Historical Prosecutions

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

Following the ‘Horizon Issues’ Judgment in group civil litigation in December 2019, 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 2021 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.  Our statement can be found here.  Eight convictions have also been overturned by Southwark Crown Court in unopposed appeals. 

On 19 July 2021 the Court of Appeal overturned a further 12 convictions in appeals supported by the Post Office. Our statement can be found here. 

The total number of convictions overturned by the Courts to date is 59.

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.  Please see our statement here.

In January 2020, Post Office established an extensive post-conviction disclosure exercise, by external criminal law specialists Peters & Peters.  Around 4.5 million documents have been examined 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.

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.