goggins

"You helped send me to prison for a crime I didn't commit, and now I'm coming for you."


In-house lawyers at the Post Office and those on its external panels who advised on its wrongful prosecution of dozens of sub-postmasters are in for a sweaty few months after the Solicitors Regulation Authority won access to all documents related to the unsavoury episode.

The Post Office publicly insisted for years that accounting discrepancies in its branches were due to pilfering by sub-postmasters. In fact the errors were caused by its crumby IT system, Horizon, which was privately known to be chock-full of glitches. 

Nonetheless, the Post Office demanded that sub-postmasters make up the shortfalls in their accounts, which often amounted to tens  of thousands of pounds, and terminated their contracts or arranged for private prosecutions when they were unable to do so. Many of the innocent sub-postmasters' lives were ruined by bankruptcy, accusations of criminality and jail terms as a result.

Now regarded as the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, the cover-up was exposed by crusading sub-postmasters who refused to accept the Post Office's story, resulting in a civil claim brought by 555 sub-postmasters. Represented by Freeths, the sub-postmasters and their legal team eviscerated the Fujitsu and Post Office witnesses and obtained a £58m settlement.

72 convictions have been quashed so far, including 39 at once last April when the judge ruled that the original verdicts were an "affront to the public conscience".

In a submission to Sir Wyn Williams' inquiry into the scandal, academics led by legal ethics specialist Professor Richard Moorhead said the work of the Post Office's lawyers had played a central role. "Harms directly arose from the way legal work was managed and conducted: people were threatened, sued, fired, and prosecuted via legal work. Denials, non-disclosure, and delay were enabled, at least in part, by legal work", they said.

The SRA decided to investigate the "role of all lawyers in this matter" last April, but this week it emerged in its board minutes that it has been granted access to all the documents relating to the scandal, after successfully applying to become a 'core participant' in Sir Williams' inquiry.

Calling the affair a "lawyering scandal" as much as an IT one, Moorhead told the Law Gazette it appeared that work around the prosecutions was handled "incompetently or unethically", adding that the Post Office may have instructed lawyers at as many as six firms to advise on private prosecutions of sub-postmasters.

Paula Vennells, the Post Office CEO during the scandal who repeatedly claimed that "no fault in the system has been identified" despite evidence to the contrary, remains at large. In fact she was awarded a CBE for her services to the Post Office and charity, and now appears to spend her time removing unflattering edits from her Wikipedia entry (not included here in case she decides to spaff another £100m of taxpayer cash up the wall suing RollOnFriday).

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Comments

Anonymous 29 April 22 09:25

"in a civil claim brought by 555 sub-postmasters. Represented by Freeths"

Boo hoo, but they are evil stegosaurs who wear flairs and something about Pamela Anderson. My shiny City outfit is far more progressive.

Eat it Freeths haters.

Anon 29 April 22 09:41

Can someone get on Amazon* and same day some salt and vinegar to 9:25 to go with that chip they've got on their shoulder!

*other online retail outfits are available

Anon 29 April 22 09:47

this is about the postmasters scandal not freeths - what a weird, bitter, stunted, and narcissistic perspective you have 09:25!

A Non (entity) 29 April 22 09:52

From .gov.uk  "She served as a Non-Executive Board Member at the Cabinet Office between February 2019 and March 2020"

Boris sure does know how to pick them

Anonymous 29 April 22 10:32

"this is about the postmasters scandal not freeths - what a weird, bitter, stunted, and narcissistic perspective you have"

Cry Hard - starring Bruce Willis.

 

 

Who is a ghost.

Anonymous 29 April 22 11:35

Are we not talking about Womble Bond Dickinson and Herbert Smith Freehills in this instance?

After all, way back in 2019, Mr Justice Fraser observed over £35m in fees had been drummed up and warned that some costs were excessive. It’s surely even higher now. 

I seem to recall Wombles have a bit of a track record for taking from the taxpayer. As with furlough will they be repay some or all of it? 

postie 29 April 22 12:03

Womble Bond Dickinson LLP have acted for the Post Office from the very first Horizon case many years ago , In the 2021 Court of Appeal case which the Post Office lost and led to this inquiry the Court of Appeal were highly critical of the role of WBD in the Horizon scandal. WBD were found to have behaved like legal gymnasts using every litigation trick in the book to prevent the sub postmasters having their day in Court.

Sad sad affair 29 April 22 15:37

The more I read about this (not just on RoF), my jaw drops. 

Innocent people driven to bankruptcy and further personal pain (medical problems, marriages splitting etc) by the Post Office's refusal to accept there might have been a problem with the IT rollout.

 

Nic Oatridge 29 April 22 19:17

It is not an IT scandal in the least. IT systems fail and the mechanisms to manage the risk are well documented (e.g. (ITIL). That the Post Office and Fujitsu failed to follow best practice suggests a level of incompetence. The apparent cover ups, lies and use of the courts to browbeat Postmasters will hopefully be the subject of legal action. However the role of the legal profession is appalling. How could a legal direction arise that says that the assumption in law is that computer systems are infallible? The "lawyering scandal" you refer to is however the most concerning because it appears lawyers colluded in misleading and lying to defendants, withholding evidence and used the power of their clients financial clout to pervert the course of justice. It seems hard to believe that there are not custodial sentences due to people who contributed to sending innocent people to prison and then attempted to cover it up.

Anonymous 29 April 22 19:31

As a retired sub postmaster directly involved with the Horizon system and the effects of a malevolent management organisation I urge you to get your house in order.

The damage caused by the Horizon scandal to the standing and reputation of the rule of law in this country is significant, and has not been enhanced by the obscene legal costs involved.

I respectfully suggest that those who put your credibility at risk need to be brought to account.

Anonymous 30 April 22 07:54

So how much did Wombles trouser?

Anonymous 30 April 22 09:13

To see Wombles bulging trousers, visit - https://committees.parliament.uk/work/97/post-office-and-horizon/publications/3/correspondence/  and then download the 'Letter from the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets on costs relating to Post Office and Horizon issues'

Anne Page 30 April 22 10:57

I support Prof Moorehead's submission. Lawyers do not need to act as those for the Post Office have been doing, right up to the last. The notorious Brian Altman QC has made a great deal of money from the taxpayers acting aggressively on the Post Office's behalf. His role should be thoroughly investigated. 

Truthseeker 01 May 22 07:31

There needs to be strike offs by the SDT.  Lots of them. And criminal prosecution of the post office bosses.

Postie 01 May 22 19:07

Whilst Wombles have been living off the Post Office cash cow for years 33 innocent sub postmasters died before they had the chance to clear their names. The court of appeal made it very clear that Wombles had pulled every trick in the book to prevent these innocent subpostmasters clearing their name. Shame on you Wombles. No wonder the GLS threw you off their panel. What client would want to be associated with such behaviour identified by court of appeal?

Anonymous 02 May 22 12:57

Fiona McGowan 1961 - 2009

A mother-of-two killed herself after being charged with false accounting over £30,000 that went 'missing' from her Edinburgh Post Office branch. 

From her partner:-

“She succumbed to her mental illness and spiralled downwards into what she called her 'cauldron of misery' and passed away in her sleep on 21 January 2009.

I have no doubt in my mind that the horror of that whole Post Office fiasco was a major factor in her death.

What's more, I found out years later via a freedom of information requests that the criminal charges against her had been dropped years before - while she was still with us. The Post Office did not even have the courtesy or decency to inform her.”

Fiona McGowan was 47 when she overdosed on alcohol and antidepressants in 2009. Her sons were 12 and 14.

Anon 02 May 22 17:44

If a lawyer can represent a defendant in a criminal case without being criticised - clear cut rape case for example - why is everyone jumping on the Wombles for defending the PO? Surely it’s a simple matter of choosing which ambulance to chase? Everyone just tries to find a loophole to advantage their client… 

Tom S**tspantsrick 02 May 22 22:21

Is the US Wombles still a separate and distinct entity from UK Wombles? 
 

If so, could they take their name back?

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