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Group litigation against Post Office in Horizon system dispute prepares for next stage

Postmasters’ legal case against the Post Office claims that computer system is to blame for losses, not false accounting or theft

The legal team hired by a group of subpostmasters who believe they have been wrongly punished because of flaws in the Post Office computer system will take their case to the next stage in January.

Earlier this year, the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA), working with Freeths Solicitors and Henderson Barristers Chambers, issued High Court proceedings against the Post Office. It wants justice and compensation for subpostmasters that it believes have been wrongly prosecuted, fined and have had to repay losses that were unexplained.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of these subpostmasters, who had received heavy fines and even jail terms for alleged false accounting – which they blamed on the Horizon system and supporting processes. The Post Office has vehemently denied this claim. (See timeline below for more)

The legal teams for both parties are already involved in detailed communications in parallel with the High Court proceedings and January 26  will see a hearing for a group litigation order (GLO), for which the JSFA legal team has applied.

This will not decide the outcome of the case, but the full-day hearing is an important procedure to help the court to manage a large case.

If the GLO is granted, the court will set out a timetable for the case and appoint a High Court judge. It will also present another opportunity for other people to join the action and become claimants.

In response to previous Computer Weekly articles, the Post Office said: “It remains the case that more than three years of investigations have not identified any transaction caused by a technical fault in Horizon which resulted in a postmaster wrongly being held responsible for a loss.”

Separately, the Criminal Cases Review Commission is also reviewing prosecutions for account shortfalls, which subpostmasters blamed on Horizon. This ongoing review is looking at 30 claims of wrongful prosecution.

Post Office Horizon: Timeline of events

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