Dawn O’Connell

Year conviction was overturned:

Dawn O’Connell 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.

Mrs O’Connell pleaded guilty to five counts of false accounting. The alleged shortfall was £46,469.15. She was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years with an unpaid work requirement of 150 hours. The conviction had a profound effect on her mental health.

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.

Mrs O’Connell died prior to her conviction being quashed, at the age of 57 as the result of damage caused by sustained alcohol abuse. Her death has been linked to the stigma of her conviction. Her son brought her appeal.

View Press (www.postofficetrial.com)

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