Historical Prosecutions

On 2 October 2020, Post Office formally responded to the Court of Appeal and Southwark Crown Court regarding historical convictions of former postmasters between 2001 and 2013 referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) earlier this year. It is not opposing the majority of appeals in which it acted as prosecutor. You can read our statement here.

In addition to full co-operation with the Criminal Cases Review Commission’s review, the Post Office 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.

This work is expected to be completed within the next few months and Post Office will update the court and the appellants on the results.

Most of the referrals by the CCRC are to the Court of Appeal because they relate to convictions in the Crown Court. Those few cases which followed convictions in the Magistrates’ Court must be appealed to the Crown Court.

There are six separate appeals referred to Southwark Crown Court relating to convictions in Magistrates’ Courts. An appeal from a Magistrates’ Court is a re-trial rather than a review of the original proceedings. Post Office is not opposing any of these appeals so the appellant convictions will be quashed. This process does not require the court to issue a written judgment and is likely to occur ahead of any judgment from the Court of Appeal.

Post Office no longer undertakes any private prosecutions. Cases related to Horizon effectively ceased in 2013, although two cases featuring Horizon evidence were prosecuted in 2015.

Freedom of information
A Freedom of Information response regarding information held by Post Office on the number of convictions in cases prosecuted by Post Office/ Royal Mail since 1990, whether related to Horizon or not, is published here

Fundamental reform
We are working to fundamentally reform the Post Office, addressing past events to fairly resolve them and to forge an open and transparent relationship with the thousands of current postmasters providing customers with vital services in the UK’s communities.

Actions already taken by the Post Office include:

  • Agreement to appoint a current postmaster as Non-Executive Director to the Post Office Board to influence Post Office strategy and the implementation of programmes affecting postmasters.
  • Establishing claims schemes to provide redress for former and current postmasters who experienced unexplained shortfalls in the past. The Historical Shortfall Scheme began in May 2020 and a new scheme is launched today to provide redress for postmasters affected by past weaknesses in our stamps stock processes.
  • 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 our postmasters. Nearly 100 area managers now provide personalised, individual support to postmasters
  • Comprehensive improvements made from initial recruitment and training through to daily transaction accounting, including design changes made to transactions on Horizon, based on postmaster feedback
  • Setting out for every postmaster the detailed responsibilities and commitments which support them to build thriving businesses, serving the UK’s communities.
  • Increasing postmaster remuneration by £20 million a year on top of the £17 million increases secured for banking services through our new framework with the high street banks. 

Group Civil Litigation
Group civil litigation between Post Office and 555 mainly former postmasters concluded following successful mediation and agreed settlement in December 2019. A joint press statement was issued on 11 December 2019 by both parties involved in the litigation. The issues in the litigation were complex and involved contractual, operational and technical matters spanning around two decades. An FOI relating to the settlement deed can be found here.