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Post Office to appeal judgment from first Horizon trial

The Post Office will appeal against some of the judgments from the first trial concerning the Horizon computer system used by subpostmasters

The Post Office is set to appeal against some of the judgments from the first trial in the group litigation order (GLO) by subpostmasters, but is not requesting a re-run.

Under the GLO, more than 550 subpostmasters are suing the Post Office for damages resulting from them being blamed for accounting shortfalls, which they claim were caused by errors in the Horizon computer system they use.

During a hearing about an application by the Post Office requesting Judge Fraser, the managing judge, to recuse himself from the case, the Post Office legal team said it would appeal some of the judgments from the first trial but was not requesting a re-run of the trial. It wants the second trial – currently under way – to be halted and begun again with a different managing judge.

The first trial focused on the contractual relationship between the Post Office and the subpostmasters who run its branches. The second trial, which is currently suspended, is examining the Horizon IT system used by the subpostmasters. There will be at least two more trials.

The plight of some subpostmasters was first reported in 2009, when Computer Weekly revealed that the lives of some of them had been turned upside-down after being fined, sacked, made bankrupt or even imprisoned because of unexplained accounting shortfalls. They blamed the Horizon accounting and retail system for the problems, but the Post Office has refuted this (see timeline below).

Anthony Grabiner QC, for the Post Office, said at the latest hearing: “We invite your Lordship to recuse your Lordship as managing judge of this litigation and, in association with that application, we also seek an order that the Horizon trial currently being heard by your Lordship should be stayed or adjourned, as the case may be. And for the avoidance of doubt, we do not say that if this application succeeds, the common issues [first] trial will have to be re-run.”

During the recusal hearing, Grabiner claimed that some of Judge Fraser’s judgments at the first trial could be seen as prejudicing decisions in later trials.

 In his judgment at the first trial, Fraser was critical of Post Office business practices and some of its witnesses.

 Patrick Green QC, for the claimants, said the Post Office’s application was “without merit and without foundation”.

 A decision will be made by the judge on the recusal application next week, but not before Tuesday 9 April.

The case continues

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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