The Criminal Review Commission (CCRC) has linked 88 former aides who could be wrongfully convicted of theft or fraud due to evidence based on Horizon’s accounting system.
More than 700 former assistants and branch employees have been convicted of financial crimes after being accused of unexplained accounting omissions at post offices.
But a group lawsuit in the Supreme Court, which ended in December 2019, proved that the computer system used in the branches contained errors that could cause unexplained shortcomings.
Thousands suffered casualties, hundreds were prosecuted for financial crimes – some in prison – and many subcontractors were bankrupt. There are suicides associated with the suffering caused.
When the postal services replaced manual accounting practices with Fujitsu’s Horizon computer system in 2000, the postmasters began to report unexplained omissions in significant quantities. The Post Office told each of them that no one else had any problems and covered up the computer errors.
Computer Weekly first reported problems with the system in 2009 when it made public the stories of a group of aids accused of unexplained losses (see the chart of Computer Weekly’s articles below).
Since the Supreme Court ruled that the Horizon system is not stable, 73 people have received sentences based on its evidence overturned, 53 of which have been referred to the CCRC. The organization is also considering another 32 applicants, and nine have asked for further details on how to appeal or apply.
The new group we are contacting is following the CCRC, receiving an updated list of former assistants and branch staff who have been convicted after being prosecuted by the post office.
When all letters are sent by the end of this month, the total number contacted by the CCRC will be 260.
This week, former aid workers in Scotland affected by the scandal will tell their stories at the public investigation into the scandal over the IT office’s Horizon scandal.
Helen Pitcher, chair of the CCRC, said: “As the independent public inquiry into the Horizon Post Office system moves to Scotland, we will once again hear the devastating impact these sentences have had on those affected.
“Applying to us is free and people don’t need a lawyer to do it,” she said. “There is also no time limit for applying to us.
“We are determined to make sure we do our best to raise awareness of the opportunities open to convicted aides and counter staff.”
In Scotland, where there is a different legal system and a branch network of postal services, which is 10% of that in England and Wales, the Scottish CCRC is currently reviewing eight cases of potential miscarriage of justice, with more expected.