Wrongly convicted subpostmasters to finally get justice in 'landmark moment' for campaign

A former Yorkshire subpostmaster who was wrongly convicted of false accounting aged just 20 says campaigners will battle on until those responsible for the Horizon accounting scandal are held to account.

Chris Trousdale and sons Isaac, 7, and Peter, 3 Picture: John Kenny Photography

Chris Trousdale, from Whitby, was one of the country’s youngest sub postmasters when he was prosecuted by the Post Office 18 years ago and advised to plead guilty or face jail.

On Friday the Post Office said it would not oppose appeals by 44 former sub-postmasters to overturn convictions where it had acted as prosecutor.

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Hull-based Hudgell Solicitors, which represents 33 clients including Mr Trousdale, said it was a “landmark moment” and the convictions, which have been against the names of many for a decade or longer, will now be quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Trousdale, 38, who now works for the family firm, said it had been “torture” for all concerned and it was too early to celebrate as there were three cases which were still potentially being contested.

He said: “Through all of this I have tried not to be a victim and tried my best to be a survivor and show as much help to others to repay the help I was given in the early years.

“You never have any doubt because truth will prevail - it is just the time it has taken. I am lucky that I have got a fantastic family and community where I live, there are people in a lot worse positions.”

In his case an internal Post Office email came to light which revealed investigators had found “no evidence of theft” nor had the amount of the “theft” ever been quantified.

Mr Trousdale, a member of campaign group Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, said they were still pushing for a Judge-led statutory inquiry, which can compel witnesses to attend and give evidence, allow cross examination and compel the production of documents and evidence.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board, he said, were looking at sending 74 more convictions to appeal. “I believe there could be as many as 900 other unsafe convictions, that relied on Horizon data, that the Post Office are now looking at,” he added.

“There is still a long way to go. Nobody yet has been properly held to account.”

And he said it was astonishing that the taxpayer-owned Post Office had spent “hundreds of millions” over the years “defending the indefensible”.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell said: “For the Post Office to concede defeat and not oppose these cases is a landmark moment, not only for these individuals but, in time, potentially hundreds of others.

“We are obviously delighted for the people we represent.

Clearing their names has been their driving goal from day one, as their reputations and livelihoods were so unfairly destroyed. We have secured what amounts to a clear admission from the Post Office that people were convicted of crimes on the basis of unsafe and unreliable evidence.”

Post Office chairman Tim Parker apologised “for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters.”

He said: “Post Office wishes to ensure that all postmasters entitled to claim civil compensation because of their convictions being overturned are recompensed as quickly as possible.

Therefore, we are considering the best process for doing that.”

As well as full co-operation with the Criminal Cases Review Commission’s review, the Post Office said it has set up an extensive disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists, to identify material which might affect the safety of any relevant historical prosecutions.