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Post Office faces group litigation over Horizon IT as subpostmasters fund class action

Subpostmasters who claim to have been wrongly convicted of fraud take the Post Office to court after getting the funds for a group action

The Post Office faces group litigation in relation to a long-running dispute over the computer system that its branch network uses, as campaigners get the financial backing they need to take the case to civil court.

Subpostmasters plan a group legal action against the Post Office, claiming wrongful prosecution, fines and even prison sentences because of failures in the computer system.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the stories of 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 about the dispute).

In November 2015, the subpostmasters – supported by The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JSFA) – announced their group action against Post Office.  The group seeks justice and compensation for subpostmasters.

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

Alan Bates, chairman at the JFSA, confirmed the group had secured the funding it needs to take the action. "We are now able to move forward in civil court with the exposure of the failings of the Post Office and its Horizon system."

A group action is a case where a number of claimants with similar claims get together to initiate an action against a single party. It is similar to a US class action.

In response to previous Computer Weekly articles, the Post Office recently 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.”

Post Office Horizon: Timeline of events                    

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