CRIMINAL law experts at a Bournemouth legal firm are warning against putting restrictions on the right to take private prosecutions in the wake of the Post Office scandal. 

Team members at Ellis Jones Solicitors voiced their concerns after the government said it was considering a review of the system. 

Ministers have indicated they want to prevent a repeat of the miscarriages of justice revealed in the Horizon IT case which stemmed from private prosecutions by the Post Office. 

Thousands of postmasters were falsely accused of theft, fraud and false accounting, with around 700 prosecutions taking place based on evidence from accountancy software shown to have been faulty.   

Ian Daly, associate solicitor for crime at Ellis Jones Solicitors’ Bournemouth office, said: “People are rightly shocked by what happened.  

“The prosecutions were undermined by what was found evidentially and should have been abandoned. In prosecutions pursued with integrity, you observe and follow a duty to disclose material that undermines your case or assists the defence. You can’t just ignore bits that don’t fit your case. 

“It’s clear from all that has emerged that this was not a diligent prosecution. The Post Office investigators had an incentive not to disclose. They had too much skin in the game, a business interest. If the CPS had taken it over countrywide they would have looked into the many similar arguments put forward in defence, compared the evidence of a faulty IT system misfiring at post offices in different areas, discontinued the action and stopped it going to court, removing all the stress and heartache we have seen since.” 

Colleague Jonathan Morrissey, consultant solicitor and head of crime, motoring matters and inquests, said that although the Post Office prosecutions went badly wrong and the scandal should never have happened, if the government’s response is to restrict the right to a private prosecution, that will be a double tragedy. 

Mr Morrissey added: “No-one should remove the right of the individual to prosecute. If we do that, justice disappears.  

“Victims’ rights to prosecute are enshrined in law. Private prosecutions are a fantastic route to justice when done properly and not abused. The government needs to tread carefully in any moves to change that.”