Horizon scandal: Darlington deputy postmaster acquitted of fraud

A FORMER Deputy Postmaster has been exonerated in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Richard Ormerod, 79, was acquitted of three charges of fraud by false accounting, worth £31,097 following an unopposed appeal hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.

Mr Ormerod, whose wife Angela ran the post office sub-office at Summerhouse, near Darlington, was among hundreds of people convicted of various offenses based on evidence of the faulty computer system used by the Post Office from 2000.

The couple ran the office from their home in Grove Cottage and before his hearing in 2004 had kept the books of the branch for 24 years.

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He was sentenced to 12 months on parole and ordered to pay £250 in costs after pleading guilty at South Durham Magistrates’ Court in 2004.

He had also re-mortgaged his house to pay the missing money to the Royal Mail.

He was acquitted on three counts on Thursday, along with Gillian Harrison, 69, who ran a post office in Stoke-on-Trent.

Despite his guilty pleas, Mr. Ormerod had always denied having taken the money.

Judge Deborah Taylor said Thursday: “The court will allow appeals. The convictions are overturned.

“Mr. Both Ormerod and Mrs. Harrison have been of good character throughout. It is a recognition and a public exoneration on your part.

Mr Ormerod thanked the judge, while Ms Harrison broke down in tears, as the couple were supported by relatives in the public gallery.

Graeme Hall, representing the appellants, said the convictions had “poisoned their lives for many years”.

Mr Ormerod said he could not believe that the hundreds of convicted sub-postmasters were all guilty and that it must have been the Horizon system all along.

“They were so bossy at the top, and they couldn’t bear to face the truth. Nothing will happen to them, they were just allowed to continue,” he added.

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Ms Harrison said the ordeal had ‘destroyed’ her life and that of her family, but now she wants to look to the future and encourage others who have been wrongfully convicted to seek justice.

“I think the post is sick and needs to be eradicated,” she said.

“I just want people to show up. It is important.”

Simon Baker QC, representing the Post, said: “Both are cases in which convictions were based on the Horizon computer system with which the court is now familiar.

“In both cases, Swiss Post does not object to these appeals.”

Their convictions are the latest to be overturned after some 39 former deputy postmasters who were convicted and even jailed for theft, fraud and false accounting were cleared in April last year – some after fighting for almost 20 years.

A total of 75 people have now had their convictions overturned, all but one of the original lawsuits filed by mail.

Barrister Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, the firm representing a total of 62 people whose convictions have now been overturned, said: ‘Each overturned conviction is an extremely important milestone.

“Every new case in court is as important as the very first because every case is about lives ruined by the post.

“Every affected deputy postmaster deserves their day in court to have their name and reputation cleared, but they also deserve so much more. They deserve meaningful compensation offers, and soon.

A Post Office spokesperson said: ‘We are sincerely sorry for the impact of the historic failures on the lives of those affected.

“We continue to take far-reaching steps to fully address the past and ensure that the shortcomings of the past never happen again.

“We have undertaken fundamental reforms to restore trust and forge a new relationship with our current postmasters.”

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