CSLS Professor at the heart of responding to the Post Office Horizon Computer Scandal
Christopher Hodges OBE, Emeritus Professor of Justice Systems, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford is at the centre of advising the Government on delivering full and fair compensation to the 3,500 or more sub-Postmasters and Mistresses who are victims of the Post Office's Horizon computer system scandal.
He chairs the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, which advises Ministers on the oversight of the three existing compensation schemes for different categories of claimants. His work has identified that the outstanding problem is that the convictions of more than 700 people are not being overturned, either quickly or possibly at all. This makes the victims ineligible for compensation. He wrote to the Lord Chancellor in December 2023 on behalf of the Board, attaching a paper that made these points. The Board called for radical steps to be taken to overturn all the convictions, since the great majority appear unjust, for reasons which are continuing to emerge in the Public Inquiry, and constitute fresh grounds for appeal. Professor Hodges has drawn attention to the problem that the criminal appeal system is designed for individual cases, and not for processing multiple cases with various different sub-groups that have different facts and grounds for appeal.
Professor Hodges has been in discussion with the Criminal Cases Review Commission on this matter and the Law Commission. He has also corresponded with the authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the law and procedures are different, and with the DWP.
Popular outrage was triggered in January in response to a four-part ITV drama on the stories of key individuals and civil litigation that had led to setting up the current Public Inquiry. On 10th January 2024, the Government announced that it would legislate to overturn all convictions, and make improvements in some compensation arrangements. This raises profound constitutional issues over the separation of powers between parliament and courts. However, the proposal has cross-party support in Parliament, and popular support from the general public, as being the only sure way of righting the deep wrongs quickly. The Advisory Board and Professor Hodges continue to be fully engaged advising Government and giving media interviews. He also continues to Chair the Regulatory Horizons Council and, in his capacity as Chair of a committee in the property and housing sectors, has been called to give evidence to Parliamentary Committees on the Renters (Reform) Bill and the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill.