Gail Ward 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.
Ms Ward pleaded guilty to four counts of false accounting. The prosecution offered no evidence on one charge of attempted theft. She repaid the alleged £12,030.70 shortfall after her interview under caution. As a result of the proceedings against her, Mrs Ward was forced to file for bankruptcy.
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.
In her termination of contract interview with the Post Office, Ms Ward had stated that Horizon needed to be examined.
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- Offence: False accounting
- Jurisdiction: England & Wales
- County: Bristol
- Ethnicity: White
- Gender: F
- Offence convicted of: False Accounting
- Year of crime: 2002-2007
- Year of initial conviction: 2007
- Year conviction was overturned: 2021
- CCRC Referral: Y
- Post Office Case: Y
- Tried with others: N
- Link to full case: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Hamilton-Others-v-Post-Office-judgment-230421.pdf
- Crown argued case at CofA: Argued one ground but not the other
- Retrial: N