An article published elsewhere on this website on 3rd September, 2021 highlighted a particularly busy period for the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) (read more here).
Just ten days later, the watchdog announced a further six appeal referrals. All are applicants connected to the much publicised ‘Post Office Horizon’ scandal.
The cases of Mohammed Aslam, Amanda Barber, Norman Barber, Anthony Gant, Balbir Grewal and David Hughes, will be heard at Southwark Crown Court at a date yet to be confirmed.
These cases have been referred on the basis of an abuse of process argument concerning issues with the Fujitsu computer system which may have had an impact on the safety of the convictions.
All six had pleaded guilty to offences in magistrates’ courts and, as a result, were prevented, by statute, from appealing to the Crown Court in the usual way. The CCRC has decided that this amounts to “exceptional circumstances” that allows it to refer the cases despite the absence of earlier appeals.
Details of the convictions now challenged
Mohammed Aslam pleaded guilty to false accounting at Newport Magistrates’ Court on 23rd January 2007 and was sentenced to 60 hours of unpaid work and a £300 fine.
Amanda Barber pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 6th June 2012 and was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work.
Norman Barber also pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 6th June 2012 and was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work.
Anthony Gant pleaded guilty to false accounting at Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Magistrates’ Court on 29th October 2007 and was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work.
Balbir Grewal pleaded guilty to false accounting at Luton Magistrates’ Court on 13th August 2001 and was sentenced to a suspended sentence and a community order.
David Hughes pleaded guilty to making a false instrument at Workington Magistrates’ Court and was sentence to a community order of 12 months and 100 hours of unpaid work.
Extent of referrals
This latest batch takes the total number of Post Office referrals made by the CCRC to 57, with the number of convictions quashed so far being 47. One further referral to the Court of Appeal has yet to be heard and the CCRC currently has around 30 further Post Office cases under review.
Recent indications are that many people have lodged appeals directly with the Court of Appeal. The Post Office has also written to over 500 people whose convictions may be affected.
For details of the CCRC’s previous work on Post Office cases, and the Court of Appeal’s judgment in April this year, see here.
It is very arguably the biggest criminal justice miscarriage in history. Many sub-postmasters and Post Office employees who were wrongly convicted complain about the continuing attritional approach towards financial restitution.
There are also calls for Post Office and government officials, and possibly even lawyers, to be criminally investigated. A statutory public inquiry into the Horizon scandal is currently underway, chaired by retired High Court judge, Wyn Williams.
A total of 736 sub-postmasters, over a 15-year period, were convicted, grounded in evidence from the Horizon software system, and thousands of others had their lives irrevocably changed as a result of being blamed for alleged shortfalls and forced by Post Office Ltd to pay them back.
There was a grotesquely determined and long-running effort by the Post Office, at the highest level, to conceal any evidence of software malfunction, not only from those wrongly accused of theft or false accounting, but from the criminal courts in the pursuit of convictions.
Victim appeal by the CCRC
If you feel you were wrongly convicted because of issues with the Post Office Horizon computer system, you should consider challenging your conviction. If you have not already appealed, and were convicted in a Crown Court, or convicted in a magistrates’ court after pleading not guilty, you can still appeal in the normal way (seeking leave from the court where necessary).
If you have already tried to appeal and failed, or pleaded guilty in a Magistrates’ Court, you can apply to the CCRC. Please contact us about making an application: https://ccrc.gov.uk/how-to-apply/ or Tel: 0121 233 1473.
Anyone who needs guidance on appealing direct to the courts can find the necessary forms at: www.gov.uk/appeal-against-sentence-conviction
Page last updated: Tuesday14th September, 2021 at 1140 hours
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