Appealing your Post Office Conviction
If you wish to seek advice about the process, you can fill out the form here or you can call us on 01670 33 97 77
What has become known as the ‘Horizon Scandal’ involves a dispute, between Post Office and a group of Postmasters, which took place over many years. It primarily concerned the reliability of the Horizon computer system used in post offices and issues related to Postmasters’ contracts.
The dispute culminated in civil litigation at the High Court, which concluded after a jointly agreed settlement in 2019. Several months later, in 2020, 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.
Providing compensation to people affected by the Horizon scandal is a priority for Post Office.
Group Litigation: 2016 – 2019
In April 2016, a High Court claim was issued against the Post Office by a group of Postmasters. A Group Litigation Order (GLO), a process for managing claims by people with similar or shared grievances, was issued by the Court in March 2017. This was the culmination of a long-running dispute primarily about the reliability of Post Office’s computer system Horizon and the legal meaning of Postmasters’ contracts.
Around 555 claimants joined the GLO. The litigation was complex and the Court ordered that the case would be heard as a number of trials. Two were held before a settlement of the case was jointly agreed in December 2019:
- The Common Issues Judgment in March 2019 determined the legal construction of the contract between Post Office and Postmasters. It implied some new terms, most of which are additional obligations for Post Office, with a small number that also apply to Postmasters.
- The Horizon Issues Judgment in December 2019 related to generic technical matters about the computer system since the original version was introduced in 1999. The Judgment found deficiencies in previous versions of the Horizon system, including that the potential for bugs to affect branch balances was greater than Post Office had believed. The current version of Horizon was found by both independent experts in the case, as well as the Court, to be robust, relative to comparable systems.
Individual claimants’ cases were not determined in the Group Litigation because a settlement was agreed before further trials took place to do so.
Mediation and settlement
A joint statement was released by both parties on 11 December 2019, that they had reached comprehensive resolution to the litigation.
The settlement was achieved through independent mediation, conducted through two very experienced mediator Queen’s Counsels (QCs). The agreement was informed by both the Common Issues Judgment and the Horizon Issues Judgment, with the latter provided by the Court under embargo on 28 November 2019.
The settlement deed was published by Post Office on 5 August 2020 under the Freedom of Information Act and can be found here. It included a global payment of £57.75 million, with individual payments for claimants to be decided by their legal representatives.
Whilst the settlement was jointly agreed in good faith as fair and appropriate in all the circumstances, subsequent media reports revealed that around £46 million of the £57.75 million global payment was directed to the claimants’ funders and legal advisors.
In March 2023 Government opened an ex-gratia compensation scheme for claims from Group Litigation claimants. More information on this Government scheme can be found on their website here: Compensation scheme for Group Litigation Order case postmasters – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Appeals of cases in which Post Office acted as prosecutor began in 2020 with referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). These referrals followed the ‘Horizon Issues’ judgment in the Group Litigation. 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).
You can find the progress of appeals and compensation for overturned convictions on the Post Office’s website here: 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. Post Office ceased private prosecutions related to Horizon in 2015.
For people whose criminal convictions are overturned where the reliability of Horizon was essential to the prosecution
Interim payments of up to £163,000 are made as quickly as possible after the overturning of a Horizon-related conviction to provide swift financial relief, ahead of final compensation.
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.
Providing compensation is a priority for Post Office.
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 here: 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 email@example.com 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). Anyone can apply if they believe they have been wrongly convicted of a criminal offence or wrongly sentenced in a criminal court in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. You can ask the CCRC to look at your conviction, or your sentence, or both. It is a free service and costs nothing to apply.
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 through the courts and by following the necessary legal procedures. You do not have to have a solicitor, but if you choose to have one we suggest you look here:
Here is a list of known law firms involved in Post Office related appeal cases (in
alphabetical order as at May 2023):
- Aliant Law (www.aliantlaw.com)
- Bhatia Best Solicitors (www.bhatiabest.co.uk)
- Bindmans LLP (www.bindmans.com)
- Chivers Solicitors (www.chiverssolicitors.co.uk)
- Clarke Kiernan LLP (http://clarkekiernan.com/)
- CLP Solicitors (www.clpsolicitors.com)
- Edward Fail Bradshaw & Waterson Solicitors (www.efbw.co.uk)
- Gullands Solicitors (www.gullands.com)
- Hudgell Solicitors (www.hudgellsolicitors.co.uk)
- Jordans LLP (www.qualitysolicitors.com/jordans)
- Law 24 Defence (Phone: 0191 3009821)
- Lewis Rodgers Solicitors & Advocates (www.lewisrodgers.co.uk)
- Lords Solicitors (Wakefield) Ltd (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Raj Law Solicitors (www.rajlaw.co.uk)
- S.Satha & Co Solicitors (www.satha.co.uk)
- SCM Law (www.scmlaw.co.uk)