Post Office scandal: Light at end of tunnel

Post Office scandal: Light at end of tunnel

One of dozens of former Post Office workers fighting convictions linked to a faulty computer system says she can “feel a light at the end of the tunnel” following a series of legal rulings.

Tracy Felstead was 19 when she was jailed for six months in 2002 on charges of theft and false accounting.

She was accused of stealing £11,503 while working at Camberwell Green Post Office in London.

But despite a new legal breakthrough, she says she has paid with her health.

“It has had a massive impact on my life, my health, my mental health massively,” she said.

“Because of the toll of taking everything on board, I had a neurological breakdown a month ago, which left me paralysed on one side.”

Ms Felstead, 38, from Telford, Shropshire, was one of hundreds of Post Office workers – mainly sub-postmasters – who were accused of theft after using the Post Office Horizon IT system, provided by Fujitsu.

There were more than 900 convictions in total. It became a scandal when funds that seemingly disappeared were linked to computer bugs rather than criminal acts.

A total of 550 sub-postmasters brought civil actions against the Post Office which agreed to pay £58m in damages.

But Ms Felstead wants to clear her name by having her criminal conviction quashed.

In March, her case was one of 39 the Criminal Cases Review Commission decided to refer for appeal.

In all, 47 cases have been given that green light to challenge. And six people have had their convictions overturned.

At the Court of Appeal on Thursday, it was ruled Ms Felstead and two others could argue against their convictions on the basis they were “an affront to the public conscience”.

In October, the Post Office said it would not oppose 44 out of the 47 appeals.

That makes it almost certain those convictions will be quashed, although Court of Appeal judges must decide the outcome, and the Post Office can seek retrials.

“Obviously I have waited the whole of my adult life for this,” Ms Felstead said.

“When I was 19 this happened to me. I have lived with it for so many years, and now I can actually feel a light at the end of the tunnel, for me it is massive.”

Her journey to reach this point has not been easy, and Ms Felstead said she twice tried to take her own life.

“Obviously it made me the person I am today, but I also often wonder where I would be if that hadn’t happened to me.”

Ms Felstead said: “It doesn’t matter how much money [the Post Office] throw at me, it wouldn’t change what I’ve been through.

“I just want justice, not just for myself but for the other people that have been treated the same way.”

For now, her focus is on a four-day appeal hearing beginning 22 March 2021, where she hopes the Court of Appeal will find in her favour.

“That will be the moment I realise actually this is over and done with.

“I think it will be more emotional just to have that piece of paper to say ‘it is finished, you didn’t actually do anything wrong’.”

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