Former West Boldon postmaster fighting for justice in Post Office scandal reacts to inquiry powers
Christopher Head who ran the West Boldon Post Office from 2006 to 2015, was among hundreds of sub-postmasters accused of fraud and theft because of the Post Office’s defective accounting system.
Mr Head, 32, was quizzed under caution over the supposed disappearance of £88,000 before the investigation was dropped without charge.
Hundreds of subpostmasters, however, were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Horizon accounting system, which had “bugs, defects and errors” from the very outset.
Now an inquiry into the scandal, led by retired High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams, will be converted into a statutory inquiry next month, the Government has confirmed.
This will give it the power to compel witnesses to appear or risk jail for non-attendance, and to compel the disclosure of documentary evidence.
But the move means the inquiry’s report is not expected until autumn next year, more than a year after originally planned.
Business minister Paul Scully told the House of Commons: “Sir Wyn (Williams) and I are both of the view that the context for the inquiry has changed in the light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment and that now is the right moment to convert the inquiry to a statutory footing.
“Therefore, I can now inform the House that with the agreement of the Prime Minister I will convert the inquiry to a statutory footing on June 1, 2021.”
The announcement comes nearly a month after 39 former subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal.
Christopher Head called the upgraded inquiry a ‘step in the right direction.’
"I appreciated the apparent change of tone in the Minister's responses,” he said to the Post Office Trial website.
"He seemed a lot more sympathetic towards affected subpostmasters than in previous despatch box appearances and we have to give [the Government] the benefit of doubt and see what they deliver.
"It is important we keep their feet to the fire as this should have all started last year and could be well on the way to conclusion already.
"The terms of reference still do not go far enough."