‘End Post Office power to prosecute’ insists CWU



Monday 6th July 2020

A removal of the Post Office’s right to prosecute is being sought by the CWU as the House of Commons Justice Select Committee opens its Inquiry into the matter tomorrow.

The investigation, which was recommended by the Criminal Cases Review Commission following its decision to send dozens of postmaster prosecutions to the Court of Appeal, will focus on the lessons to be learned from the Horizon scandal and whether the law needs to change.

The Justice Select Committee will hear evidence from several senior barristers and legal academics, as well as from the company of forensic accountants who investigated the Post Office’s Horizon prosecutions.

According to a press statement, the Committee’s terms of reference are to review:

‘…the circumstances and safeguards where an organisation is allowed, as the Post Office was in these cases, to act a prosecutor when it is also the victim and the investigator of an alleged offence.’

And in its deliberations, the Committee will:

‘…focus on the effectiveness of existing safeguards and the merits of additional safeguards that could be used to limit the potential for the right to bring private prosecutions by large organisations to cause miscarriages of justice.’

The CWU has called for the Post Office’s right to prosecute to be withdrawn and this is the substance of our submission into this review, explains assistant secretary Andy Furey.

“Post Office Ltd was able to use the private prosecutions process to act against its employees and agents (postmasters) as judge, jury and executioner because of a lack of safeguards to prevent the abuse of power,” he points out. “And, in particular, there was no effective independent oversight from any organisation to prevent this abuse, which was allowed to continue for so long despite cries of help from so many victims.”

Private prosecutions per se, are an “important route to justice for victims of crimes that are not the priority of the police or the Crown Prosecution Service,” he continues, adding that there should not be a “blanket ban” on private prosecutions altogether especially the right of Royal Mail to bring prosecutions against owners of dangerous dogs.

But in this specific instance, and given the severity and the magnitude of the Horizon scandal, it would be a “travesty” if the Post Office retained any right to bring private prosecutions against its own employees and agents in future.  

“We believe this right must now be withdrawn from the Post Office we call on the Justice Committee to do everything in its power to make this happen,” he insists.