This heartbreaking testimony from Hull’s Janet Skinner, one of countless sub-postmasters wrongly convicted and jailed for fraud, helps to “humanise” Britain’s worst ever miscarriage of justice into context.
It isn’t just how the Post Office placed more trust in its flawed Horizon IT system than postmasters regarded as pillars of community, and how this was routinely accepted by the courts, but the lives ruined by this injustice.
Even now, more than two decades later, it is virtually impossible to ascertain the number of people wrongly convicted, the amount of time that they spent in prison, their collective loss of earnings – and legal costs.
What is abundantly clear, however, is that the Government’s current inquiry is totally inadequate and that a judge-led investigation must be set up to establish the truth and, if necessary, prosecute those officials who sanctioned the persecution of so many innocent postmasters when the Horizon system’s failings were so clear.
Not only would such an inquiry compel individuals like former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells, who was ultimately rewarded with a CBE and a senior Cabinet Office role, to give evidence on oath, and in public, but it would force past and present politicians, like Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, to account for their actions as Ministers in charge of postal affairs.
But there’s another point that must be put on record as victims are pushed from pillar to post – literally – by the establishment.
Unlike the behind-closed-doors inquiry being presided over by Sir Wyn Williams, a public inquiry would also allow every postmaster like Janet Skinner, jailed for nine months, to present evidence and have their reputations fully restored.
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