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39 Convictions Quashed in Post Office Cases

23 April 2021

The Court of Appeal has today (Friday 23 April) quashed the convictions in 39 Post Office cases after they were referred for appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The Court 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”.

Today’s ruling to overturn the 39 convictions follows years of extensive investigation and analysis by the CCRC. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal commended “the care and thoroughness” with which the CCRC considered these cases.

CCRC Chairman, Helen Pitcher, said: 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.”

“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.

If anyone believes their criminal conviction may be unsafe because of the impact on their case of performance issues with 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 at:

www.gov.uk/appeal-against-sentence-conviction

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

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

Ends

Notes for editors

Chairman, Helen Pitcher is available for interviews on Friday 23 April from 1pm. Please contact the press office if you wish to speak to her on Tel 07789 945304 / 0121 233 1473, or email press@ccrc.gov.uk.

The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.

There are currently nine Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.

The Commission usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.

The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.

More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate