• Sunday, June 23, 2024

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Shailesh Vara urges accountability for lawyers over Horizon scandal

‘The manner in which the sub-postmasters were treated is appalling and those responsible must be brought to account’

Shailesh Vara MP speaks in the House of Commons during Justice Questions.

By: Pramod Thomas

FORMER justice minister Shailesh Vara MP has said that Post Office lawyers responsible for prosecuting the sub-postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal should be held accountable for their actions.

“The manner in which the sub-postmasters were treated is appalling and those responsible must be brought to account. There have clearly been failures in the legal process, as well as by some of the lawyers acting for the Post Office. Those failings need to be thoroughly investigated, and action taken where necessary,” Vara said while speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday (14).

He also acknowledged that there is an ongoing independent public inquiry aimed at gathering a comprehensive account of the implementation and shortcomings of the Horizon IT system at the Post Office throughout its existence.

He also questioned the secretary of state for justice, Alex Chalk KC MP, about what measures his department was taking to hold accountable those lawyers who prosecuted sub-postmasters despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

“Anybody who appears in court, but particularly prosecutors, must be mindful of their solemn and sacred duty to disclose material to the defence that might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution. This was literally the most important rule,” said the Lord chancellor in his response.

“If they failed in this case, [he] would expect the appropriate authorities to take robust and prompt action.”

More than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted for stealing because of incorrect information from a computer system called Horizon.

The Post Office prosecuted 700 people between 1999 and 2015, leading to imprisonment and financial ruin for many of them.

In 2017, 555 sub-postmasters sued the Post Office, resulting in a £58 million compensation settlement in 2019. However, a significant portion of the payout was used to cover legal expenses.

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