Former Post Office subpostmasters appeal against convictions. Zoe Johnson QC instructed for the Post Office. Sir David Calvert-Smith leads initial review of historical prosecutions.

Dozens of former subpostmasters appealed against their convictions for theft, fraud and false accounting, they claim was due to computing errors. 

Zoe Johnson QC represented the Post Office at the hearing having been engaged to review and consider decisions that had previously been made.  In the preceding year leading to the hearing, Zoe Johnson QC worked alongside Sir David Calvert-Smith of QEB Hollis Whiteman and Brian Altman QC of 2 Bedford Row, along with a team of junior barristers from both chambers, reviewing over 900 historical prosecutions conducted by the Post Office Ltd.  All parties were instructed by Nick Vamos and Hannah Laming of Peters and Peters.

In a 15-year period from 2000, more than 900 postmasters were prosecuted after the Horizon IT system installed by the Post Office, and supplied by Fujitsu,  falsely suggested there were cash shortfalls.  The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the cases of 42 former subpostmasters to the Court of Appeal last year, after Post Office lost a civil case brought by subpostmasters.  A high court judge found the Fujitsu-developed Horizon system contained “bugs, errors and defects” and that there was a “material risk” shortfalls in branch accounts were caused by the system.  The Post Office settled the civil claim brought by more than 550 claimants for £57.75m, without admitting liability, in December 2019. Last year the Post Office apologised for what it called historical failings and said the organisation would cooperate with the CCRC, which referred the cases to the Court of Appeal.

Four of the 42 appeals are not being opposed on either ground of abuse of process, while three are fully opposed by the Post Office, which has previously said it will not seek retrials of any of the appellants if their convictions are overturned.

The hearing was before Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Picken and Mrs Justice Farbey and lasted four days.  They will give their ruling on the 23rd April.

The matter was reported widely in the press. See the report from The Guardian, here.