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Post Office Statement on Postmasters' appeals of historical convictions

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Post Office Statement on Postmasters' appeals of historical convictions

The Post Office has today, 30 June 2021, formally responded to the Court of Appeal regarding 25 applications by former postmasters for permission to appeal their convictions in Post Office prosecutions between 2002 and 2012.

Post Office is supporting the applications in 10 cases and opposing 15 following careful consideration of each case by the Post Office Board, including the Court of Appeal’s findings in their Judgment in April in relation to previous appeals.

Following the ‘Horizon Issues’ Judgment in group civil litigation, appeals of historical cases in which Post Office acted as prosecutor began in 2020 with referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

On 23 April this year the Court of Appeal overturned 39 convictions in appeals supported by 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.

A Post Office spokesperson said:

“Post Office is sincerely sorry for past failures and we are making strenuous efforts to fairly address historical miscarriages of justice.

“This includes 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.”

Fundamental reforms

Actions taken to reform the Post Office include:

  • Appointing 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

  • Post Office no longer undertakes private prosecutions. Cases related to Horizon computer evidence effectively ceased in 2013, although two cases prosecuted in 2015 relied on Horizon data.
  • 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, 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.

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