'Just relief' - Ex-Norfolk sub-postmistress among 39 Horizon saga victims
- Credit: Stuart Anderson
A former Norfolk sub-postmistress has told of her relief after having a false conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Siobhan Sayer, 55, said the record had finally been set straight for her and 38 other postmasters and mistresses, many of whom faced jail or financial ruin due to false convictions.
Mrs Sayer, who worked at Erpingham Post Office, said: "I'm very happy, but I don't quite know how to show it. It's just relief that it's over and I can get on with my life.
"I think you were made to believe that you had done it because it was just ground into you by the Post Office and by the courts."
Mrs Sayer, who lives in Lamas in north Norfolk and works at Aylsham High School, was given a suspended jail sentence at Norwich Crown Court in 2010 after she was falsely convicted of defrauding Royal Mail out of nearly £19,000.
Prosecutors said she had falsified accounts over a period of 13 years. But the problem was actually with a faulty computer system called Horizon which the Post Office installed in 1999.
But although neither Mrs Sayer nor the others - including former Worstead postmistress Allison Henderson - were guilty of the crimes they were accused of, the Post Office refused to listen.
Mrs Sayer said: "We were told we were the only ones and it didn't happen to anyone else, and you believed it.
"Slowly but surely over the years you realised you were not the only one, and that's when we all got together.
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"It's just taken a long time to get to this point. I'm so happy for everyone else as well, it's brilliant."
Ms Henderson was also falsely convicted at Norwich Crown Court in 2010. It was said she had covered up losses of nearly £12,000 by false accounting.
Mrs Sayer said a case for compensation could now be made.
Post Office chairman Tim Parker said after the court ruling on Friday: “The Post Office is extremely sorry for the impact on the lives of these postmasters and their families that was caused by historical failures.
“Post Office stopped prosecutions soon after its separation from Royal Mail a decade ago and has throughout this appeals process supported the overturning of the vast majority of convictions.
“We are contacting other postmasters and Post Office workers with criminal convictions from past private Post Office prosecutions that may be affected, to assist them to appeal should they wish.
“Post Office continues to reform its operations and culture to ensure such events can never happen again.”
Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, called it "one of the genuine scandals that has engulfed the Post Office for years."
Mr Baker said he believed he was the only MP who is also a former postmaster - having served in that role for the Post Office branches in Budgens in Holt and Aylsham - and has spoken about the scandal in Parliament more than once.
He added: "People have lost their lives over this. They've been jailed, lost all their money trying to fight the legal cases, their mental health has been destroyed with worry and anxiety.
"It has been awful in so many ways and so I'm so pleased that today's ruling begins to help some of those who have been so dreadfully affected by it."
Jerome Mayhew, Broadland MP, said he was delighted by the ruling.
Mr Mayhew said: “That the Post Office should prefer to believe its inaccurate, faulty system than take seriously the word of their long serving and loyal staff demonstrates a broken culture.
“Whilst this judgement is a very welcome step on the way to compensation, much more needs to be done. In particular, the civil claim for compensation needs to be revisited and if government assistance is needed to promote that negotiation then that is exactly what we should be doing.”
Mr Mayhew said the Post Office should “take this opportunity fundamentally to reset their relationship with their sub postmasters.”