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More Scottish subpostmaster conviction reviews expected as part of Post Office scandal

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission expects more subpostmasters with potential wrongful convictions to come forward

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) expects a “second tranche” of former subpostmasters to come forward following successful work to locate potential victims of miscarriages of justice.

The news comes as the statutory public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal heads to Scotland. Glasgow will host the next set of hearings, which will see Scotland-based victims of the scandal tell their stories to inquiry chair Wyn Williams. These human impact hearings will take place on 11 and 12 May 2022.

The scandal saw subpostmasters blamed for accounting shortfalls that were caused by the error-prone computer system they used in branches. Subpostmasters were made bankrupt, received criminal records, sent to prison and suffered ill health as a result. There are also suicides linked to the scandal.

In September 2020, the SCCRC took what it described as an “unusual step” and wrote to more than 70 people with potential wrongful convictions. This followed the CCRC in England referring cases for appeal, leading to 73 former subpostmasters having their criminal convictions overturned so far.

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. The SCCRC is currently reviewing eight cases of potential wrongful prosecutions of subpostmasters in Scotland for financial crimes which could be linked to errors caused by the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

These eight cases are at the second stage of review by the SCCRC, with another case at stage one. “It is anticipated that these active reviews will start to conclude near summertime this year,” said an SCCR spokesperson.

But following work to locate potential claimants that have not responded to the SCCR’s original letter, the statutory body expects more subpostmasters to come forward.

Michael Walker, CEO at the  SCCRC, said: “We are nearing the conclusion of our investigations in the eight applications that we received from individuals with criminal convictions potentially affected by the Post Office/Horizon computer system. We shall issue our decisions in those cases in the next few months.

"In addition, we have now successfully ascertained the current addresses of a group of individuals from our original list of 73 potential applicants whom we had been unable to contact. We shall be writing to this group in due course. This process may result in the submission of more applications to us for investigation.”

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). 

Former subpostmaster in Scotland and campaigner for justice for subpostmasters affected by the Horizon scandal, Tim McCormack, said: “When the Scottish cases come out it could generate more interest and other potential victims could come forward.”

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

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