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Post Office: The path to justice

The story of the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) is a David and Goliath battle to expose the failings of Post Office’s Horizon computer system, which led to uncovering the biggest miscarriage of justice in recent legal history. From the formation of the JFSA in 2009, it took until late 2015, when we began heading to the courts for our voice to be taken seriously. As our numbers kept growing, there were a number of schemes that were given lip service by the Post Office in response to questions being asked by Parliamentarians.

 

In March 2015, the Post Office terminated a three-year investigation by forensic accountants Second Sight who examined 135 cases. It left the Subpostmasters group high and dry, but we now had evidence to seek redress through the courts. The only problem was that we didn’t have any money.

By the Autumn of 2015 Freeths, agreed to take our case and help find funding to pay for the litigation. Many funders found the case too complicated, especially as several postmasters had been subject to private prosecutions by the Post Office and had received convictions. Fortunately, Therium came to our rescue and were highly supportive throughout. The Post Office, who had the government’s deep pockets, used a scorched earth approach to the litigation to drive up our costs, so we had to make persuasive arguments every time we went back to extend our credit. On the surface commercial litigation funding looks expensive, but not every case is won, and we had to increase our funding on several occasions by multiples of what was originally budgeted because we were up against a major corporation determined to bury the case at all cost to ensure that the truth remained hidden, relying upon the fact that no individual could ever afford to take it on. Yet when you look at what that funding has achieved, perhaps it now seems cheap.

When the first 40 ex Subpostmasters met in Fenny Compton village hall in November 2009, little did we realise that by 2022 there would be over 700 convictions under review with 72 already overturned, a further 2500 Subpostmaster in a scheme to review monies claimed off them because of its Horizon system, a Statutory Inquiry to uncover what went so terribly wrong, a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman over the failures of HMG as sole shareholder of the Post Office, Select Committees looking into the veracity of the use of computer evidence in trials and the use of Private Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police investigating potential perjury by Fujitsu used by the Post Office in its private prosecutions of Subpostmasters – a few examples of what has been achieved. And at last, the original 40 that grew to 555 are in discussions with BEIS to receive compensation.

The system may not be perfect, but taking legal action did lead to the right result and will hopefully make it less likely for extraordinary miscarriages of justice to happen again.

Alan Bates, lead claimant in Alan Bates Ors v Post Office Ltd.

Read the Article from The Times here

 

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