Up to 44 sub-postmasters are set to have their convictions for fraud, theft and false accounting quashed by the Court of Appeal after the Post Office said it won't contest their cases.
The company today apologised for 'historic failings' which saw hundreds of employees wrongly sacked, forced to repay cash or wrongfully convicted – and some even jailed – after bosses pursued them for money 'missing' from branch accounts.
But it later emerged that shortfalls in the accounts of local branches were the result of flaws in their Horizon IT system, which was introduced to branches in 1999.
Even as evidence emerged that the computer system could be to blame, the Post Office continued to bully postmasters into pleading guilty to crimes bosses knew they had not committed.
The company paid a £58million settlement to postmasters last year after a High Court battle.
Up to 44 sub-postmasters are set to have their convictions for fraud, theft and false accounting quashed by the Court of Appeal after the Post Office said it won't contest their cases
Hundreds of Post Office staff were wrongly accused of fraud, theft and false accounting after cash appeared to vanish from tills.
A lengthy and murky legal campaign saw postmasters branded thieves, bankrupted and in some cases jailed.
For years the Post Office denied there was anything wrong with its IT, but it later emerged the Horizon counter-top computer terminals were riddled with bugs.
In December the Post Office capitulated after a long legal battle costing £32million of taxpayers' cash in legal costs before paying out £58million and apologising to wronged postmasters.
However, many of the victims still carry criminal convictions, though today it was announced that up to 44 postmasters are set to finally have them quashed.
The fallout continues, however, and there have been calls for a full public inquiry into what has been described as 'biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history'.
Post Office chairman Tim Parker said today: 'I am sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters.
'Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again.
'Post Office wishes to ensure that all postmasters entitled to claim civil compensation because of their convictions being overturned are recompensed as quickly as possible.
'Therefore, we are considering the best process for doing that.'
In addition to full co-operation with the Criminal Cases Review Commission's review, the Post Office said it has set up an extensive disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists, to identify material which might affect the safety of any relevant historical prosecutions.
Solicitors acting for some of the sub-postmasters said it was a 'landmark moment'.
Hudgell Solicitors, which represented 33 clients, said their convictions, which have been against the names of many for a decade or longer, will now be quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Solicitor Neil Hudgel said: 'For the Post Office to concede defeat and not oppose these cases is a landmark moment, not only for these individuals but, in time, potentially hundreds of others.
'We are obviously delighted for the people we represent. Clearing their names has been their driving goal from day one, as their reputations and livelihoods were so unfairly destroyed.
'We must never forget that these people endured years of suffering and how these allegations and convictions affected not only the individuals themselves, but their loved ones too.
Post Office chairman Tim Parker (pictured with chief executive Paula Vennells) said today: 'I am sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters'
1999: Horizon, introduced by Fujitsu is used by nearly 12,000 post office branches, but as problems start to appear and cash appears to vanish sub-postmasters are blamed.
2009: A meeting between victims is held, leading to the establishment of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (Jfsa), featuring 20 inaugural members.
2011: Shoosmiths (Access Legal) announces it is ready for legal action on behalf of some 55 sub-postmasters.
2012: Post Office appoints forensic accountants Second Sight to conduct an independent review.
2017: The first main procedural hearing is held in a group litigation on behalf of more than 500 claimants.
2019: The court rules in favour of the sub-postmasters and the Post Office eventually agrees to pay £58m in compensation.
'We have secured what amounts to a clear admission from the Post Office that people were convicted of crimes on the basis of unsafe and unreliable evidence.'
Four years after losing her husband Julian to bowel cancer, and 12 years after he was convicted of false accounting by the Post Office, 65-year-old Karen Wilson has spoken of her determination to clear his name.
She said Julian was 'meticulous' in his running of the Post Office, which they bought in Astwood Bank, Worcestershire in 2001.
After a profitable first couple of years, he started experiencing troubles with the Horizon system.
When auditors finally arrived he was 'delighted' as he believed the issues would finally be resolved.
At the time the accounts had a shortfall in excess of £27,000, and Julian handed over nine years' worth of accounts for the auditors to look through.
He was suspended and told his only option was to plead guilty to false accounting, as that would prevent him from going to prison.
The couple had to sell their Post Office to pay back the money which was alleged to have gone missing.
'He was given 300 hours community service and he used to have to go out cleaning graveyards with other criminals.
'It was heart-breaking seeing my husband, who had done nothing wrong,