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Investigators from the Criminal Courts Review Commission (CCRC), which is looking into subpostmaster claims of unfair trials, are to decide whether to wait for the outcome of a separate High Court trial before making a decision.
In April 2015, the CCRC began reviewing about 30 claims from subpostmasters that they were wrongfully prosecuted for offences such as theft and false accounting, as a result of problems with the Post Office’s Horizon IT system through which they file accounts.
Although separate, the review is intrinsically linked to a group litigation order (GLO) currently being heard in the High Court. More than 500 former subpostmasters are seeking damages for the suffering they experienced after some were heavily fined, others had to pay back thousands of pounds in shortfalls, and some were even sent to prison because of unexplained discrepancies in accounts. The subpostmasters blame the Horizon system for the errors.
In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of some subpostmasters who had received heavy fines and jail terms for alleged false accounting, which they blamed on Horizon (see timeline below for all Computer Weekly coverage).
In a letter to a subpostmaster involved in the investigation, the CCRC wrote: “The current position is that the commissioners are being comprehensively briefed on the results of the CCRC enquiries to date.
“A key point for the commissioners to decide in the first instance will be whether or not the CCRC must wait for the judgement(s) of the High Court case in the Post Office group litigation which is currently being heard, before any decisions can be issued in the CCRC cases which are under review.”
The commissioners are due to meet in December to discuss the cases.
This could mean subpostmasters who are having their cases looked at by the CCRC might have to wait until after the High Court trial finishes in October 2019 for a decision.
The current trial is the first of three planned and is due to finish this week. A judgement on it is expected in January. This trial is focused on the contractual relationship between subpostmasters and the Post Office. In March 2019, there will be a second trial to look at the Horizon technology, followed by a third trial in October 2019 which will focus on some individual cases.
September 2009: Postmasters form action group after accounts shortfall
November 2009: Post Office theft case deferred over IT questions
January 2013: Post Office announces amnesty for Horizon evidence
December 2014: MPs to debate subpostmaster IT injustice claims