The Bar Council has called on Parliament to review the safeguards around private prosecutions in the wake of the Post Office Horizon scandal.
Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “There are many lessons to be learned from the Post Office scandal – one of the worst miscarriages of justice our country has ever seen.
“We have two areas of concern that arise from the Post Office scandal, that, no doubt, will be considered by the ongoing Inquiry. First, before Horizon the Post Office was bringing a handful of prosecutions each year but once it was implemented in 1999, the number of prosecutions shot up to 50-80 a year. These stark facts ought to have given any prosecuting authority pause for thought.
“Secondly, the questions that arise from the ability of the Post Office to prosecute when it believed it was the victim of criminal behaviour by what it assumed were dishonest postmasters and postmistresses. Those bringing private prosecutions almost inevitably have a vested interest. It is important to recall that the CPS itself was created in the 1980s to remove the decision on whether to prosecute for more serious crimes from the police in order to separate the decision to prosecute from those invested in the investigation.
“It is time for Parliament, in a measured way, to review the issues surrounding private prosecutions and we echo the request of Sir Bob Neill MP that the Government re-visit the recommendations of the Justice Committee inquiry on safeguards. At the very least, Parliament should give careful consideration to introducing enhanced oversight, and possibly formal regulation, to ensure the power to prosecute is not abused.”