlement in the High Court last year.

Alan Bates, who established the JFSA, said he was delighted to continue the fight for further justice through Hudgells and will be recommending people take up their offer of support.

“The JFSA are fully supportive of these cases being taken forward by Hudgells Solicitors and we are delighted to also have the support of Mr Turner and other politicians in ensuring this matter continues to be highlighted in both the Government and the highest courts in the land,” he said.

“We will fight to ensure every wrongful conviction is overturned.”

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