Thirty-nine Post Office workers convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting have had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal.
The postmasters were convicted - and some were imprisoned - after the defective Horizon accounting system was installed.
Announcing the court’s ruling, 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.
But the Post Office “consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable”, and “effectively steamrolled over any subpostmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy”, the judge added.
‘I knew I hadn’t done it’
Rubbina Shaheen, 56, was jailed in November 2010 and ultimately had to sell her home and was forced to live in a van.
She told the PA news agency: “It made me feel very small, that I was a criminal when the judge said it, which I never was and I knew I hadn’t done it.”
She served three months in prison, telling PA: “It was terrible, really. I tried to keep my head down, keep out of everybody’s way so I could do my time and just get out.”
‘The biggest miscarriage of justice’
Grandmother Jo Hamilton, 63, who was given a 12-month supervision order and ran a post office in South Warnborough, Hampshire, said before the hearing: “I think this is the biggest miscarriage of justice.
“You think of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four – but there are hundreds of us.
“I was 45 when this started. It’s taken up nearly a third of my life. You think it’s never going to end.”
Mrs Hamilton said she admitted false accounting after being accused of stealing £36,000.
“I was given a 12-month supervision order and have a criminal record,” she said.
“But I did nothing wrong. I told them about the problem but they said I was the only one.”
What the Post Office said
Post Office chief executive Nick Read said: “I am in no doubt about the human cost of the Post Office’s past failures and the deep pain that has been caused to people affected.
“Many of those postmasters involved have been fighting for justice for a considerable length of time and sadly there are some who are not here to see the outcome today and whose families have taken forward appeals in their memory. I am very moved by their courage.
“The quashing of historical convictions is a vital milestone in fully and properly addressing the past as I work to put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible, and there must be compensation that reflects what has happened.
“In addition, since arriving at the Post Office 18 months ago, my focus has been on resetting the culture at the Post Office and forging a substantive partnership with our postmasters.
“We are determined that they must come first in everything we do because without them there is no Post Office.
“We must transform the Post Office so that it can continue to provide essential services in local communities across the UK.”