The Post Office Horizon affair has been described as one of the UK’s most widespread miscarriages of justice. It has been a long, complicated and contested saga, involving a campaign for justice, various court cases, compensation schemes, and currently a public inquiry.
Beginning in 1999, a number of postmasters (who run individual post offices) experienced difficulties with the Horizon Post Office computer system. The system had faults which showed false shortfalls on the accounts of postmasters. Because of the shortfalls reported by Horizon, some postmasters were suspended or had their contracts terminated, and others were prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned (for example, for false accounting and fraud).
In 2016, a group of postmasters used a group litigation order (GLO) to take legal action against the Post Office for damages relating to the consequences from the faulty Horizon system. Following rulings from the High Court in the Bates v Post Office High Court case, the Post Office settled.
The Post Office has identified a total of 700 convictions in cases it prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 in which Horizon computer evidence might have featured.
The total number of all overturned convictions as of 3 January 2024 is 93. This includes five cases in which the Post Office was not the prosecutor.
More than £32.4 million has been paid in compensation to date, including 30 full and final settlements.
Convictions data (as of 8 January 2024)
|Total relevant convictions (1999 – 2015)
|Number of completed appeal cases
|Number of convictions overturned
|Number of convictions upheld/ cases refused permission to appeal or withdrawn from Court
|Number of cases currently with Appeal Courts
|Number of people with relevant convictions not yet contacted – so far unable to be located and require further tracing
Some 500 or more victims of this scandal have yet to have their convictions overturned. Whilst some may well be guilty of theft or other offences, it is generally accepted that the vast majority were not. Understandably, many people may wish to forget this period in their lives, in part perhaps due to a deep mistrust of the criminal justice system.
The slow pace of providing justice for the postmasters increases the harm that has been caused, and some are calling for more radical measures, including an Act of Parliament to wipe convictions from the record.
If you are affected by this scandal and wish to discuss your legal options, then please do not hesitate to get in touch using our online enquiry form, or by calling us on 01743 248545.