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Convictions of eight former subpostmasters in Scotland under review

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is investigating eight potential miscarriages of justice linked with faulty Post Office IT system

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is investigating potential wrongful convictions of eight former subpostmasters prosecuted for financial crimes, as part of the Horizon IT scandal.

In March, the SCCRC said it was fully reviewing five cases, but this has increased to seven, with another at pre-investigation stage.

In September 2020, the SCCRC took what it described as an “unusual step” and wrote to 73 people with criminal convictions potentially linked to errors caused by the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

Computer Weekly first reported on the problems with the Fujitsu-supplied Horizon system in 2009 when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters whose lives were ruined when they were blamed for accounting shortfalls caused by computer errors (see timeline below). 

Some were sent to prison, many were heavily fined, large numbers were made bankrupt and families were ruined. It has been described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history and has been linked to at least one suicide.

The SCCRC said it was encouraging former subpostmasters or branch staff to come forward if they believe they were convicted of crimes as a result of Horizon system errors.

About 60 former subpostmasters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland convicted of theft and false accounting have already had their convictions overturned, including 39 in a landmark Court of Appeal hearing in April this year. There are likely to be many more. Between 2000 and 2015, 736 were convicted of crimes based on evidence from the faulty Horizon system.

Scotland has a separate legal system and the SCCRC is traditionally about 10% of the size of the CCRC in England in terms of cases.

When announcing that letters had been sent out last year, SCCRC CEO Gerard Sinclair said: “Many of those affected by Horizon will have had no prior experience of the criminal justice system. We want anyone who has been wrongly convicted to know that a remedy is available.”

He urged subpostmasters in Scotland who think they might have been affected to contact the SCCRC: “We believe there may be others affected by Horizon who aren’t on our contact list. The contact details we have for some people may also be out of date. If you don’t receive a letter, but think you were wrongly convicted as a result of information from Horizon, I would urge you to make contact with us.”

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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