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Post Office liable for High Court legal costs

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A recent judgement at the High Court in London has seen the Post Office being ordered to pay over £5 million in legal costs resulting from its ongoing legal dispute with former Post Office workers.

The legal action was bought by 557 former Post Office workers, many of whom were sub-postmasters, who claim that they were falsely blamed for financial shortfalls at various small Post Office branches throughout the UK. The former workers claim that a software error in the Post Office’s computer system – called Horizon – was responsible for the discrepancies which resulted in many staff losing their livelihoods.

The claimant group includes Tracy Felstead, a former Post Office employee from Shropshire who in 2001 was jailed for six months after being convicted of stealing £11,500, and has always protested her innocence. The first trial, which opened in November last year, looked at the contractual relationship between the Post Office and its sub-postmasters.In his judgment, published in March, Judge Fraser accused the Post Office of 'oppressive behaviour' and said there was a culture of secrecy surrounding the Horizon System.

Judge Fraser criticised the Post Office for sending out letters which said sub-postmasters were liable for shortfalls indicated by the Horizon computer system. He commented:

There can be no excuse, in my judgment, for an entity such as the Post Office to mis-state, in such clearly expressed terms, in letters that threaten legal action, the extent of the contractual obligation upon a sub-postmaster for losses…The only reason for doing so, in my judgment, must have been to lead the recipients to believe that they had absolutely no option but to pay the sums demanded. It is oppressive behaviour.”


The Post Office applied for leave to appeal, but Judge Fraser this week rejected all of the 48 grounds for appeal it put forward. The Post Office still has the option to apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

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