Speaking in a debate on the review of convictions relating to Post Office Horizon scandal which saw sub-postmasters blamed, and in some cases convicted and jailed, for accounting errors caused by defects in the Horizon IT platform, Philip Dunne calls for those responsible to be held to account to provide some justice for victims.
My hon. Friend and neighbour is making a very powerful case on behalf of all the victims, including my constituent, Rubbina Shaheen, who is one of three or four postmistresses who got into severe difficulties as a result of this error on the part of Fujitsu. She was convicted in 2010 and spent 12 months in jail. Her life was destroyed and she and her husband lost their home. What does my hon. Friend think we can do to try to hold to account those who are responsible and provide some justice for our constituents?
My right hon. Friend and neighbour is absolutely right, and I am glad he has had the opportunity to raise that distressing case. There is a great deal we can do to correct this miscarriage of justice. This debate is just the beginning. I have had very constructive conversations with members of the Ministry of Justice team. Overturning the convictions is one element, but we must have a mechanism to hold to account those who were responsible, who at some point in this saga were fully aware that the Horizon system was flawed. I am delighted that the BEIS Committee will, I hope, invite many of those responsible to give evidence.
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful point based on his experience of the law, but I ask him to comment on the corporate governance aspect. He has touched on corporate responsibility; does he not, as I do, find this utterly astonishing given the volume of similar allegations being made right across the country? It is not as though this were isolated to a geographic area or particular type of sub-postmaster; it was happening right across the country. Any corporate directorship or management scheme worth its salt would have identified that there was a fundamental problem and sought to find the root cause of it, rather than immediately reach for their solicitors’ letters.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: alarm bells must have been ringing. I am not saying that my legal advice at the time was bad advice; I think it was perfectly good, considering the weight of the evidence and the instructions I was receiving. However, somewhere in the Post Office, someone must have been saying, “Hang on a minute. We get maybe two or three allegations of wrongdoing per month or year”—I do not know what the figures might be—“but all of a sudden, we have 550 thieving, dishonest sub-postmasters who have never had so much as a parking ticket in their lives,” as Janet Skinner said to me. It is utterly deplorable.