Post Office statement on historical prosecutions
The Court of Appeal today (19 July) formally overturned twelve convictions in cases prosecuted by Post Office between 2002 and 2012. The Post Office supported the appeals.
Fifteen other appeals, opposed by Post Office, have been referred to a single judge to decide whether the Court will grant permission to appeal.
A Post Office spokesperson said:
“Post Office is sincerely sorry for past failures and we welcome the Court’s decision today to quash convictions without delay in the appeals we supported.
“We are making strenuous efforts to fairly address historical miscarriages of justice, including an extensive review of prosecutions since 1999 to identify and disclose all material which might affect the safety of convictions.
“We are also transforming our organisation to prevent such events ever happening again and to re-set our relationship with postmasters.”
Actions taken to reform the Post Office include:
- The appointment of two current postmasters as Non-Executive Directors to the Post Office Board to influence Post Office strategy and the implementation of programmes affecting postmasters.
- Undertaking a programme of improvements to overhaul culture, practices and operating procedures throughout every part of the Post Office to forge an open and transparent relationship with postmasters.
- Comprehensive improvements made from initial recruitment and training through to daily transaction accounting, including design changes made to transactions on the Horizon system, based on postmaster feedback.
Notes to editors
- In four additional appeals, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the respondent because the Post Office was not the prosecutor. The Court today referred three of the cases to a single judge to decide whether the Court will grant permission to appeal. One case was referred to the Court by the CCRC and therefore must be heard by the Court.
- A Post Office statement on 30 June 2021, providing its position on the current appeals, referred to 25 cases. In one of those cases the appeal was subsequently withdrawn. In three other cases, Post Office asked for more time to finalise its position as the Court was making further enquiries with the original trial courts. Those enquiries were completed and Post Office conceded two cases (which were subsequently included in the convictions overturned by the Court today). One case is opposed. Today’s hearing therefore related to 27 cases in which Post Office acted as prosecutor.
- Appeals of convictions followed the ‘Horizon Issues’ Judgment in group civil litigation in 2019 which made findings on generic issues relating to the Post Office’s computer system and its operation.
- In April this year the Court of Appeal overturned 39 convictions in appeals supported by the Post Office and upheld the safety of convictions in the three cases opposed by Post Office. Eight convictions have also been overturned by Southwark Crown Court in unopposed appeals.
- Post Office no longer undertakes private prosecutions. Cases related to Horizon effectively ceased in 2013, although two cases featuring Horizon evidence were prosecuted in 2015.
- Post Office has been co-operating with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) since applications were first made to the CCRC in 2015.
- Appeals arising from convictions in Magistrates’ Courts must be appealed to the Crown Court. To date such appeals have been heard by Southwark Crown Court. Convictions in Crown Courts are heard by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).
- People who have not previously appealed and were convicted in a Crown Court or convicted in a magistrates’ court after pleading not guilty, can appeal in the normal way, seeking leave from the court where necessary.
- If people have previously tried to appeal and failed, or pleaded guilty in a Magistrates’ Court, they can apply to the CCRC.
- Post Office is contacting people with potentially relevant convictions, following an extensive search of historical records and urges anybody who believes that they may have a relevant case to come forward.
- Post Office’s post-conviction disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP, has examined round 4.5 million documents and thousands of physical and electronic sources have been interrogated. 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 historically instructed by Post Office to obtain material relevant to the convictions.