Post Office Prosecution Policy
England and Wales
2. Scope and Aims of this Policy
3. General Principles
4. The Decision to Prosecute
5. Charging Suspects
7. The Acceptance of Guilty Pleas
8. Recovery: Confiscation, Compensation & Costs
Effective from: 1st November 2013
Review: 1st November 2014
Cartwright King Solicitors
1.1. The investigation and prosecution of crime in and against the Postal
Service can be traced back at least as far as the 1680’s, when an
Assistant Solicitor to the General Post Office was tasked with the
investigation and prosecution of those offending against the mail; thus it is
possible to trace a continuous and unbroken line of investigative and
prosecutorial activity by the Postal Service in its various guises for over
350 years. Upon the separation of Post Office Ltd from Royal Mail Group
on the 1st April 2012 Post Office Ltd determined to retain that historic
1.2. In England and Wales both the investigative and the prosecuting functions
are conducted by Post Office Ltd.1 In Scotland, Post Office Ltd’s
representative agents2 report alleged criminal activity to the Crown Office
and Procurator Fiscal Service (‘COPFS’)3; in Northern Ireland Post Office
Ltd. Security Managers report to the Public Prosecution Service fol owing
the same processes as do the police services in those jurisdictions.
1.3. This Policy statement is intended to explain the way in which Post Office
Ltd. wil deal with allegations of crime commit ed against our assets in
England and Wales. We wil abide by the terms of this Policy in deciding
whether to prosecute in any particular case. In applying this Policy to the
decision-making process we wil act fairly, openly and with a high degree
of transparency; we wil not discriminate against, nor favour, any individual,
group or organization; we wil strive to act objectively, impartially and with
integrity; and we wil consider any relevant material brought to our
attention by an interested party.
1 Post Office Ltd. is a recognized private prosecutor by the Ministry of Justice; currently Post Office Ltd.
delegates the prosecuting function to Messrs. Cartwright King Solicitors.
2 Presently Messrs. bto
3 COPFS recognizes Post Office Ltd. as a Special Reporting Agencies (SRA).
1.4. We use the following terms and meanings in this Policy: ‘suspect’ – a
person who is not the subject of formal criminal proceedings; ‘defendant’ –
a person who has been summonsed to appear in a criminal court or
charged with a criminal offence; ‘offender’ – a person who has admit ed
guilt to a criminal court or who has been found guilty by a criminal court;
‘prosecutor’ – a person or organization instructed or retained by Post
Office Ltd. to act as prosecutor on behalf of Post Office Ltd.
2. Scope and Aims of this Policy
2.1. Post Office Ltd. is a public body providing a wide range of essential public
and commercial services to all those who rely upon us to deliver those
services. We are answerable to Parliament, government, our commercial
partners and the general public, all of whom place a very high degree of
trust in the integrity of our operations. We carry a heavy responsibility for
the guardianship of public and private assets4. We employ or are
contracted to many thousands of trusted employees and small businesses
who conduct mil ions of transactions daily across the United Kingdom. By
reason of these matters it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the integrity
and reputation of Post Office Ltd. and all with whom we work is protected
against those who would breach the trust placed in us. The aim of this
Policy is to achieve that end.
2.2. Post Of ice Ltd. also recognises the importance of the integrity of the mail
service and the trust placed therein.
2.3. Accordingly Post Office Ltd wil , subject to the terms of this Policy,
prosecute under the criminal law all those who are alleged to have
committed criminal offences against Post Of ice Ltd. and those alleged to
have interfered with postal packets.5
2.4. This Policy applies equally to all employees of Post Of ice Ltd. without
exception; and to non-employees, whether they are contractors,
customers or those with no formal relationship with Post Office Ltd.
4 We include in this description al those who work with and for us, including those who are contracted to
provide our services on our behalf.
5 Postal Services Act 2000, s.83
2.5. The aims6 of this policy are:
I. To ensure that those who steal, defraud or otherwise offend
against Post Office Ltd. are brought to justice;
II. To deter those would offend against Post Of ice Ltd. from doing
III. To protect the physical and financial assets of Post Office Ltd.
IV. To recover those assets, losses and shortages arising out of
criminal conduct committed against us;
V. To maintain and reinforce the trust placed in Post Office Ltd. by
those for whom we provide public and commercial services and
those who rely upon us to deliver those services;
VI. To ensure consistency, in so far as possible, in the way in which
we deal with those alleged to have stolen from, defrauded or
otherwise offended against Post Office Ltd.
6 In no particular order of precedence.
3. General Principles
3.1. Post Office Ltd. wil ensure that prosecutors always apply the Code for Crown
Prosecutors issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.7 In addition
Post Office Ltd wil apply those further considerations set out in this Policy.
3.2. The decision as to whether to prosecute in any particular case, or to
continue with any prosecution, wil always be taken by Post Office Ltd. In
arriving at such a decision Post Office Ltd. wil always apply the terms of this
Policy. Post Office Ltd. wil never institute criminal proceedings against any
person until competent legal advice has been provided by a properly qualified
lawyer that such a course meets the terms of this Policy and the Code for
3.3. The decision-taker will be
i. A qualified lawyer
ii. Independent of any Post Office Ltd. department having a direct
financial or other interest in prosecution.8
3.4. Subject to the terms of this Policy, each case wil be considered solely on
its own facts and on its own merits.
3.5. Prosecutors wil ensure that the law is fairly and properly applied; that all
disclosure obligations are fully met; that all Criminal Procedure Rules, Practice
Directions and authorities are followed and that any Guidelines issued by the
At orney-General are followed. Prosecutors wil apply the principles of the
European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.
7 7th Edition, issued January 2013. Go to www.cps.gov.uk
8 This practice mirrors the approach of the Crown Prosecution Service, and is designed to ensure that the
decision to prosecute is taken by someone who is independent of the victim/loser and of the investigation.
3.6. Post Office Ltd. wil ensure that the decision whether to prosecute in any
individual case wil be taken in a timely manner, so as to avoid unnecessary
stress and uncertainty in those subject to such a decision.
4. The Decision to Prosecute
4.1. Prosecutors review every case before the decision is taken to prosecute, and
advise Post Of ice Ltd. on the decision to prosecute. Before advising as to
whether a prosecution ought to be commenced, prosecutors will identify any
evidential weaknesses in a case and advise Post Office Ltd. as to rectification. A
prosecution wil only commence when the case has passed both stages of the
Full Code Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and accords with the
provisions of this Policy.
4.2. In accordance with paragraph 3.2 of this Policy, the decision whether to
prosecute, or to continue a prosecution, rests solely with Post Office Ltd.
When taking that decision Post Office Ltd. wil only apply this Policy and
will consider and take into account all factors relevant to the particular
case and contained within this Policy. Post Office Ltd. will not take into
consideration any matter not contained within this Policy, or not identified
as relevant by reason of any factor contained within this Policy
4.3. Once the decision to prosecute is taken, prosecutors wil keep the case under a
process of continuous review. Where at any time it appears to the prosecutor that
a case wil not meet the Evidential Stage of the Full Code Test in the Code for
Crown Prosecutors, or concludes that a prosecution is not, or is no longer in the
Public Interest, the prosecutor wil advise Post Office Ltd. to discontinue the
prosecution without undue delay.
4.4. When applying the Evidential Stage of the Full Code Test the prosecutor
wil have regard both to the matters set out in the Evidential Stage of the
Full Code Test and, additionally, to the following factors:
i. The reliability and credibility of witnesses and their evidence.
Consideration wil be given to issues of disclosure from an
early stage in the decision-making process.
ii. Particular emphasis wil be given to the reliability, credibility
and integrity of electronic and data-based evidence.
4.5. In applying the provisions of the Public Interest Stage of the Full Code
Test the prosecutor wil have regard both to the matters set out in the
Public Interest Stage of the Full Code Test and, additionally, to the
i. The quantum of any loss or shortage arising out of the alleged
criminal conduct. Post Office Ltd. regard this as an important
factor and accordingly consideration wil be given to the
The value in monetary terms of the loss or
shortage. Whilst a lesser value9 may militate
against prosecution it does not follow that any
particular value wil be determinative. A
substantial or significant loss or shortage wil
usually result in prosecution even where other
factors tend to militate against that outcome.
Whether or not some or all of the loss or
shortage has been repaid to Post Office Ltd.
Again repayment may militate against
prosecution but it does not follow that in all
cases of repayment we wil not prosecute.
ii. The degree of sophistication employed to commit the
offence(s). The higher the degree of sophistication employed
in preparing, conducting or hiding any wrong-doing, or to
9 In general and subject to the other matters set out in this paragraph, a loss of shortage of less than
£5,000 might indicate that we wil not prosecute. This does not mean that we wil always prosecute where
the loss or shortage is greater than that sum, or that we wil never prosecute where the loss or shortage is
less than that sum, the value of the loss or shortage being but one factor to be considered. In appropriate
cases we wil prosecute where a loss or shortage is well-below that figure.
escape detection, the more likely it will be that prosecution will
iii. In cases of fraud or false accounting, the quantity or number
of any multiple transactions or incidents. Again the greater the
number of individual false transactions the more likely it wil
be that prosecution wil follow.
iv. The period over which the offending conduct has been
committed. Generally, the longer the period over which the
misconduct was committed, the more likely it wil be that
prosecution wil follow. In appropriate cases a single incident
of misconduct may be prosecuted.
v. Implicating innocent parties. Attempts by a suspect to deflect
guilt towards others, or to implicate others in their misconduct,
or to accuse others of misconduct commit ed by the suspect,
wil usually be met with prosecution.
vi. Vulnerable victims. Post Office Ltd. provides essential
services to a number of particularly vulnerable sections of the
general public, including the elderly; those who are infirm or
physically disabled; those who have mental health issues or
who are less competent; and those who rely upon the state
benefits system for their income. Where misconduct is
targeted at a particularly vulnerable section of the general
public, prosecution is likely to follow.
vii. The position and status of the suspect. Sub-postmasters hold
a unique position of trust both in the eyes of Post Office Ltd.
and the general public. Abuse of that trust is a serious matter
and wil usually attract prosecution.
viii. The circumstances of the suspect. Post Office Ltd. and
prosecutors wil always consider any material provided by the
suspect or her representatives when determining the decision
to prosecute. Such material may include, but is not limited to:
bereavement; personal of family issues; and matters
pertaining to the health or well-being of the suspect or
someone close to them, including any mental health issues.
Such material may make prosecution less likely but wil not be
ix. Cost. Prosecution is an expensive process, both to Post
Office Ltd. and to the public purse.10 Post Office Ltd. and
prosecutors wil weigh the cost of prosecuting a case against
factors such as the likely penalty on conviction; the recovery
or likelihood of recovery of any loss or shortage; and the
wider Public Interest in prosecuting those who commit crime.
4.6. In applying the Full Code Test, no single factor wil determine the decision
whether or not to commence proceedings against any person alleged to
have commit ed an offence. Each factor wil be considered in the light of
the other factors falling for consideration and an overall view wil be taken
by the prosecutor. Consequently this Policy vests a wide degree of
discretion in both the prosecutor and in Post Office Ltd; accordingly the
decision to prosecute wil be taken in an open and transparent manner and
should be readily-justifiable on both the facts of a case and in terms of
those matters set out in this Policy. Best practice dictates that the decision
itself and the reasons behind it are recorded in writing and retained on the
file until the conclusion of a period ending 6-years after the end of the
where a suspect qualifies for Legal Aid.
4.7. No prosecution wil be commenced or continued in circumstances where it is, or it
becomes likely, that the courts would regard the prosecution as oppressive, unfair
or an abuse of the process of the court.
5. Charging Suspects
5.1. Whilst the commonest offences committed against Post Office Ltd. are
those of theft, fraud and false accounting, prosecutors acting on behalf of
Post Office Ltd. are not limited to those charges and wil consider and
bring the most appropriate charge(s) which meets the circumstances of
the individual case.
5.2. In addition to those matters set out on the Code for Crown Prosecutors,
Post Office Ltd. wil apply the following considerations:
I. Alternative charges. Where a suspect is charged with offences of
theft and false accounting arising out of the same basic facts,
those charges wil always be alternative charges.11 This
approach is not to be regarded as an invitation to plead guilty to
any particular charge(s).
II. Where more than one suspect is to be charged, separate
consideration wil be given to each suspect’s case as to the most
appropriate charge(s) in his case.
11 This is consistent with the decision of Sachs, LJ., in R. v. Eden
55 Cr. App. R. 193, CA
6.1. Post Office Ltd. wil be bound by all of the relevant Acts, Codes, Protocols
and Guidance set out below:
− The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996
− The Protocol for the Control and Management of Unused
Material in the Crown Court
− The Code of Practice issued under Part II of the Criminal
Procedure and Investigations Act 1996
− The At orney-General’s Guidelines on Disclosure
6.2. Post Office Ltd. wil take all reasonable steps to identify and record
material which may meet the test for disclosure,12 and wil retain any such
material for a period of not less than 6 years. In so doing, Post Office Ltd.
will operate a continuous process designed to identify any material,
whether the subject of a criminal investigation or not, which may relate to
the integrity and reliability of Post Office Ltd.’s I.T and data systems. Any
such material as is identified wil be recorded and retained for a period of
not less than 6 years.
12 Material which “…might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the case for the prosecution
…or of assisting the case for the accused….” CPIA 1996, ss.3&7
7. The Acceptance of Guilty Pleas
7.1. In appropriate cases prosecutors wil consider whether any offer of plea(s)
to particular charge(s) meets with the Scope and Aims of this Policy.
7.2. The decision whether to accept any offer of plea(s) rests with Post Office
Ltd. only, acting on the advice of the prosecutor.
7.3. In cases where a defendant seeks to admit guilt on a basis other than that
advanced by the prosecutor, Post Office Ltd. wil only consider an offer of
plea(s) where the offer is expressed in writing and in the form of a
recognised ‘Basis of Pleas’ document signed by the parties.13 Post Office
Ltd. is not bound to accept any such offer of plea(s).
7.4. In cases where the charges are expressed in the alternative and the
defendant accepts the prosecution case without qualification, Post Office
Ltd. wil consider whether to accept pleas of guilty to particular charges by
reference to those matters set out in paragraphs 2.5 and 4 of this Policy.
7.5. In cases where the charges are expressed in the alternative and the
defendant seeks to admit guilt to particular charges on a basis other than
that advanced by the prosecutor, paragraph 7.3 of this Policy will apply.
7.6. In any case where a defendant seeks to enter guilty pleas on a basis not
agreed by Post Of ice Ltd., we wil invite the court to hear evidence to
determine the facts upon which the defendant is to be sentenced.
13 ….and which accords with the decision in R. v. Underwood,
 1 Cr. App. R. 13 CA
8. Recovery: Confiscation, Compensation & Costs
8.1. Subject to paragraph 8.3, Post Office Ltd. wil in every case seek to
recover from offenders any losses, shortages and costs arising out of any
criminal conduct committed by the offender.
8.2. Post Office Ltd. wil in appropriate cases seek to obtain:
Restraining Orders against assets owned or controlled by
Confiscation Orders against offenders under the provisions
of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002;
Costs Orders against an offender, in the ful amount of our
investigation and prosecution costs;
Any combination of these orders
8.3. Post Office Ltd. will only instigate and continue any recovery proceedings
mentioned in paragraph 8.2 where it is fair and proportionate to do so. In
assessing issues of fairness and proportionality Post Office Ltd. will
consider the following factors:
Those matter set out in paragraphs 2, 3, 4.1, 4.5.i, 4.5.vi i
and 4.7 of this Policy.
The availability to the offender of realisable assets. In this
respect it should be noted that many of those who commit
offences against Post Office Ltd. own their own business and
which continues to trade.
The Cost to Post Office Ltd. Of pursuing such proceedings