A “landmark” study of the lawyers who prosecuted victims in the Post Office Horizon scandal will “prevent future injustices”, its authors have claimed.
The study by the University of Exeter and University College London (UCL) aims to shed light on the “egregious” impact of legal professionals involved in convicting scores of innocent postmasters across the UK in the late 1990s and 2000s.
More than 70 Scots victims were wrongfully accused and forced to pay out thousands to the Post Office in one of “the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history”.
It comes after the government announced a compensation scheme in March this year for more than 500 victims of the 20-year scandal, who won a £43m High Court settlement against the Post Office in 2019.
Specialists leading the three-year project said it would help legal professionals to “rethink” their methods and prevent future injustices.
Dr Karen Nokes, from UCL, said: “The scandal shows that when it works badly, the legal system, and lawyers in particular, can have egregious effects on ordinary people’s lives.
“Through our research with victims and lawyers, we plan to develop strategies that can be used to encourage lawyers to consider and, if necessary, rethink their own professional mindsets.”
The Post Office began installing Horizon accounting software in the late 1990s, but faults in the software led to shortfalls in accounts, which sparked demands on sub-postmasters to cover the difference.
Many were wrongfully prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 for false accounting, theft, and fraud.
Professor Richard Moorhead, from the University of Exeter, said: “The research will enable us to deepen our engagement with the victims affected by the scandal, ensure that the right lessons are learned about what went wrong and why, and work on practical strategies to reduce the chances of such terrible events happening again.”
The Post Office has been contacted for comment.