It's vanished! Maybe there was an IT issue.

A Womble Bond Dickinson partner is set to be grilled for his role in the prosecution of a sub-postmaster whose life was ruined by false allegations of theft.

Stephen Dilley, a partner who now runs WBD’s Bristol litigation practice, has been called as a witness as the inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal examines the case of Lee Castleton, who ran a Post Office in Yorkshire.

The Post Office publicly insisted for years that accounting discrepancies in its branches were due to pilfering sub-postmasters. In fact the errors were due to Horizon, the shoddy IT system provided by Fujitsu, which was known within the business to be chock-full of glitches. 

Nonetheless, the Post Office demanded that sub-postmasters make up the shortfalls in their accounts and terminated their contracts or arranged for private prosecutions when they were unable to do so. Many of the innocent sub-postmasters' lives were destroyed by bankruptcy, accusations of criminality and jail terms as a result. Some took their own lives.

Now regarded as the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, the cover-up was exposed when crusading sub-postmasters fought back in court and obtained a £58m settlement.

When Castleton's till showed a £25,000 shortfall, he repeatedly called the Post Office helpline begging for assistance. Instead it accused him of being responsible, suspended him, and instructed Dilley to sue for repayment. 

Castleton has claimed that before the hearing, Dilley contacted him and encouraged him to drop his defence, telling him, “Lee, just listen, we will ruin you. Think of your family”.

(WBD has denied this occurred, commenting that "We strongly reject this accusation".)

The Post Office won its case, at which the sub-postmaster was unrepresented because he could not afford a lawyer, after falsely telling the court that Castleton was the only person with access to the Horizon software.

Having been denounced as a “thief” by the Post Office's counsel, Castleton was ordered to repay the £25,000 and pay the Post Office’s costs of £321,000.

He was forced to declare bankruptcy and had to close down his shop, sell his house and move into rented accommodation. His wife suffered stress-induced seizures and his children moved schools after they were bullied. 

“Mr Dilley was correct when he said that the Post Office would ruin me. It has”, said Castleton.

As one of the 555 postmasters in the landmark group litigation effort, he won back £28,000 in compensation, but the civil judgment against him still stands.

Now Sir Wyn Williams, the inquiry chair, is taking two weeks to hear evidence of the Post Office’s proceedings against Castleton, and has called on Dilley to explain what happened. Richard Morgan QC, who also acted for the Post Office in its civil proceedings against Castleton, will appear as well.

Dilley’s victory over the unrepresented sub-postmaster used to feature prominently on his Womble Bond Dickinson website profile as a career highlight. But, for some reason, about a year ago it was excised, and now there is nary a mention of his work for the company.

In a submission to the inquiry, which has already touched on Herbert Smith Freehills' work for the Post Office, academics led by legal ethics specialist Professor Richard Moorhead said lawyers played a pivotal role in the scandal.

"Harms directly arose from the way legal work was managed and conducted: people were threatened, sued, fired, and prosecuted via legal work. Denials, non-disclosure, and delay were enabled, at least in part, by legal work", they said.

The SRA has secured access to the inquiry’s material in order to examine the role of lawyers and law firms, while the Post Office has moved on from HSF to Burges Salmon.

A spokesperson for Womble Bond Dickinson said, "The inquiry should be able to undertake its important work unfettered and so it is inappropriate for us to comment at this stage”.

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Womble Bond DICKinson 15 September 23 09:59

The gall to note it has a career highlight!  He should be ashamed of himself.

Love a bit of Dickandsome 15 September 23 10:08

Putting that on your CV is like telling a prospective partner you cheated on your last ex and got incurable genital herpes.

Dilley Dally 15 September 23 10:19

Wow.  Can the firm and lawyers involved survive this?  What clients will want to instruct them.  this will hang and linger like the smell from a skunk.

Anonymous 15 September 23 10:32

There is much much worse to come for the Wombles. This is just the first case they handled. It is the later cases ( read the court of appeal judgement )where things get very serious. A Southampton partner was boasting about his 6 figure bonus for his role in these cases. When you know the facts it is stomach churning. It will all come out eventually. Why would any decent client who is brand savvy want to employ Wombles and why would decent people want to work there? Please read the court of appeal judgement and take your own view on the Wombles.

The big questions for Panorama 15 September 23 10:37

How much did Womble Bond Dickinson trouser from the Post Office scandal and did they keep the gravy train running once it was apparent that there were fundamental problems with the proceedings?

Anonymous 15 September 23 10:46

So did the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history flow from Wombles failing to ask questions about the IT system? 

Fallguy 15 September 23 10:51

Dilley is a minow in all this. [redacted]. As others said it will all come out in time. Wombles should get on front door and set up a charity for the families destroyed by the scandal and could start with the 2 million covid payments they trousered. 

Spoton 15 September 23 10:57

1037 spot on Panorama. When a partner ( not Dilley) is getting eye watering bonuses for bringing in millions on the "cash cow" PO you have to wonder if there is a blurring of lines ? 

Values 15 September 23 11:05

Every person who works at WBD should ask themselves, does the culture of this firm reflect my values? 


News from the burrow 15 September 23 11:06

My mole tells me Wombles quite happy with the inquiry because PO still paying them millions to provide all the documents and history over the many years and keeping the big PO com lit team very busy and the partners very happy. Conscience ?

goblin lawyer 15 September 23 11:11

from the looks of their accounts, Wombles will be struggling without their precious "cash cow" 

David Raynes 15 September 23 11:14

The question of what all the lawyers involved knew and when they knew it, is the elephant in the room.


Anonymous 15 September 23 12:14

The expert who was ignored on this gave a very interesting interview that is worth reading. 

Legalgymnastics 15 September 23 12:40

1201 . I googled Post Office Scandal and was astounded by what the Judges had to say about the conduct of the Wombles . Best read for yourself but one of the worse was Wombles  being described as a legal gymnast performing every trick in the book to prevent the innocent (many dead before clearing their names) sub postmasters getting their day in court. The Judges do not hold back. 

Cashcow 15 September 23 12:46

A spokesperson for the Wombles said they could not comment . 2 units email, 24 units consideration, 48 units speaking with  with colleagues, 52 units advice from Risk department, 48 units monitoring Rollonfriday, 10 units reporting to client and 12 units billing all above to Post Office . A scandal indeed.

Anonymous 15 September 23 13:00

"One wonders how Mr Dilley sleeps at night."

Soundly, in the arms of Mrs Dilley?

Dearie 15 September 23 13:10

I know Stephen well (I have never worked at Wombles but at other firms both with and against) and the accusations here are appalling. He has been called as a witness having been instructed by the Post Office. I wonder how many keyboard warriors here would question their entire client's IT system on a £25k debt claim? Stephen is a great lawyer and a genuinely good man.

Wombles is incorrect 15 September 23 14:13

Technically Bond Dickies was responsible for this mess. Womble Carlyle merged with them in 2017. It is therefore incorrect to say "Wombles".

Dewombled 15 September 23 14:49

1413 and maybe a reversal with Womble US getting fed up with

1. all the adverse publicity from Womble UK

2. The widening gulf in profits with UK making many missteps to try bridge the gap

3. no one wants to merge with UK and now too small for US

4. lack of talent on UK Board

5. Poor treatment of UK staff affecting brand

Ohdearie 15 September 23 15:00

1310. Yes agree Stephen is a great bloke etc  He was only involved in this one case as a junior and much bigger fish at Wombles have been driving the strategy and earning very very big sums of money for themselves personally through a very controversial bonus structure. Caused a lot of internal conflict. But Wombles as a firm have behaved very badly in the litigation( whatever the instructions from PO) and the Court of Apeal drew attention to this. That is the issue not that they did all they could for a client but did they cross the line in their duty to the court? ( leaving aside any moral judgement as citizens of the world) Stephen is a good guy and not deserve to be singled out because others  there are not as good and have been paid very very well for their role in this scandal. If Stephen has any sense he will ask the inquiry to look at what happened after Castleton because that is where the focus needs to be.

Richardson 15 September 23 15:04

Why didn't Blair stop all this ? Couldn't  afford to loose the millions from the Post Office cash cow. Sad. No morals. 

Anonymous 15 September 23 15:12

@ 13:00 & 13:10

Mr Dilley's actions ruined an innocent person's life.

Regardless of whether he was "at fault" (and unless he is psychopath) he must feel a huge amount of guilt for his actions. 

I know that I would in his position. 

It's a funny old game 15 September 23 15:59

Dilley was never that smart. He'll wilt under x exam.

He's managed to saddle himself with the Golden Turd's golden turd job just when the other turds ran for the hills knowing the shitshow that was about to engulf the firm.

The Horizon debacle was well known back in 2010 but the ker-ching ker-ching of disclosure and court proceedings was too alluring.

Yer reap what yer sow as Marshall and Monty would say...

Mr Grumpy 15 September 23 16:04

Through the magic of Wayback Machine here is the evidence... https://web.archive.org/web/20201110054732/https://www.womblebonddickinson.com/uk/people/stephen-dilley

Underground overground 15 September 23 16:05

*sigh - the halcyon days when the PO paid us BDickers to press a disclosure button at £200 an hour all day everyday.

All seems too good to be true now...


Anon 15 September 23 16:28

Stephen is a very good man and an excellent lawyer: kind, measured, cerebral. He would never have said what is alleged. It is totally contrary to his character and his approach to litigation.

Dilleydally 15 September 23 17:30

As a young litigator under pressure from an overbearing client partner Stephen probably did say something along those lines but did not mean it as an aggressive threat. Just give up because the mighty resourced PO and then Dickie Dees mighty litigation team no expense spared with QC on a £25k debt were against a litigant in person. We forget how intimidating intended or not we can come across to unrepresented people who never been to court in their lives. Events after this taken a much more sinister turn and after the Inquiry the SRA will hopefully hold the lawyers to fill account for what they knew and when they knew it and their duties to the court. 

Wombles Marketing Team 15 September 23 17:31

Stephen Dilley, a partner, is a beautiful and wise man who saves kittens and who definitely does not have underdeveloped empathic ability. Anyone who says he does is lying and / or a postmaster. 

As with other members of the Wombles Litigation unit his disputes advise adds real, practical value.

Long-term client relationships are important to us…Experts that recognise when cases should be fought and when swift, confidential resolution is the best course of action.

With one of the best litigation teams in the UK… Our approach is commercially focussed at every step…Resolving potential disputes before they arise is always our aim but, if that can’t be achieved, we move swiftly and robustly towards pursuing or defending litigation or arbitration.

Finally [add words in own text to make it sound like you don’t work here]. 

Anonymous 15 September 23 17:44

🇺🇸 WBD has separate accounts, offices, staff, marketing and legal services from 🇬🇧 WBD. The only thing they really share is a logo and a website.


womblenoncontentious 15 September 23 18:02

As a non litigation Womble I am deeply angry about this. Stephen was removed from the PO litigation team after this case by the client partner who was based in Southampton because Stephen very ironically was not regarded as aggressive enough! The following cases were given to a "young buck" who did the client partner's bidding and more. Both of them were promoted off the back of PO and given culture busting bonuses. It is an open secret in Wombles about who knew what and when . I only hope we can hold our hands up for the sake of the 33 who lost their lives before they could prove their innocence and for their families. It is about integrity. Time to draw a line. Sadly our board are too weak to stand up and do the right thing. To all of us non litigators it is deeply depressing and embarrassing. I fear worse is to come.

Anonymous 15 September 23 18:27

I see Wombles marketing team only spotted this story at 3pm but then swung into action. 🤦‍♂️ 

As someone who knows him 15 September 23 19:08

Stephen is the nicest, kindest man there is. He shouldn't be the one on the line of fire. Come on Wombles, stand up for your own instead of just blasting out a mediocre 'no comment' statement. Appaling response, honestly when is the leadership going to step up?!

bond gone 15 September 23 19:32

Bond Pearce had a litigation reputation well beyond its humble Plymouth base. It was trusted with some of the biggest and sensitive cases for the likes of SIF where reputation was important. Then came along a managing partner who was also the client partner for the post office. Those who questioned any PO activity were branded as not commercial and removed from the PO client focused team. The PO was the firm's biggest client and what the PO wanted it got. No questions asked. But questions needed to be asked because at the end of the day lawyers have a supreme duty to the court above any client, no matter how important that client is. The Bond in Womble Bond Dickinson is long gone. And the Wombles are much the worse off for it. Those who were looking to merge got sight of this culture and what was coming down the track and stayed well clear.

Ex Womble 15 September 23 20:06

Agreed re the above comment and others on Stephen: he really Is a decent guy and seems to be a scapegoat here for now.  As others have mentioned, another Southampton litigation partner is the one who people should really be looking at.  It will all come out in due course I’m sure. 

Spill the beans 15 September 23 22:12

Hopefully Stephen has read the tea leaves and realises by now Wombles are hanging him out to dry. He ows them no misguided sense of loyalty instead must take his oath as a solicitor seriously and tell the inquiry what went on after Castleton in Southampton . Being the decent guy everyone says he is I am sure he will. As we all know the truth will out in the end. It will only take one to speak out and then everyone else will come forward. This is the biggest miscarriage of justice and about time those involved ( not Stephen) step up and do the right thing. Good innocent people has lost their lives, reputations, families and financial security. Everyone at Wombles knows who they are. Come on .

Anonymous 16 September 23 07:38

Stephen putting in a really big shift in the comments here.

Say what you like about his ethics, but you can't doubt his work ethic that's for sure. 

Anonymous 16 September 23 09:14

If Stephen Dilley, the partner who now runs WBD’s Bristol litigation practice, genuinely isn’t to blame them he will name who is genuinely to blame at his appearance in front of the parliamentary inquiry. 

He won’t though and we can draw conclusions from that… 

Anony Mous 16 September 23 13:10

Commercial lawyers love to talk grandly about "justice" and "fairness" and the incredibly important value of lawyers and the rule of law to society. But at the end of the day - and it's not just Wombles who are guilty of this - it is the vast legal fees that these lawyers charge which inherently bias the justice system in Britain against the poor. It's the threat of those fees which dissuade most individuals from ever taking action against big corporates; it's the profits generated by those fees which attract the best lawyers to firms acting for corporates, whilst a motley crew of morons and do-gooders are left to act for individuals. 

All of which is fine - we live in a capitalist system where a generally high quality of life is maintained for most people at the cost of some inherent injustice - but it turns my stomach when I hear lawyers claim to be on the side of justice. We aren't; we are on the side of the status quo.

Harvard 16 September 23 15:48

As anyone who has been on a Harvard management course knows you cannot allow bad behaving rainmakers, however much money they bring in, to get away with murder. They will eventually destroy your business and your people. Womble UK will be used as a case study in years to come( for avoidance of doubt this is not a reference to Stephen Dilley)

Shameful 16 September 23 20:44

The firm helped to perpetrate and directly profited from an enormous miscarriage of justice.  If the senior staff involved have any integrity whatsoever, they'd make a significant donation to the families of the wronged postmasters whose lives they helped ruin.  

Je Suis Monty Don l’Autobus 17 September 23 09:38

All this rage at other lawyers just for doing their jobs.

Of all the evidence that has since emerged, that the Horizon system was deeply flawed, how much if any or this do you imagine was known to Mr Dilley when he was executing his client’s instructions to prosecute someone who, as it must have appeared to him at the time, had stolen money from his client?

As for what the judges had to say about the solicitors, the first rule of law club is you ignore anything whatsoever that a judge has to say about how solicitors go about their jobs.

😃 18 September 23 11:29

Lots of positive comments appeared later in the day. Seems unusual, almost coordinated. 

Payout 18 September 23 18:49

Just been announced Government , ie  is taxpayers will be paying a minimum £600,000 to all subpostmasters wrongly convicted. They of course deserve it. But Wombles should be footing the bill.

Human 19 September 23 11:33

The judge in that case also has questions to answer for his directions in relation to disclosure.

Geep 19 September 23 14:31

Interesting to look at this from the other side - Freeths story from 2021.


Rosie Brocklehurst 19 September 23 18:07

It is extraordinary. Mr Dilley denies he told Lee Castleton he would be ruined if he did not drop his defence.  Mr Castleton says he did. The upshot was, Castleton was ruined while innocent. Stephen Dilley and the KC referred to are going to be called to the Inquiry. Dilley on Thursday 21st in the morning.   It can be viewed online. Post Office went on to prosecute . We now know from today's Inquiry (Sept 19) that Helen Rose Fraud Officer for the Post Office submitted incorrect evidence to the Court and knew it was incorrect. The allegation is being inferred that she lied to the High Court.  Lee Castleton  spent from 2007-2019 fighting his case, living above the Post Office which had been the scene of the Post Office crimes against him (not the reverse) and no money. He was bankrupted and had over £300,000 of Post Office High Court legal fees charged as a debt against him. He could not earn nor save for a pension, was depressed and worried about his family. Mr Dilley went on happily working and earning lots and still does. He is still a Partner in a law firm WBD. He has testimonials calling him 'amiable and honest', from Legal 500 in 2022 on his website WBD profile.  

Lol 19 September 23 19:35

All the Dilley fanboys on here are going to be shocked and dismayed when they see that one of the Post Office witnesses has already implied that he doctored her witness statement in a High Court case.


Lovely dog, never hurt anyone, those dead kids are an anomal 20 September 23 07:33

Hitler was a decent guy as well, loved his dog. By all accounts, probably not a terrible romantic partner, wouldn't have got into the news like all these men today cavorting around. I don't work for or with the Nazis by the way, just want to make it clear I have no affiliation with Hitler. Unlike the posters in support of the relevant lawyer here. 

Anonymous 20 September 23 08:07

Will the appearance at the inquiry be televised?

It’ll be interesting to see if Dilley is brave enough to openly identify failings by himself and others, rather than just denying everything. 

Bestlitigatorsever 20 September 23 13:45

Given the Wombles penchant for suing clients bi doubt Wombles will be suing Post Office for settling a perfectly winnable set of cases. It was just a case of grinding down the unrepresented oppo and throwing every legal truck in the book at them. 

Mike Green 20 September 23 15:45

What’s that from the Wombles marketing team, ‘add words to make it sound like you don’t work here’. Get hold of this SRA, they shouldn’t be working anywhere. Outrageous.

Madam Cholet 21 September 23 02:10

18:02 Womblenoncontentious. Your anger and frustration is clearly real. It's actually 63 who have lost their lives to date without seeing justice or full compensation for what they were put through by POL and those acting on their behalf. Fairly easy to deduce who the🦌 from Southampton is but sure Inquiry would welcome some clarity on the identity of the 'young buck' post Stephen/2006. Thank you. 

Tim McCormack 21 September 23 04:33

Pointing out that someone is a 'really nice person' is not a defence for wickedness, greed, self-interest and unethical behaviour.   I can't imagine there are very many individuals in this world who are not 'really nice' to at least some people.

Inquiry 21 September 23 11:52

Having watched the first bit of the evidence I think Wombles will be in serious trouble . PO are contradicting Wombles evidence and the Inquiry chair is into the Wombles it seems because he is asking very precise questions. Whatever the outcome Wombles reputation is trashed.

Strange Disciples 21 September 23 11:58

WBD have form for treating people horrendously, which isn’t just limited to the PO matter. It comes from the top: self-interested, laughably aggressive and arrogant, and directed by people who shouldn’t be in the positions they hold.

There are people at WBD who are way better than the firm. The sooner they realise that, make like those before them and get the hell out, the better for them. 

The absolute scenes when that place goes down…

Mark kelly 21 September 23 12:06

For person asking will it be televised, you can watch if live on YouTube this is url for live stream (not archive stream, that will come later). 



Prince Andrew 21 September 23 12:07

Does Mr Dilley not realise that the Wombles and Post Office have thrown him under the bus? His interview today is the legal equivalent of the Newsnight Prince Andrew interview. Pizza anyone?

Schoolboyerrors 21 September 23 12:37

Who has been advising the Wombles? Prince Andrew? Hilarious down out by Chair of Inquiry to Wombles Did you mean what you wrote? If not why did you right it?

Clapping Pelican 21 September 23 12:54

Well done to ROF for covering the Post Office case. If only other legal publications were willing to ignore advertising revenue from law firms and call out issues like this. 

Anonymous 21 September 23 13:59

For the "Dilley is a lovely guy" fanboys out there, I especially liked his comment to the inquiry (taken from the Gazette):

"Asked at the outset by inquiry counsel Justin Blake whether he had anything to say to Castleton and his family, Dilley replied: ‘No I don’t think so.’"

Dilley fulfilled his promise, ruined Castleton's life despite the fact Castleton had done nothing wrong, and clearly doesn't give two hoots.  

What a nice man.

Oh 🦌 21 September 23 14:22

Mike Green, nobody believes that is actually Wombles marketing team writing that. 

Although it does look similar to their other comments on here 

Nolongerafan 21 September 23 15:34

I was worried Wombles appearance would be bad but this is off the scale and as others said this is just the tip of the iceberg. Really worried what this means for Wombles.

Madame Cholet 21 September 23 16:05

The 'Young Buck' peut-être? 


Anonymous 21 September 23 17:13

1158. Agreed. The current board has no self awareness at all. They think they are brilliant but as you say treat their people very badly (just ask BDB Pitmans)

Inhouse 21 September 23 17:21

The Post Office has very publicly apologised for the biggest injustice in legal history. Why can't the Wombles bring themselves to do so?

Zero 21 September 23 17:22

1158. Agreed. The current board has no self awareness at all. They think they are brilliant but as you say treat their people very badly (just ask BDB Pitmans)

Having a Beezer time 21 September 23 17:26

Dilley came over today as a robot, devoid of emotion and he didn’t seem to know his own statement. There was a v embarrassing part for him when he spent several minutes turning pages on his own statement and had to be told by counsel where it was. Whilst his fingerprints are all over this horrendous case, his supervising partner Tom Beezer was mentioned several times in the evidence today and was present at crucial meetings with counsel and strategy calls. Beezer heads the litigation team and is on the board. Why is he not in the room ? 

DanQ 21 September 23 22:07

"I told Mr Castleton that I didn't believe he was dishonest", then spent £321,000 to prove the opposite

HappyHacks 21 September 23 23:23

Dilley was clearly too busy thinking about cuddling kittens when not bothering to think of anything to say to the man and family whose lives he was instrumental in ruining.  I'm kinda hoping his actions can be dealt with by a stretch in the big house.  

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