Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland statement re Post Office Horizon convictions

Publication date:

Following the civil case of Bates and Others v Post Office Limited (POL) in 2019, the Court of Appeal in England & Wales determined a number of appeals brought against convictions which relied wholly, or in part, on evidence involving the Horizon system.  A common thread running through appeals which were successful was that the reliability of the Horizon system was an essential part of the prosecution case.  

To identify potentially unsafe convictions in this jurisdiction, POL provided the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in 2020 with a list of 23 cases (involving 24 individuals) in which they believed that Post Office employees had been prosecuted and convicted and which may have relied upon evidence from the Horizon system.  These cases were concluded between 2001 and 2014.  Throughout that period investigations were generally undertaken by POL who then submitted files to the PPS through the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). 

Once the relevant cases had been identified, the PPS sought to obtain up-to-date contact details for the individuals involved.  Where these were available, the PPS wrote to provide information relating to the successful appeals in England and Wales and the right to appeal in this jurisdiction. We also recommended that the recipients seek independent legal advice.  The PPS worked closely with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) as regards our approach and we have kept them fully informed of all steps being taken. 

In addition to taking action regarding the cases notified by POL, the PPS initiated a review of our own systems to try and identify any further prosecution files which may have relied upon Horizon. This process has identified a further five cases which resulted in a conviction and letters similar to those described above issued to individuals where up-to-date contact details were available. 

To date, three individuals have brought appeals against their convictions in Northern Ireland. Two of the appeals were unopposed by the PPS and the convictions subsequently quashed. The third is currently before the Court of Appeal. 

The PPS is mindful of the ongoing Public Inquiry.  However, it is deeply regrettable that what is known now about the flaws in the Horizon system was not revealed and that this has resulted in miscarriages of justice.   

The PPS does not have the power to refer any previous convictions to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. Any appeal needs to be initiated by the convicted person or referred by the CCRC and the merits of the appeal must be considered in light of the particular facts and circumstances of each case. We understand that there is no present intention on the part of Westminster to extend the legislative scheme proposed for England and Wales to Northern Ireland or Scotland. The PPS will continue working to facilitate the expedition of appeals and will be ready to assist in any potential alternative solution to correct miscarriages of justice.  

Finally, we acknowledge the extremely harrowing stories of many victims across the United Kingdom, including those who were subject to the experience of being prosecuted and those who were ultimately convicted of offences which they did not commit.  We recognise the many ways in which this had a devastating impact on their lives and are fully committed to playing our role within the criminal justice system in righting any wrongs that occurred.   


Notes to Editors

Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing inside office hours.