Post Office scandal inquiry now sitting in Belfast

Post Office scandal inquiry now sitting in Belfast

A public inquiry into a UK-wide post office scandal will hold hearings in Belfast over the next two days.

The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry opened in London earlier this year.

Between 2000 and 2014, more than 700 sub-postmasters and postmistresses across the UK were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to glitches in the newly installed Horizon computer system.

The fault made it look like money was missing from their post offices and it led to suspensions, termination of contracts, and wrongful prosecutions and convictions.

The cases have been described as the most “widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history”.

Some people from Northern Ireland, who were blamed in the wrong due to the failings in the system, will give evidence at the hearings in Belfast today and tomorrow.

Deirdre Connolly, a former sub-postmistress in Killeter in County Tyrone, said that giving evidence on Wednesday would bring closure.

“I wake up every morning and think of the Post Office, of what they’ve done and why they haven’t been punished, why they haven’t been made accountable,” she said.

“I want accountability – a lot of people with senior positions within the Post Office and government knew what was happening and didn’t stop it. We need to know who knew what, and when.”

Some 19 post office workers in Northern Ireland were convicted, but it is believed there are more victims of the scandal here who have not come forward.

It is thought some people have been reluctant to do so because of the stigma of being accused in the wrong.

Mrs Connolly said she hoped more people would speak out.

“There’s a lot of people over here that, because of the stigma associated with the accusations being made against them, they haven’t come forward but I hope that after today they will share their experiences with people,” she said.

The inquiry, under the chairmanship of retired High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams, has invited evidence from former and current sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, their assistants, managers and family members who have been affected by the scandal.

Sir Wyn has already heard from victims in other parts of the UK and this is the final week of the human impact hearings.