I got a call from Bharat Dalal, who runs Old Man’s Premier in Oxford. “Have you been following the Horizon trial?” he asked. Not half. I was engrossed, having read the witness statements from the six lead claimants for the Common Issues trial.
This first trial in the Group Action brought by more than 500 Subpostmasters against the Post Office started earlier this month. It is expected to last until early December and will not be the final trial of the Group litigation, but it is described as a crucial stage that will influence how the case proceeds.
Just to give you some idea of why it will take such a long time. The six witness statements run to 185 pages altogether, made up of some 917 points regarding the ex-subpostmasters’ terrible experiences of their time in the role. They lay the blame at glitches in the Horizon electronic accounting system.
Then there were the defence submissions from the PO which ran to 117 pages, making 424 points in retaliation.
For those new to this story, I have covered it many times in the past as subpostmasters got in touch through my helpline, distraught at having been fired by the PO for shortfalls in their takings amounting to serious money.
Bharat Dalal was one of them. He and his wife are two of the claimants in the case. He spent £24k on lawyers before becoming resigned to his losses - until he discovered and joined the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, which has culminated in this group action.
Bharat sent me a link to TV reporter Nick Wallis’ crowd-funding site (postofficetrial.com) where he was live tweeting the cross-examinations of the six lead witnesses. If I had to sum it up I would say: human versus corporate.
There will be a further trial in March 2019, which will focus on issues relating to the Horizon system used across the Post Office branch network. Independent IT experts appointed by each of the parties will then battle it out.