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Making legal history with Post Office cases

In April 2021, we were instrumental in rectifying the biggest single series of wrongful convictions in British legal history.

We had referred 39 Post Office cases to the Court of Appeal, which concluded that failures of investigation and disclosure by Post Office Limited were “so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the Horizon cases an affront to the conscience of the court”.

The ruling followed years of extensive investigation and analysis by the CCRC. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal commended “the care and thoroughness” with which we considered these cases.

“This has been a large scale and complex review involving several Case Review Managers, hundreds of hours, and many thousands of documents, before these cases were referred to the Court of Appeal. Our investigations involved numerous strands of enquiry, including the expert insights of forensic accountants,” explained Chairman, Helen Pitcher.

“This has been a serious miscarriage of justice which has had a devastating impact on these victims and their families. Every single one of these convictions has clearly had a profound and life-changing impact for those involved. Six convictions had already been quashed which had been referred to Southwark Crown Court.”

“The Post Office has rightly acknowledged the failures that led to these cases and conceded that the prosecutions were an abuse of process. We sincerely hope that lessons will be learned from this to prevent anything similar happening elsewhere in the future.”

The CCRC is aware that the Post Office has identified several hundred prosecutions brought since the Horizon system was installed and that the Post Office is looking at those cases to see whether these appeal proceedings have any implications for them.

This brings the total number of cases referred to 51; 47 quashed, three upheld and one pending. Under 20 cases remain under review and a number of fresh applications have been made with more expected to be made over the coming months.

Appeal for applications

If anyone believes their criminal conviction may be unsafe directly because of the Horizon computer system, they should consider challenging their conviction.

Those who have not already appealed, and were convicted in a Crown Court, or convicted in a magistrates’ court after pleading not guilty, can still appeal in the normal way (seeking leave from the court where necessary).

If applicants have already tried to appeal and failed, or pleaded guilty in a Magistrates’ Court, they can apply to the CCRC.

Anyone who needs guidance can find the necessary forms on GOV.UK about how to appeal against a sentence or conviction.

Court of Appeal summary: Hamilton -v- Post Office summary (judiciary.uk)

Court of Appeal full judgment: Hamilton -v- Post Office judgment (judiciary.uk)