Historical Prosecutions

Post Office no longer undertakes private prosecutions and sincerely apologises to postmasters affected by historical failures.

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.

On 11 December 2020 there was a hearing at Southwark Crown Court relating to six convictions in Magistrates’ Courts. An appeal from a Magistrates’ Court is a re-trial rather than a review of the original proceedings. Post Office did not oppose any of these appeals so the appellants were formally acquitted. See our statement here.

On 23 April 2021 there was a Court of Appeal Judgment relating to 42 cases. The Post Office has, throughout the appeals process, also supported the quashing of the overwhelming majority of these convictions. The Court overturned 39 convictions and upheld the safety of the convictions in the three cases which Post Office had opposed. Our statement can be found here.

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.

In addition to full co-operation with the Criminal Cases Review Commission’s review, the Post Office established an extensive disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists, to identify material which might affect the safety of any relevant historical prosecutions. Our current statement about this can be found here.

Post Office prosecutions effectively ceased in 2013, although two cases featuring Horizon evidence were prosecuted in 2015.

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 taken by 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Establishing claims schemes to provide redress for former and current postmasters who experienced unexplained shortfalls in the past.

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.