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News Dispute Resolution 12th Nov 2020

Freeths LLP Litigation Team Win Two Top Industry Awards

Top 50, national law firm, Freeths LLP, have scooped a top prize at The Lawyer Awards 2020, the largest recognition of legal excellence in Europe. Freeths saw off stiff competition to take away the Litigation Team of the Year award for their major victory in the High Court, acting for over 550 postmasters against government owned Post Office Ltd. This follows a win in the equivalent category at the British Legal Awards, the annual showcase from Legal Week, earlier this month.

In a well-publicised case, the claimants stated a faulty computer system led them to being wrongly accused of false accounting or theft. Some of the postmasters/mistresses were prosecuted and imprisoned after the Horizon accounting system, which was introduced in 1999, allegedly showed their branches to be in deficit.

The bitterly contested litigation was described as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent British history. Throughout, the Post Office adopted an aggressive strategy, trying to strike out part of the case and, at one point, trying to have the judge, Mr Justice Fraser, removed from the trial due to alleged bias.

Having won in two major trials in Court, Freeths achieved a settlement at mediation, garnering a £57m pay out for the postmasters and mistresses. But the settlement went way beyond the financial outcome, vindicating the claimants’ challenges that the Post Office had serious issues with the computer system, and giving a foundation for the quashing of dozens of criminal convictions.

The case was one of many high stakes, complex disputes which Freeths’ national litigation team has handled recently, with its 140+ litigation lawyers becoming a go to firm for clients wanting winning outcomes.

National Head of Dispute Resolution, James Hartley, who led the case, said, “Our success in this and other cases comes from combining strategic insight, deploying small, special project teams of lawyers and using powerful technology – when those things can be put together correctly, the results follow.

“This award from The Lawyer is recognition for years of development of the Freeths litigation offering and we’re excited about the opportunities we see in the market”.

Freeths prevailed above the shortlisted nominees in the category: Akin Gump, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Mishcon de Reya, RPC and Steptoe & Johnson UK.

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