The Post Office has issued an apology following the successful acquittal of six subpostmasters in the ongoing Horizon situation.
The six subpostmasters were formally acquitted at Southwark Crown Court, and were just some of the hundreds that had been convicted of crimes including false accounting, fraud and theft when accounts showed unexplained shortfalls and discrepancies due to the Post Office’s Horizon system.
The Horizon case had been heard in the High Court in 2019, which ruled that the discrepancies were likely to have been caused by the IT system while the Post Office settles the group litigation brought against it by Alan Bates and more than 550 other subpostmasters for £57.75m.
“Post Office did not oppose these appeals and sincerely apologises for historical failings. We have taken determined action to address the past, ensuring there is redress for those affected and to prevent such events ever happening again.
“Fundamental reforms have been made to forge a new relationship with postmasters, helping them to build thriving Post Office businesses for customers and communities throughout the UK.”
The Post Office has implemented the following actions in the wake of the Horizon case:
- Agreement to appoint a current postmaster as Non-Executive Director to the Post Office Board to influence Post Office strategy and the implementation of programmes affecting postmasters.
- Undertaking a programme of improvements to overhaul culture, practices and operating procedures throughout every part of the Post Office to forge an open and transparent relationship with our postmasters. Nearly 100 area managers now provide personalised, individual support to postmasters.
- Comprehensive improvements made from initial recruitment and training through to daily transaction accounting, including design changes made to transactions on Horizon, based on postmaster feedback
- Increasing postmaster remuneration by £20 million a year on top of the £17 million increases secured for banking services through our new framework with the high street banks.
- Establishing claims schemes to provide redress for former and current postmasters who experienced unexplained shortfalls in the past.
Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, who represents three of the six who had their convictions quashed and a further 30 former subpostmasters whose appeals will not be contested by the Post Office at a Court of Appeal hearing in the New Year, stated:
“These people have always been innocent, but they have each had a criminal record against their name which they have had to live with for many years, bringing many difficulties to their lives. They can finally hold their heads high again as their names have been officially cleared in court,” he said.
“These people have had to fight all the way, for many years, for justice and we have been proud to help them reach this day. Lives were destroyed by this huge injustice. We’ve met many innocent, decent and upstanding people who were broken and who thought they would never see this day.
“They are now finally on the front foot and in a position to pursue damages for what has been years of significant suffering and loss. The Post Office must now respond in the right manner with appropriate offers to right some of the wrongs of the past two decades, and ensure people are properly compensated.”