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The Post Office; An Ongoing Scandal Of Epic Proportions

The Post Office Horizon IT Scandal, has been deemed as one of the UK’s biggest miscarriages of justice. It is believed that around 736 Sub-postmasters and Sub-postmistresses (SPM’s) were pursued by the Post Office between 2000 and 20141, for monies they did not owe the Post Office.

This was due to the multi-million pound system called ‘Horizon’ that had been designed by Fujitsu, for the Post Office to use in its Post Offices by SPM’s, which had not in fact been sufficiently robust. Instead it contained a number of bugs, errors and defects.

These flaws led to inaccuracies in the SPM’s sub-post office’s financial accounts, and due to the way their contracts had been drafted, meant that they were personally liable for any monetary losses at their post office. Hundreds of SPM’s were charged and prosecuted for offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.

Many SPM’s protested their innocence, often going all the way to trial believing that the truth would come out. Others pleaded guilty in the hopes of not being given a custodial sentence (which was not always the case). Their sentences would range from Community Orders to Custodial Sentences. Seema Misra, a core participant in the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry represented by Hodge Jones & Allen was 8 weeks pregnant at the time she went to prison in 2010.

What remained consistent, throughout the SPM’s ordeal, was that they were being told by the Post Office that the system they were using was robust, and that they were the only person to raise issues with Horizon. This as we now know, was simply not true.

In 2019, the High Court found that the SPM’s had been right all along. The new system that the Post Office had implemented was not ‘robust’ as they had continuously asserted2. In turn, the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the Appellants’ cases (39 cases) to the Court of Appeal, who ultimately quashed their convictions3. But this was only a small proportion of those wronged who have had their convictions quashed.

Following the furore caused by the ITV drama, ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ that aired at the beginning of this year, the Government responded by stating they sought to clear the names of those wrongfully convicted in this scandal by introducing new legislation that would overturn their convictions.

On the face of it, this seems like an excellent solution to right the wrongs of the past, but it is unclear exactly what the legislation will say, and there are fears that by creating a statute that quashes convictions, this will set a dangerous precedent.

This is because it would allow Parliament to overturn decisions made by the Judiciary, which may jeopardise the doctrine of the separation of powers. This doctrine allows there to be a clear separation between, the Executive (Crown and the Government), Legislature (Parliament) and Judiciary (Judges in the courts of law), in order to safeguard citizen’s liberty.

Other fears are that it would combine those who are innocent, with those who may not be, into one group by exonerating everyone.

However, for many SPM’s, their compensation claims are contingent on convictions being quashed which is why it is important that there is some system for overturning convictions and doing so quickly. As Kevin Hollinrake, MP stated, ‘…this is a price worth paying in order to ensure that many innocent people are exonerated’.

There are still a number of unknown factors about this proposed legislation (i.e. when it will come to pass, who will be covered by the legislation etc.), but it seems that Parliament are keen to push through with it. In the meantime, victims of the Post Office Horizon Scandal are still able to have their convictions quashed without this proposed legislation being in place. Hodge Jones & Allen recently represented Kathleen Crane, a SPM who was convicted of fraud in 2010, at her appeal hearing on 25 January 2024. Her appeal was not contested by the Post Office.

If you, or anyone you know, is a victim of the Post Office Scandal please call us now on 0808 278 8389 or email our legal experts at

The Crime Team at Hodge Jones & Allen have the privilege of representing 12 SPM’s as Core Participants in the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry. The Civil Liberties & Human Rights Team and Dispute Resolution Team also represent SPM’s in respect of compensation claims.

  • 1Nick Wallis ‘The Great Post Office Scandal’ 1st Edition, Bath Publishing Limited, 2021, p466
  • 2Alan Bates and Others v Post Office Limited [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB)
  • 3Josephine Hamilton and others v POL [2021] EWCA Crim 577
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