LONDON (AP) — An inquiry into one of Britain’s gravest injustices resumed Thursday as momentum grew to compensate and clear the names of more than 900 Post Office branch managers wrongly convicted of theft or fraud because of a faulty computer system.

A lawyer looking into the Post Office scandal grilled an investigator who denied he and others acted like “Mafia gangsters” in the original probe that postal employees said left them bankrupt and broken.

The inquiry that began three years ago resumed the day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to introduce unprecedented legislation to reverse the convictions following a television docudrama that created a huge surge of public support for the former postmasters.

“This is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history," Sunak said. “People who worked hard to serve their communities had their lives and their reputations destroyed through absolutely no fault of their own. The victims must get justice and compensation.”

In addition to the inquiry, police are investigating possible charges related to the investigation and prosecution.

Some things to know about the scandal:


After the Post Office rolled out the Horizon information technology system, developed by Japanese company Fujitsu, in 1999 to automate sales accounting, local Post Office managers began finding unexplained losses they were responsible to cover.

The state-owned Post Office maintained Horizon was reliable and accused branch managers of dishonesty. Between 2000 and 2014, around 900 postal workers were wrongly convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting, with some going to prison and others forced into bankruptcy.

In total, more than 2,000 people were affected by the scandal. Some killed themselves or attempted suicide. Others said their marriages fell apart and reported becoming community pariahs.

A group of postal workers took legal action against the Post Office in 2016. Three years later, the High Court in London ruled that Horizon contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and that the Post Office “knew there were serious issues about the reliability” of the system.

"Failures of investigation and disclosure were so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the ‘Horizon cases’ an affront to the conscience of the court,” Justice Timothy Holroyde said.

To date, just 95 convictions have been overturned, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said.


The moment of reckoning was a long time in the making, but it was turbocharged by a four-part television docudrama that aired Jan. 1 and fueled public outrage that led to days of bruising headlines about the Post Office and sparked a swift response by lawmakers.

The ITV show, “Mr. Bates vs the Post Office,” told the story of branch manager Alan Bates, played by Toby Jones, who has spent nearly two decades trying to expose the scandal and exonerate his peers.

Despite hundreds of news stories over the years about court hearings and the continuing public inquiry, the show seen by millions rapidly galvanized support for victims of the injustice.

More than 1 million people signed an online petition calling for former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells to lose her Commander of the Order of the British Empire title she received in 2018. By the end of Tuesday, she said she would relinquish the honor.

New attention was paid Thursday as the public inquiry resumed on television with all eyes on Stephen Bradshaw, a Post Office investigator, who appeared rattled as he was accused of bullying and intimidating suspects who said he accused them of lying. Bradshaw denied the claims.


Post Office branch owners and employees typically lived in the communities where they operated, and many became outcasts when accused of stealing.

Lisa Brennan, a former clerk at a post office in Huyton, near Liverpool, told the inquiry that after being falsely accused of stealing 3,000 pounds ($3,800) in 2003, her marriage fell apart, she lost her house and she ended up homeless with a young daughter.

“It’s scandalous, it should never have happened,” she told the inquiry in 2022. “I wasn’t the only one, but that’s what I was told: ‘It’s only you, you’re the only one.’”

Janine Powell, a former subpostmistress in Tiverton in Devon who was accused of stealing around 71,000 pounds ($90,000), said she felt broken by being sentenced to 18 months in prison after being convicted in 2008.

She had to leave her three children, who ranged in age from 10 to 18 at the time, and that strained their relationship. She harmed herself, considered suicide and struggled to get a job after her release.

“It had a big impact. You have to declare obviously that you’ve got a criminal record," Powell said. “When you try to explain (to employers), it’s a ‘no’ straight away, so I couldn’t work.”


The government plans to set aside 1 billion pounds ($1.28 billion) to compensate the wrongly convicted and others whose lives were destroyed in the scandal.

To date, a total of nearly 150 million pounds has been paid to more than 2,500 victims, Sunak said.

The legislation envisioned would quash convictions and award those who have been cleared at least 600,000 pounds ($765,000), the government said. They could receive more if they go through a process to assess their claim.

Those who were not convicted, but lost money would be offered at least 75,000 pounds ($95,000).

The government said there is a chance that some postal employees who did commit fraud or theft could end up being exonerated and receive compensation.

“The risk is that instead of unjust convictions, we shall end up with unjust acquittals and we just do not know how many,” Hollinrake said. “But we cannot make the provision of compensation subject to a detailed examination of guilt.”


In addition to the inquiry, a committee in Parliament plans to question the chief executives of the Post Office and Fujitsu next week.

Hollinrake said the inquiry will identify the organizations and individuals responsible for the scandal. Some members of Parliament have called for prosecuting those who allowed postmasters to take the blame for the faulty software.

“Will the government accelerate the investigations to convict those who are really guilty of causing this scandal by perverting the course of justice?” said David Davis, a Conservative member of the House of Commons.

Last week, police in London said they were investigating potential fraud related to money the Post Office received as a result of prosecutions or civil actions against postal workers. They are also looking into possible perjury or perversion of justice charges over the Post Office’s investigation and prosecution of the cases.

Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui contributed to this report.

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