The Sub-postmasters’ Scandal

There is one conclusion to the wrongly convicted sub-postmasters’ scandal which has yet to be drawn by the mainstream media: the UK “justice” system has failed yet again. It is easy to blame the Post Office for the plight of innocent lives ruined and that organisation must share some blame as must the companies who wrote the software and installed the system that failed. However, there should at least be a small outcry against a “justice” system that is built primarily to gain convictions and an appeals process designed to prove the “justice” system immaculate.

It is difficult, from my point of view, not to lay blame at the door of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the investigating authorities, and the jury system. On these points I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but, given that there was suspicion from the start that the software was faulty we must ask the CPS why there was no independent investigation of the Horizon system prior to the court action or, if there was, why were the findings not released, questioned, or contradicted.

The jury system must also be called into question. Presumably, the Prosecution Counsels will go unscathed in this tragedy because they managed to convince at least ten out of twelve members of an unsophisticated jury that all these defendants were acting with criminal intent. They will claim, no doubt, that they were only acting on the information the investigating authorities gave to them. These very well educated and experience barristers were unable to see, apparently, that the investigation was incomplete. And the judge, presumably will claim that everything was done according to the rules. Well, if that is the case, then the rules clearly need to be changed.

In trials where complex matters like computer software are raised as an issue, it is surely doubtful whether the current process, whereby the CPS decides that it is in the public interest to prosecute and that there is a good chance of gaining conviction, is fit for purpose. They do not feel it is their duty, it seems, to investigate the claims of defendants with an open mind. There is no notion of a search for the truth – there is just a search for a conviction (which, they maintain, is the same thing because of the jury system despite the removal of the requirement for unanimity as in the US).

We could of course also ask the authorities what useful purpose can be served by imprisoning people who manifestly pose no threat to society and have otherwise clean records, but that is, maybe, a much wider topic. Equally, the iniquities of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) of which I have previously written, have been shown again to provide unequal treatment of “offenders” committing the same “crime” with intolerable consequences for the families left behind.

All of these are not merely moral issues. The cost of convicting, imprisoning, and monitoring innocent people, merely to create electoral advantage or to satisfy a thirst for revenge by a vocal minority incapable of thinking through the consequences of their actions, is also a futile waste of taxpayers’ money.

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