Postmasters falsely accused of theft win landmark ruling against Post Office
PUBLISHED: 12:44 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:43 15 March 2019
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Postmasters who were accused of stealing from the Post Office have won a major legal victory.
More than 550 postmasters, including 16 from Norfolk and 12 from Suffolk, brought a claim against the Post Office at the High Court.
They had been accused of false accounting and theft after money went missing from their branches.
The Post Office blamed them and sacked them, without pay. Some were even convicted of crimes and jailed over the missing money.
But the postmasters said a computer bug on the Post Office’s IT system, called Horizon, which was introduced in 2000, was responsible.
The problems date back years and their case was heard by the High Court last year.
Mr Justice Fraser on Friday decided in favour of the postmasters against the Post Office.
One of the lead claimants, Alan Bates, said: “This is a major step forward to achieving justice and getting to the truth of the matter.
“This judgment is consistent with the incredibly serious miscarriage of justice that we believe has taken place.
“This exposes the dismissive and uncooperative attitude of Post Office, which has damaged the lives of so many postmasters.
“Whatever happens from now on, this is the victory we’ve been fighting for; postmasters have won and Post Office will never again be able to behave as they have in the past with impunity.”
The Post Office, which is owned by taxpayers, had denied the IT system was faulty but could now face a huge compensation bill running into many millions of pounds.
Post Office chairman Tim Parker said it would continue to defend the legal action and was considering appealing against some of the judgement.
“We take this judgment and its criticisms of Post Office very seriously,” Mr Parker said.
“While the culture and practices of the business have improved in many ways over the years, the Judge’s comments are a forceful reminder to us that we must always continue to do better.
“We have taken his criticisms on board and will take action throughout our organisation.
“The vast majority of those running post offices do so without problems.”
A second trial in the case is continuing in the High Court and more cases will follow.
•Are you one of the postmasters affected by this ruling? Contact investigations editor Tom Bristow on 01603 772834 or email firstname.lastname@example.org