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CCRC to contact 88 more former subpostmasters with potentially wrongful convictions

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is to contact 88 more potentially wrongfully convicted Post Office workers

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is contacting 88 former subpostmasters who could have been wrongfully convicted of theft or fraud due to evidence being based on the Horizon accounting system.

More than 700 former subpostmasters and branch workers were convicted of financial crimes after being blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls in Post Office branches.

But a High Court group litigation, which ended in December 2019, proved that the computer system used in branches contained errors which could cause unexplained shortfalls.

Thousands suffered losses, hundreds were prosecuted for financial crimes – with some set to prison – and many subpostmasters were made bankrupt. There are suicides linked to the suffering caused.

When, in 2000, the Post Office replaced manual accounting practices with the Horizon computer system from Fujitsu, subpostmasters began reporting unexplained shortfalls in significant numbers. The Post Office told each of them that nobody else was experiencing problems and covered up the computer errors.

Computer Weekly first reported on problems with the system in 2009, when it made public the stories of a group of subpostmasters being blamed for unexplained losses (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below).

Since the High Court ruling that the Horizon system was not robust, 73 people have had convictions which were based on its evidence overturned, 53 of which were referred for appeal by the CCRC. The organisation is also considering another 32 applicants and nine individuals have asked for further details on how to appeal or apply.

Updated list

The new group being contacted follows the CCRC receiving an updated list of former subpostmasters and branch staff that were convicted after being prosecuted by the Post Office.

When all the letters are sent by the end of this month, the total number contacted by the CCRC will be 260.

This week, former subpostmasters in Scotland affected by the scandal will tell their stories to the Post Office Horizon IT scandal public inquiry.

Helen Pitcher, chairman at the CCRC, said: “As the independent Public Inquiry into the Post Office Horizon system moves to Scotland, we will once again hear the devastating impact these convictions have had on the individuals concerned.

“Applying to us is free and individuals do not need a lawyer to do so,” she said. “There is also no time limit on applying to us.

“We are determined to make sure we do all we can to raise awareness of the options open to convicted subpostmasters and counter staff.”

In Scotland, where there is a different legal system and a Post Office branch network 10% of the size of that in England and Wales, the Scottish CCRC is currently reviewing eight cases of potential miscarriage of justice, with more expected.

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

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