.

In 2021, it was recognised that a significant number of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses (SPMs) had been blamed for accounting shortfalls that had been generated by errors in the Horizon computing system. These errors had led some SPMs to be convicted of criminal offences, face jail time, and lost their livelihoods.

The Hamilton and Bates cases, dealing with criminal and civil claims of SPMs respectively, raised a number of concerns relating to governance and management at the Post Office (and Fujitsu), the conduct of their lawyers, and the operation of the criminal and civil justice systems, including criminal defence practice.

The cases offer a seminal opportunity to examine important issues in corporate governance; criminal justice; and professional regulation, as well as government and parliamentary accountability.  We will be examining issues raised by the cases, deepening the evidence base on them, and working to ensure that identified concerns are taken seriously by regulators, policy makers and others able to affect change.

We have established a research team with expertise in lawyers’ ethics (Moorhead); miscarriages of justice (Helm); and organisational culture and ethical behaviour (Nokes) to take this work forward.


Anchor: projectinformation

Project Information

Request for documents

We are currently collating available documents on the events surrounding the Bates and Hamilton cases as part of the research project described below. If you have documents which you would like to ensure we have, please email postofficeproject@exeter.ac.uk.

Project background

The Hamilton and Bates cases raised a number of concerns relating to governance and management at the Post Office (and Fujitsu), the conduct of their lawyers, and the operation of the criminal and civil justice systems, including criminal defence practice.

The case offers a seminal opportunity to examine important issues in corporate governance; criminal justice; and professional regulation, as well as government and parliamentary accountability.  The outpouring of concern that the scandal has prompted reveals a desire for change which needs to be maintained and harnessed.

We will be examining issues raised by the cases, deepening the evidence base on them, and working to ensure that identified concerns are taken seriously by regulators, policy makers and others able to affect change. As lawyers and legal educators, we want to ensure lawyers and law students hear the stories of the victims and learn about their mistreatment; but we also want to see rules and practices change, where appropriate, to make unethical behaviour less likely to happen in the first place and more likely to be punished when it does.

We have established a research team with expertise in lawyers’ ethics (Moorhead); miscarriages of justice (Helm); and organisational culture and ethical behaviour (Nokes) to take this work forward.

Research plan

Our plan initially is to review existing evidence to identify and analyse evidence of corporate and institutional failure, professional ethics failures, and systematic problems in the criminal justice system that led to Bates and Hamilton. We see the issues to be investigated by us as including:

  • The design, execution, and enforcement of contracts.
    • The conduct of investigations and prosecutions arising from Horizon (including charging, plea bargaining, disclosure and expert evidence failures, and the influence of shortfall recovery on approaches).
    • The conduct of appeals including post-conviction disclosure decisions.
    • The management of information about Horizon within and beyond the legal processes (e.g. submissions to Parliament and Government).
    • The handling of independent investigations, including those by Second Sight.
    • The role of legal professionals and their advice in the management and representation of Horizon within and beyond the Post office.
    • The oversight of legal processes and information on Horizon’s flaws by the PO Board, including non-executive directors, and BEIS including the conduct of the Bates litigation and the Hamilton appeals.
    • Evidence of pressures to plead guilty for defendants, including potential sentencing inducements and over-charging.
    • Differences between the handling of Scottish and England and Wales cases.
    • Variability in sentencing decisions.

We will begin this job over the Summer months, scoping the available evidence base and writing a full submission to the Williams Inquiry and lawyers’ professional regulators, providing them with our preliminary views on the issues arising in the case. And we will begin to suggest areas of reform for criminal justice, professional regulation, corporate governance, and governmental accountability and work on how to change the behaviours and cultures that led to such injustice.

These are only our initial thoughts on the issues raised by the scandal that we think we can contribute to. We consider it critical to our project that we consult with and listen to others – victims and experts. We think there is particular value in learning from subpostmasters and others affected by the use of law against them in ways now shown to be an affront to the public conscience by the Court of Appeal.

funding and project team

The project’s initial work is supported by the ESRC, the University of Exeter, and LBC Wise Counsel.

Richard Moorhead is Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the University of Exeter. He has written on In-House Lawyers Ethics, with Vaughan and Godhino, as well as a number of pieces on lawyers’ involvement in various corporate ethics scandals including at lawyerwatch.blog.

Rebecca Helm is the Director of the Evidence-Based Justice Lab. She works at the intersection of psychology, data science and law, and has written on pressures to plead guilty and themes in UK miscarriages of justice.

Karen Nokes is a lecturer in law at UCL. She is a qualified solicitor (non-practising) with significant experience in legal regulation prior to gaining her PhD from Alliance Manchester Business School. Her doctoral research examined how lawyers navigate and reconcile competing institutional logics when faced with ethical dilemmas in practice.

Key stats

81
defendants convicted on the basis of Horizon evidence acquitted to date

at least 88%
of acquitted defendants initially pleaded guilty

29+
SPMs raised concerns about Horizon prior to prosecution

Back to categories »


Anchor: ourpublications

Our Publications

On Record Podcast

Working Papers and Inquiry submissions

Our first working paper on the Post Office Project sets out concerns raised about the conduct of Group Litigation brought against Post Office Limited (POL) by Sub-Post Masters and Mistresses. It highlights concerns about the overall strategy and conduct of POL, Fujitsu employees, and the lawyers involved on their behalf. A copy of the paper is available here:

Our second working paper is a comment on the official Horizon Inquiry’s provisional list of issues. A copy of the paper is available here:

Our third working paper considers conduct in Horizon-related prosecutions and appeals. A copy of the paper is available here:

Our fourth working paper is a submission to the Post Office Horizon Inquiry, responding to their Notice of Preliminary Hearing. A copy of the paper is available here:

Our fifth working paper examines an independent review commissioned to investigate concerns expressed about Horizon and Horizon-based prosecutions, which we refer to as the Swift Review. A copy of the paper is available here:

On 8th November 2021, Professor Moorhead made oral submissions to the Post Office Horizon Inquiry. A copy of those submissions are available here:

Press Coverage

See the links below for press coverage relating to our submissions:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10178963/Subpostmasters-compensated-wrongly-accused-theft-fraud-inquiry-hears.html?ito=native_share_article-masthead

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/government-asks-for-lawyers-role-to-be-left-out-of-post-office-inquiry/5110459.article#.YYk4mcTzHi8.twitter

https://www.law360.co.uk/articles/1438562/post-office-scandal-inquiry-urged-to-probe-role-of-lawyers

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/accountability-is-key-to-unravelling-post-office-scandal-8h32bwvrv

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_887079_en.html


Anchor: acquittalstodate

Acquittals to date

Total cases:
81
4
Pamela Lock
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2001
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Parmod Kalia
Most serious offence: False accounting
Years in prison: .5
Year of crime: 2001
Year of initial conviction: 2001
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Balbir Grewal
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2001
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Nalini Joshi
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2001
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
2001
1
Tracy Felstead
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2002
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2002
3
Lisa Brennan
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2003
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
David Yates
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2003
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Malcolm Watkins
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2003
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2003
6
David Blakey
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Christopher Trousdale
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Jack Smith
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
Rizwan Manjra
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Kamran Ashraf
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Richard Ormerod
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2004
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
2004
4
Tahir Mahmood
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2005
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Richard Hawkes
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2005
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
Gillian Harrison
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2005
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
Carina Price
Most serious offence: Other
Year of crime: 2003-2004
Year of initial conviction: 2005
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2005
4
Hughie Thomas
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Teju Adedayo
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Carl Page
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of crime: 2002-2003
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
John Armstrong
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of crime: 2005-2006
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2006
7
Gail Ward
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of crime: 2002-2007
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Janet Skinner
Most serious offence: False accounting
Years in prison: .5
Year of crime: 2006
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Mohammed Aslam
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Anthony Gant
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
David Hughes
Most serious offence: Other
Year of crime: 2006
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Margaret White
Most serious offence: Other
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
Mohammed Rasul
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2007
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2007
6
Josephine Hamilton
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Dawn O’Connell
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Pauline Stonehouse
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Harjinder Butoy
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Years in prison: 1.5
Year of crime: 2006-2007
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Abiodun Omotoso
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Janine Powell
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2008
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2008
9
Barry Capon
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
William Graham
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Peter Anthony Holmes
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Marissa Finn
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of crime: 2008
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Julian Wilson
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Ian Warren
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Sami Sabet
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of crime: 2008-2009
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Susan Rudkin
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Duranda Clarke
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
2009
15
Allison Henderson
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Kashmir Gill
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Pauline Thomson
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Nicholas Clark
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Scott Darlington
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Rubina Shaheen
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Greg Harding
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Jacqueline McDonald
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Years in prison: 0.5
Year of crime: 2008
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Siobhan Sayer
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Seema Misra
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Years in prison: .5
Year of crime: 2008
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Vijay Parekh
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Years in prison: .5
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Wendy Buffrey
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Jerry Hosi
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Timothy Bentnall
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Julie Cleife
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2010
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2010
8
Tim Burgess
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Gurdeep Dhale
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of crime: 2007-2008
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Alison Hall
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
David Thomas Hedges
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Damien Owen
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Years in prison: .25
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Gillian Howard
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Hasmukh Shingadia
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of crime: 2009-2012
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Vipinchandra Patel
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2011
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2011
9
Della Robinson
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Lynette Hutchings
Most serious offence: False accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Margery Williams
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Robert Ambrose
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of crime: 2012
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
John Dickson
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Jasvinder Barang
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Amanda Barber
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Norman Barber
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Robert Boyle
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
2012
5
Jamie Dixon
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2013
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Angela Sefton
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2013
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Anne Nield
Most serious offence: False Accounting
Year of initial conviction: 2013
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Khayyam Ishaq
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2013
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Grant Allen
Most serious offence: Theft / fraud
Year of initial conviction: 2013
Year conviction overturned: 2022
View case
2013
Year of initial conviction

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Anchor: impacts

Impacts of Wrongful accusation

INTRODUCTION

We are working with Dr Jeff Kukucka, Associate Professor of Psychology at Towson University in the USA, and an expert on the impacts of wrongful conviction, in order to conduct a significant examination of the mental health and social harms that have occurred to SPMs as a result of the Post Office Scandal.

This examination will look at SPMs who were wrongly convicted, but also at SPMs who suffered other harms without being convicted in criminal court, for example as the result of investigations and repayments and / or proceedings in civil courts. The results of this study will provide some quantification of the harms resulting from the Post Office Scandal, but also some of the first insight into the harms of wrongful accusation more generally, outside of the criminal context.

BRIEF REPORT

Please see below a brief report summarising some of our key research findings. The report provides early evidence to demonstrate the significant, extensive, and ongoing suffering of those accused of wrongdoing by the Post Office, regardless of whether they were convicted of criminal offences:

Note that our findings are not intended to diagnose mental health conditions in particular research participants, but to provide some quantification of the harms suffered by victims of the scandal as a group.

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

If you are concerned about mental health harms, the resources below may be helpful:

Samaritans. If you would like to discuss mental health issues you are having, you can contact Samaritans 24/7. They are available via phone (116 123) or via email (jo@samaritans.org; response time 24 hours), and also have a Welsh language phone line (0808 164 0123).

Shout. If you prefer not to talk but want mental health support you can text “SHOUT” to 85258, for 24/7 support via text.

The National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK. If you are having thoughts of suicide you can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline 24/7 on 0800 689 5652. Note that if you have serious concerns for your own or someone else’s immediate safety you should go to Accident and Emergency or phone the emergency services on 999 for assistance.


.W

Anchor: advisoryboard

Project Advisory Board

.

Tony Edwards – A leading criminal defence practitioner, recently retired. He is author of Blackstone’s Magistrates’ Court and Police Station Handbooks and (with Roger Ede) Criminal Defence: Good Practice in the Criminal Courts (Law Society 2017); and a former member of the Sentencing (Guidelines) Council.  

Tony Edwards – A leading criminal defence practitioner, recently retired. He is author of Blackstone’s Magistrates’ Court and Police Station Handbooks and (with Roger Ede) Criminal Defence: Good Practice in the Criminal Courts (Law Society 2017); and a former member of the Sentencing (Guidelines) Council.  

Paul Gilbert – Paul was a General Counsel for Cheltenham and Gloucester and now runs LBS Wise Counsel, specialising in In-house mentoring and leadership training. 

Mehrunnisa Lalani, Director Of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (Interim) at Manchester University. Lay Partner, Health Education England; Leicester City Council Independent Renumeration Panel, Independent Member; United Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Non Executive Director;, Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Panel, Independent Member. Mehrunnisa has also worked for the SRA. 

Joan Loughrey – Professor of Law, University of Leeds. Joan researches accountability and regulation in the context of the legal profession and corporate governance; director’s duties, particularly the duty of care; and corporate litigation, with particular expertise in the corporate sector of the profession and large law firms, and in legal professional regulation. 

Iain Miller – Solicitor, Partner, Kingsley Napley. Iain specialises in legal ethics, investigations, and public law matters.     He is General Editor of the leading textbook on legal services regulation, Cordery on Legal Services. 

Professor Dominic Regan. CPR expert trainer and consultant, Solicitor (Non-Practising), Professor of Law at City University. He has served as consultant to government, businesses, and law firms and as an adviser to Sir Rupert Jackson, the Court of Appeal judge responsible for leading civil justice reform.  

Jago Russell – Jago is a qualified solicitor in England & Wales, practising in the field of criminal defence as a partner with Boutique Law from Autumn 2021. Until October 2021, Jago was Chief Executive of the international non-profit, Fair Trials, overseeing the organisation’s expert work on a wide range of criminal justice issues such as its advocacy for fair trial protections in the context of guilty pleas. Prior to joining Fair Trials, Jago worked at Liberty and in the UK Parliament, advising amongst other things on the fair trial implications of proposed legislation. 

John Sutherland – John Sutherland is a senior adviser at the FCA, specialising in corporate governance and culture. His executive career was in UK retail banking before becoming a special adviser to the Bank of England and joining the audit committee of the EIB. He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter. 

Professor Alan Paterson OBE,FRSE, FRCP Edin,  FRSA, FAcSS – leading researcher on judges, lawyers, and access to justice. Most germane of his many roles, he is Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University (Scotland’s first think tank on Access to Justice and the legal profession), is the Law Society of Scotland’s Examiner in Professional Ethics, and sits on several Regulatory committees of the Law Society of Scotland.


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