Case Study

Julian Wilson

29 October 2021

Julian Wilson was one of the “Post Office 39,” a group of former sub-postmasters and post-mistresses who were convicted of offences including theft, false accounting, and fraud, based on information from a computer system called Horizon which suggested that money had gone missing from post-office branch accounts.

2FA5M6E Karen Wilson, widow of postmaster Julian Wilson who died in 2016, holds a photograph of her husband outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. Thirty-nine former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system have had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal. Issue date: Friday April 23, 2021.

Mr Wilson pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud. He received a community sentence order with 200 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay prosecution costs in the sum of £3,500.

The basis of each of the prosecutions of the “Post Office 39” was that money missing from the branch account had been a result of theft by the sub-postmaster or mistress, or had been covered up by fraud or false accounting by the sub-postmaster or mistress. On appeal, the Court of Appeal accepted findings that bugs, errors, and defects in Horizon could, and did, cause discrepancies and shortfalls in branch accounts. The court concluded that if the Horizon data was not reliable then there was no basis for the prosecution, and the convictions were quashed. The court noted that failures of investigation and disclosure in the cases prevented the appellants from challenging, or challenging effectively, the reliability of the Horizon data.

Mr Wilson had raised concerns about Horizon with his line manager. He died in 2016 and his widow believes that his death was a result of his humiliation of being falsely convicted.

“Julian was told by his lawyer he’d go to jail unless he pleaded guilty to false accounting, which he did. Sadly, many people did actually go to prison over this corrupt system and the Post Office negligence.”

Karen Wilson