Gillian Howard 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 Howard had taken over the management of the post office business after her husband had suffered a stroke and heart attack. She pleaded guilty to one count of fraud. The alleged shortfall was £45,850.05. She received a six-month community sentence order with a six-month supervision requirement.
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.
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- Offence: Theft / fraud
- Jurisdiction: England & Wales
- County: West Yorkshire
- Gender: F
- Offence convicted of: Fraud
- Year of initial conviction: 2011
- 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/2021/04/Hamilton-Others-v-Post-Office-judgment-230421.pdf
- Crown argued case at CofA: Argued one ground but not the other
- Retrial: N