Former West Boldon postmaster welcomes acquittals in Post Office Horizon scandal

A former postmaster wrongly accused of theft as part of a nationwide scandal has called it a ‘good day' as six of those prosecuted became the first people to have their convictions formally overturned.

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 4:08 pm
Updated Saturday, 12th December 2020, 4:09 pm

Christopher Head, who ran the West Boldon Post Office from 2006 to 2015, starting at the age of just 18, was among hundreds of sub-postmasters accused of fraud and theft by the Post Office over the last two decades.

Mr Head, 32, was quizzed under caution over the supposed disappearance of £88,000 before the investigation was dropped without charge.

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Christopher Head, former postmaster at West Boldon Post Office.

Dozens of similar cases, however, were taken to court with some postmasters even jailed before flaws in the accounting system called Horizon, formerly used by the Post Office, were finally exposed.

Now the Post Office has apologised to six former subpostmasters who were prosecuted as a result of the Horizon accounting scandal.

The six, who were convicted at magistrates’ court, were formally acquitted at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, December 11, after their convictions were referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates miscarriages of justice.

A High Court judge ruled in December last year that the Horizon accounting system – which was introduced into Post Office branches in 1999 – contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

In a statement after the hearing, a Post Office spokesman said: “Post Office did not oppose these appeals and sincerely apologises for historical failings.

“We have taken determined action to address the past, ensuring there is redress for those affected and to prevent such events ever happening again.

“Fundamental reforms have been made to forge a new relationship with postmasters, helping them to build thriving Post Office businesses for customers and communities throughout the UK.”

Mr Head, who estimates his ordeal with the Post Office and its disgraced Horizon IT system has left him £250,000 out of pocket, welcomed the acquittals but said there was ‘still a long way to go’.

“But there is still a long way to go as there are still a lot of cases.

“It is really important that the public understands that these are just a small number of cases and that many of the major cases which went to prison are not overturned yet.”

Mr Head, who now works for Amazon, also criticised the apology from the Post Office, saying it was not personal enough.

"Even after all of this I have still not received a direct apology.

"A simple letter [to each person] would go a long way rather than just putting it publically on their website."

“It just feel that they are doing it because they are being made to do it. It is not personal enough.”

Further hearings are due to be held at the Court of Appeal in relation to other subpostmasters who were prosecuted over accounting errors.

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