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Post Office facing group litigation over Horizon computer system after watershed decision

The group action against the Post Office that alleges sub-postmasters have been wrongly punished for accounting errors gets a green light from the High Court of Justice

A High Court judge has granted a group litigation order (GLO) that will see a class action against the Post Office regarding claims that sub-postmasters were wrongly punished because of flaws in the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

Granted on 26 January 2017, the GLO means the High Court of Justice has agreed to manage the case. This was not a foregone conclusion, so the decision is a watershed in the case.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of sub-postmasters 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.

“This means the High Court will manage the case and drive it forward,” said James Hartley, partner at Freeths Solicitors, which is representing 198 sub-postmasters in the group action. This number could increase.

The case, which could go on for a number of years, is now set and will not go away. It began in November 2015, when the sub-postmasters – supported by the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) – announced their group action against the Post Office.

The group, which seeks justice and compensation for sub-postmasters, received the financial backing required for the case in February 2016.

At the time, the JFSA said, after years of campaigning, it was left with “no other option but to seek redress though the courts”. Freeths Solicitors and Henderson Barristers Chambers are pushing the civil action through the High Court.

The court set a cut-off date of 26 July 2017 for new claimants to join the action. Any sub-postmasters, former sub-postmasters or staff of these who believe they have been affected should contact Freeths Solicitors.

Are you applicable for the class action?

Any sub-postmaster that worked for the Post Office since 1999 and experienced issues with the Horizon computer software is eligible to join the case. Either go to the website, email poclaim@freeths.co.uk or call 0800 304 7727.

The Post Office said it “welcomes the progress made today, but will not otherwise comment on live litigation”.

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


Post Office Horizon: Timeline of events

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