THE CWU postal workers trade union yesterday insisted that criminal investigations must take place ‘into senior Post Office figures who oversaw the criminalisation of hundreds of postmasters’.
The union is making its demand after 39 postmasters have had their convictions for theft, fraud or false accounting quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Judges overseeing the case ruled that corrupted data from the Post Office’s Horizon system was at fault, not the workers. The system, which was supplied by Fujitsu, erroneously registered cash shortages.
It was also ruled that the Post Office prevented workers from having a fair trial on whether that system’s data was reliable.
The CWU National Officer for Postmasters Andy Furey said: ‘At long last, 39 innocent people have been exonerated for crimes they did not commit. This has been one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history …
‘Their lives and the lives of their families have been devastated, and some have even died carrying the shame of unjust criminality on their shoulders. The CWU is so glad that this long legal struggle has been won. But this isn’t the end of it.’
The union statement added: ‘We also demand a criminal investigation against those who put loyal, decent workers in this diabolical situation.
‘Many senior figures who are complicit in this scandal will now want to run from this situation, but we must not let that happen. Heads must roll for the humiliation and misery inflicted on decent, upstanding people who were simply providing much needed local services and were pillars of their local communities.’
In fact, this crisis began under the Blair-Brown Labour governments. Brown became PM of the Labour government on 27th June 2007 when he replaced Tony Blair as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The general election of 2nd May 1997 saw Labour win a landslide majority, making a net gain of 146 seats and winning 43.2% of the vote. ‘New Labour’, led by Blair, was only interested in bombing Belgrade and then invading Iraq in 2003. It had no interest in the requirements of the working class.
Blair and Brown had no time to worry about or defend the interests of the working class as the world economy collapsed, beginning in 2007 with the closure of the Northern Rock bank, followed by the collapse in 2008 of the major US banks, and then by a dozen years of super-austerity when the working class was forced to pay for the huge crisis of the capitalists.
It was in this period, when capitalism could do no wrong, that the 39 postmasters were convicted of stealing money, with nobody to defend them. The 39 were convicted after the Post Office installed the Horizon computer system in branches.
Among them was Janet Skinner, who ran a post office in Hull. She was imprisoned in 2007 for nine months over a shortfall of £59,000 – a case which she said ‘destroyed everything’.
Like others, she said she had no idea other sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were being prosecuted and convicted.
She was taken away from her two children and imprisoned. After her release she had a job offer taken away owing to her criminal conviction.
Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office ‘knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon’ and had a ‘clear duty to investigate’ the system’s defects.
However, the Post Office ‘consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable’ and ‘effectively steamrollered over any sub-postmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy’, the judge added.
Both Labour and Tory governments did not lift a finger to defend the postmasters from their persecutors. Once again, they were far too busy bombing Iraq and saving capitalism with their Labour-Tory austerity policies.
The system was flawed but postmasters and postmistresses were sacrificed, blamed for the failures, and have spent years trying to clear their names.
Even Court of Appeal Judges indicted the Post Office, saying that it sought to reverse the burden of proof when prosecuting the postmasters.
They must be fully compensated! However, what is required today when capitalism is poised to undergo an even bigger crisis, when workers are being threatened with ‘fire and rehire’ on lower wages, is to get rid of the capitalist system with a socialist revolution.
Only the WRP fights for this policy. Join it today to lead a socialist revolution in the UK as part of the world socialist revolution.