Scottish Post Office workers could have convictions quashed

An investigation is to be carried out into dozens of potential miscarriages of justice in Scotland related to a Post Office computer system.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 2:02 pm
Post Office
Post Office

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has written to 73 people with criminal convictions who have potentially been affected by issues arising from the Horizon system.

It was first rolled out in some post offices around 1999 and used by subpostmasters for tasks including accounting and stocktaking.

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But it recently emerged there were significant bugs in the system that could cause figures to be substantially misreported, with subpostmasters unable to access the information to challenge any errors.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma

Gerard Sinclair, SCCRC chief executive, said: "We are taking the unusual step of contacting a large number of individuals because we want to work out the scale of the problem in Scotland and do whatever we can to address it.

"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.

"We believe that there may be others affected by Horizon who aren't on our contact list.

"The contact details that we have for some people may also be out of date.

"If you don't receive a letter but think that you were wrongly convicted as a result of information from Horizon, I would urge you to make contact with us."

It was announced last month that more than 1,300 current and former postmasters across other parts of the UK had applied to a historical shortfall scheme set up by the Post Office to deal with potential claims.

A number in Edinburgh were accused and faced repaying tens of thousands of pounds to the Post Office until the allegations against them were dropped. Tragically, one woman accidentally overdosed on anti-depressants she was taking due to the stress of the claims.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma told MPs on Tuesday that former High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams will chair a review into the scandal this week.

In Scotland, the letter sent by the SCCRC to individuals potentially affected says: "We are currently investigating possible miscarriages of justice relating to problems with the Post Office's Horizon computer system.

"We think that it is possible that your case is one of those. If it is, we would like to make sure that you have the chance to apply to us.

"A number of subpostmasters raised a group legal action in the English High Court (England's top civil court). At the end of 2019, the Post Office agreed to pay damages to members of this group.

"The High Court had made a number of findings that were critical of the Horizon system and the Post Office's handling of the problems.

"Earlier this year, our counterparts, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who serve England, Wales and Northern Ireland, concluded that a large number of Post Office convictions may be unsafe.

"They referred those cases to the Court of Appeal for England and Wales."

The commission has also said its approach in Scotland is based upon information provided to it by the Post Office itself.

A spokesman for the Post Office said: "The Post Office has already been in contact with the SCCRC in relation to historical Scottish convictions which relied on Post Office Horizon evidence.

"In Scotland, such prosecutions would have been undertaken by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, not Post Office.

"For cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Post Office has been working closely with the Criminal Cases Review Commission since a number of former postmasters applied to overturn their convictions for offences based on evidence from the Horizon computer system, used in Post Offices since 1999.

"Alongside this, we are also conducting an extensive review of historical convictions which relied upon Horizon, to identify and disclose material that might cast doubt on the safety of those convictions in accordance with Post Office's duties as former prosecutor in those countries.

"We are working to fundamentally reform the Post Office, addressing past events to fairly resolve them and to forge an open and transparent relationship with the thousands of current postmasters providing customers with vital services in the UK's communities."

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