39 British postmasters were wrongfully convicted of stealing money after a flawed computer system in an historical judiciary failure that prosecuted more than 700 people.
Historical British judiciary miscarriage
The Horizon system was a developed by Fujitsu and used by the Post since 1999 for a variety of tasks including accounting. But Horizon had significant bugs leading to misreporting finance statements and cash shortfalls.
The Post Office then used the data from Horizon to prosecute 736 people accused of theft, fraud and false accounting. But the court of appeal ruled that the IT Post Office system had “corrupt data“.
People who cleared their names finally won a decade-long battle against an “appaling justice” decision, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. It is one of the largest miscarriage of the British justice.
To date, the judges quashed the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters. Criminal Cases Review Commission is investigating a potential judiciary failure for 22 other similar cases. Both the Commission and the Post Office called for people among the 700 people prosecuted to come forward if they were wrongfully convicted.
Post Office acknowledges historical failings
In 2019, The Post Office had decided not to oppose to the appeals, acknowledging “historical failings“.
Janet Skinner, had to spend 9 months in prison in 2007 for a shortfall of £59,000 in the accounts of the post office she ran in Hull. Harjinder Butoy had to spend more than 3 years in prison. Julian Wilson had a shortfall in excess of £27,000 for the post office he bought with his wife in Astwood Bank, Worcestershire in 2001. Auditors had told him to plead guilty to false accounting in order to be spared from going to prison, for which he was given 300 hours of community service. He died of bowel cancer before seeing the court of appeal’s decision.
They are part of the 39 postmasters whose names were cleared too late.
Media sources and useful links:
- Convicted Post Office workers have names cleared, BBC, April 2021, Free access
- Post Office apologises in false accounting scandal climbdown, The Guardian, October 2020, Free access