Appealing your Post Office Conviction

This service is provided by Citizens Advice and is independent from Post Office Ltd. The advice & information we provide is totally impartial. 

We can all face problems that seem complicated or intimidating. At Citizens Advice we believe no one should have to face these problems without good quality, independent advice.

Beware of cold calls and scams from other organisations claiming to be Citizens Advice. We’ll only get in touch with you if you’ve provided us with your contact details and enquired about help through our contact form. 

 

The service Citizens Advice provides: 

Have you faced conviction as part of the Post Office Horizon IT Scandal? Are you unsure of what your options are? 

If you have been convicted and want to understand your options, give our dedicated team a call on 01670 33 97 77 or fill out this form for free, independent, impartial and confidential advice and support. We can help you to understand your options.

You may have questions, for example, can I appeal my conviction? Where do I start to appeal? What happens once I decide to appeal my conviction? How long does it take? And how much does it cost? How much compensation am I able to claim?

We can help to answer your questions, provide advice and assistance to navigate through the process of appealing your conviction, including requesting full disclosure of all documents and notes relating to your case with Post Office Ltd.

If you’ve already tried to appeal your conviction or sentence (or both), we can provide you with advice and assistance to contact the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) to review your case for a fresh appeal.

If you’ve not yet appealed, we can assist with explaining what the process would involve and provide details of any lawyers who may be able to assist you.

You’re not alone. Contact us for free, independent, impartial and confidential advice today.

 

Note: On 10 January 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a statement to the House of Commons: Government to quash wrongful Post Office convictions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). We await further details following the Government’s statement.

Background

What has become known as the ‘Horizon Scandal’ took place over many years. It primarily concerns the reliability of previous versions of the Horizon computer system used in Post Offices branches, as well as issues related to previous contracts between Post Office and Postmasters.

A dispute between Post Office and a group of former Postmasters culminated in civil litigation at the High Court, which concluded after a jointly agreed settlement in 2019. There were two main Judgments during the litigation:  The Common Issues Judgment and the Horizon Issues Judgment.

Following the civil litigation, appeals of criminal cases in which Post Office had acted as prosecutor began through the criminal courts.

An independent public inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal was established in September 2020. Following a request from its Chair, Sir Wyn Williams, it became a statutory inquiry in June 2021. Post Office is fully participating to assist its work. The Inquiry’s website with further information can be found here:  Homepage | Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry (postofficehorizoninquiry.org.uk)

Prosecutions

Following the end of the Group Litigation, Appeals of cases in which Post Office acted as prosecutor began, in 2020, with referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The appeals involve convictions for offences such as false accounting and theft.

As part of an extensive post-conviction disclosure exercise Post Office has identified a total of 700 convictions in cases it prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 in which Horizon computer evidence might have featured (in some cases alongside other evidence).  Post Office ceased private prosecutions related to Horizon in 2015.  

 

Post Office has contacted the majority of the people who were convicted in these cases, although there remain 25 people that it has not been able to trace despite continuing strenuous efforts to do so.  The CCRC has also, separately, contacted people.

You can find the progress of appeals and compensation for overturned convictions on the Post Office’s website corporate.postoffice.co.uk/en/horizon-scandal-pages/overturned-convictions-and-compensation-information-on-progress/.

 

The Post Office’s post-conviction disclosure exercise (PCDE), by external criminal law specialists Peters & Peters, was established in January 2020. Around 4.5 million documents have been examined and thousands of physical and electronic sources have been interrogated to identify and disclose all material which might affect the safety of convictions. In addition, Peters & Peters liaised with a number of third parties including Fujitsu Services Limited, Royal Mail Group, the Courts, the CCRC and approximately 50 law firms and agents instructed by Post Office to obtain material relevant to the convictions.

Compensation

Eligibility for compensation

Anyone who has successfully appealed against a Horizon-related conviction can apply for compensation via arrangements Post Office has put in place for this. This includes administrators acting on behalf of estates for any person who has sadly passed away.

Compensation payments

On 18 September 2023 the Government announced that anyone who was wrongly convicted and has had their conviction overturned as it was reliant on Horizon evidence, will be given the option of settling their claim for compensation for an up-front sum of £600,000, without the need to bring a formal claim to Post Office. This is an entirely voluntary choice and anyone who does not want to accept this offer can continue with the existing process where each claim is assessed on its specific facts and individual circumstances.

Post Office offers interim and partial payments to eligible people, ahead of final settlements, to ensure that money reaches them as soon as possible.

You can find more information about progress of appeals and compensation here and information about help and support if you wish to consider an appeal against conviction.

Appealing Convictions

Have you received a letter in the post from Post office or the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC)? Are you unsure of what to do next? Give our dedicated team a call. We can help you to understand what you need to do next.

You may have questions, for example, what happens once you do decide to appeal your conviction? How long does it take? And how much does it cost? If you have a Post Office conviction and have not been contacted by the Post Office, please click here.

The typical process looks like this

You can find information about assistance for appealing convictions on the Post Office website corporate.postoffice.co.uk/en/horizon-scandal-pages/assistance-for-appealing-convictions/.

The first step is to request disclosure. In accordance with Post Office’s duties as a former prosecutor, Post Office has a continuing duty to disclose material that may undermine the safety of convictions.

To proceed to disclosure, Post Office will need to verify your identity to make sure they are speaking with the right person – for this, they will ask you to email them photographs or scans of two documents. Please contact the Post Office Disclosure Team at disclosure@postoffice.co.uk or Post Office Disclosure, PO Box 807, Winchester SO23 5EQ, quoting the reference number on your letter. If you are unsure, you can email the team and they will ask for information to verify your identity.

 

After Post Office have verified your identity, they will contact you (or your legal representative if you have one) to confirm your identification is acceptable and to advise that the Post Conviction Disclosure Exercise (PCDE) material will be prepared. Once the PCDE material has been finalised they will then contact you or any Legal Representative appointed to arrange for this to be sent.

You can then decide whether you would like to Appeal your case. This process could involve submitting your application to the CCRC – Criminal Cases Review Commission (ccrc.gov.uk). You can find out more about the CCRC and Post Office cases on their website here: Post Office / Horizon scandal – Criminal Cases Review Commission (ccrc.gov.uk)

Anybody who thinks that their conviction might be affected by the issues with the Horizon system can contact the CCRC directly on 0121 233 1473 or find out more at  www.ccrc.gov.uk/postofficecases/.

A conviction can only be overturned by the courts, through following the necessary legal procedures. You do not have to have a solicitor, but if you choose to have one, please see the links below and also a list of law firms that have been involved in Post Office related appeal cases. Please note that you can seek advice from any law firm of your choice and you are not limited to this list.

Here is a list of known law firms involved in Post Office related appeal cases

(in alphabetical order as at May 2023):

Post Office Contact details:

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