The success of civil compensation claims brought by 550 sub-post masters unlocked access to justice in the high-profile case and proved that there is strength in numbers.
The Court of Appeal’s decision last week to quash the criminal convictions of 39 sub-postmasters was the culmination of years of legal wrangling and decades of injustice.
The Post Office had criminalised hundreds of its own staff because of flaws in its Horizon IT system that made it look like sub-post masters were stealing money from branch accounts.
But while the overturning of these 39 criminal convictions in this high-profile battle has, rightly, received most of the headlines, it was the outcome of the civil claims, brought by 550 sub-post masters in a group litigation against the Post Office, that unlocked the case.
The Post Office had decided to take an aggressive legal strategy against the sub-post masters in the civil case, prolonging the litigation and driving up costs.
In ‘normal’ circumstances, the sub-post masters – who are ordinary people with relatively modest incomes and savings – could not have afforded to fight this claim in the courts and would have been denied the opportunity to recoup losses caused by the Post Office’s actions and to ultimately clear their names.
However, the option to take the case forward through a group litigation approach based on a contingent fee deal — where lawyers effectively financed the case upfront through a no win-no fee structure and third party funding — made it possible to pursue the civil case.
Funded group litigations are becoming more common in the UK and give ordinary people an alternative route to justice, whether for equal pay, negligent mis-selling, loss of reputation, property, financial or other types of loss, at no financial risk to them.
UK law firm Roscoe Reid is currently helping claim back money owed to low paid and unfairly treated workers in the retail sector, with two active claims running against the supermarket chain Morrisons and Boots the Chemist.
Claimants get the benefit of expert advice from experienced lawyers who know how to stand up to big companies, how best to approach the legal arguments and how to get the compensation claimants deserve.
When it comes to challenging bad behaviour by a deep-pocketed entity, group firepower is essential.
This article was authored by Ellie Pinnells, a partner specialising in group litigation claims at Roscoe Reid. For more information about our equal pay claim service, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.